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CONVERSION IS A WONDER
BASED ON WONDER IN THE GOD
ALONE DOES WONDERS
What are the mechanics of conversion ?
There are no mechanics in conversion.
What is the way of conversion ?
Surrounding circumstances may vary, human impetus and emotional impingement may vary enormously, but there is a core.
What is the core of conversion ?
Christ Jesus is the core of conversion, since He paid for its change of address for the soul, access of God of the heart, adoption of the new child to the family of God, the provision of a place of eternal residence with God on the one hand, and coverage of the debt of sin, and the peace of pardon, on the other (John 14, Titus 3, II Corinthians 5, I Corinthians 15).
By what developments then does it happen ?
There are steps as clear as the moon and the sun, though as with the Southern Cross group, there may be pointers.
To what are they pointing ?
First there is repentance, the first emphasis recorded of Jesus in Mark's Gospel, in his message, and the immediate point was this, that the kingdom of God was at hand. Indeed, in masses of healing miracles, wisdom wins and authority exhibits from Him, the King was in events not in distant stars but on this earth, where He had put man, clearly visible.
But it is the entirety f conversion that is a way for His subjects to find Him, since this is not a terrestrial but a celestial resting place, or if you like, a matter of site in the celestial marina.
Man repents, God relents, redemption is to hand, its work available to the eye as it was performed. What then of repentance ?
First the repentance is for not being there sooner. To be without God is to invested in a situation of condemnation, stripped of necessary features for human life, left adrift in the seas of multi-pronged threshing in the furrows of the deep, exposed to the inappropriate, contending where the home and housing for the soul is ignored, like a knife without sheaf, a heart without repair in the midst of pain.
This repentance as in all these phases, which are by no means necessarily chronologically sequential, but can be virtually simultaneous, is total.
It does not concern an act or acts alone, or several series of acts without further concern. It concerns such things also, as attitude, altitude (that is the various levels of perception and progress in life and failures in all matters or any dimension, each or any): deafness to directions, lust instead of love (the one working ruin in the other joy, comparatively), self-will and independence as of gods, when not being any god!
With it goes surrender (Luke 14:31-34), for with the repentance goes the source of it, so that trust in the saviour of the soul is the very environment of reception of Him, His values, ways, power, rule and transformation. If one had been sinless like Adam at the first, then not surrender but simple obedience would have sufficed. Co-operation would be the initial norm. In the actual case, however, when time came to this hiatus,as with all disease, such as sin here, there are complications when you seek health. You have to surrender the disease and the desire for it, and take what is needed to correct, cure and halt it.
If a medical doctor prescribed a drug, saying, This may cure you completely, but is worth watching in case it only goes so far or in fact may help but little; then you might wander or wonder, but have no trust. If he told you that it would certainly cure you, then depending on whether you exalted his view, or custom seemed to confirm it, or the nature of the case, and the past record of the doctor so far as known to you, you might expect well with reservations or even without them.
If to go further, he were infallible, by some fiat, then provided you were sure of his earnestness, you might believe in what he said; but even then, you would need to be assured that with understanding, he had personal reliability, so that he was not engaged in any kind of face saving, wealth making, ambition adorning exercise, distorting the reliability of his statement(s).
When it comes to our Maker, who
lacks nothing since there is none and nothing to limit Him (cf. SMR Ch. 1);
has no truck with
ambition since He has all,
does not lack
insight and foresight,
who cannot have a
personality which gains therefore,
who has no disposition reflecting what is not He:
then this case is unique.
Then these things of impermanence being participants of creation with its limits, not the Maker without any, trust is always appropriate.
Moreover, the matter is absolute, without limits when so declared as the very word of God for all ages (Daniel 7:14, Revelation 5:9-13, Ephesians 1:21, Hebrews 1:8, John 6:35-40, 8:36. II Timothy 4:8, Philippians 2:8-11, I Peter 4:11,I John 1:1-4) Therefore it is right and fitting and apt that you DO trust, DO repent as finite bent towards the Infinite Master of all, DO rest in Him; for even a dog knows how to trust (to a point or in true devotion) its master, and does not have to be a philosopher first to do so. So with repentance, it is not hard to know if a boy is sorry because of loss of privilege, power, reputation or place, or because of the evil of his own error. Confusion may be used as a smoke screen either within the heart itself, or outside, either on purpose or adventitiously; but the thing is a ploy or a response. Both responses are well known and one is satisfactory neither with God nor man; for fraud is deceit. Trust does not need it and in God trust has its true place.
Conversion includes realisation of this fact, that God is to be trusted, along with the fact that nothing is so utterly trustworthy as He, so that His word is to be followed without distraint, disbelief, deviousness, restraint. Hence one is cast into the affairs of the eternal, being invited by the word of God (as in Revelation 3:20) and the Word of God (as in John 6), and so receiving what is offered as a fait accompli. Again, His word reveals WHO HE IS, His intensity of love for justice, on which His throne is established, His delight in mercy (Psalm 89, Micah 7:18ff.) and His setting of His word above all his name (Psalm 138:2), His changelessly and His reliability (Psalm 102, Hebrews 1), so that there is no avenue for perplexity and anxiety, His principles stand while even the earth departs (a temporary exhibition and opportunity site, to be replaced in its time like an old coat (Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:35). His word stays for ever, Christ declares (cf. Matthew 5:17ff.).
Thus involved and operative are a group of realities and actions relating. These are repentance, surrender, faith with reception of the testimony of God in the Bible, where the notes on nurture along with the invitations to mercy and the proclamation of the way of pardon all appear, and the welcome to the Saviour who offered payment for your opportunity (I John 2:1-2), and actually paid for your redemption if, known to Him, you would receive it (Romans 8:32, 8:29ff.), so that the transaction was culminated and the generosity was activated just as in offer and scope it had been actuated towards all (Colossians 1:19ff., John 3:15-19). In this way, the remnants of rebellion and the reward of evil is avoided, with heart!
With the reception of pardon and peace, goes also the reception of the Payor, God as man, Jesus Christ who through His Spirit (cf. Romans 8), naturally and normally attests that you are a child of God and works in and through you with a power and perception that is not limited to or by yourself (John 14:12). This does not change the position of man as created by God and under test, but it does change the nature of the test from including the disorder appropriate for rebellion (as chaff blown away, as in Psalm 1), to that of a life of reinforcement and adoption in a family of truth and reality. If you are exalted in anything, then your test is pride; if you are abased, then of humility, patience and willingness to serve where it helps, yourself though valued, not the criterion but comrade, servant in love of the Lord.
But someone may ask ? HOW were the converts selected, since it is written that no one can come to the Lord except it be so granted by the Father (John 6:65) ? How was selection made since we are instructed by the Bible that CHRIST did nothing less than CHOOSE the ones who were to be manifested as HIS OWN ? (Ephesians 1:4, John 15:16, 1:12).
Did God make some in order to damn then, setting up their spiritual frames for the purpose, loading their psychic situation for such a result ? That is blasphemy itself, contrary to all His exhortations, invitations, griefs and lamentations, reflections and applications. That is the opposite of SO loving the world that He not only acted in it and towards it, but gave something for the purpose. This was not only costly, but so to Him, and was no one else than His only begotten Son, who foreknew what was to be expected of Him, and rejoiced in this service to be, long before as recorded as shown in Psalm 40, for example.
His purpose in this action was not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17-18), so there was no indirect or lurking desire to let some have it! Why then did not all find themselves groomed to accept the Gospel and come ? It was because loving and forcing are not the same, and love is not totalitarian, even if directed to all. It does not force the issue, though it may go to pains to make it more obvious, and even more than obvious, which He did. The choice of persons before time as in Ephesians 1:4, is precisely as God sovereignly desired: through the appeal of the Gospel, the payment of ransom (Matthew 20:18), the resurrection of the body, as given precursor in thousands of healings and notable raising of the dead by this same Jesus when on earth, before His prepared crucifixion.
As Christ remained the very same Being before and after incarnation, changing form but not features, thus the love He showed in earth was what, as one of the Trinity, He showed in heaven at the 'choosing' before all time. The outage basis was the same, namely a matter of not believing, and those who before even their creation were foreknown, not to the point in what they would do, but whose they were, were excluded for only one stated reason, the abortion of love. What is that ? It is not believing, receiving, it is as in John 3:19. In heaven or on earth, Christ is the same and He told the truth.
This makes the soul assured, for if God indeed desired with such desire to have all, even going to such lengths to save the very world, as in John 3, then anyone now can rest assured that if he/she does not come, it is nothing to do with a divine restraint order, a loaded dice type of constitution, but in the illimitable desire and purity of God, despite a divine desire. Hence if there be any thought, any desire, any reflection and any hope, the drawn soul can with confidence proceed, for there is only one other who contributes to a negative, oneself. Whatever may stimulate or oppose, it is only oneself who in the end, even foreknown, who was ever relevant to divine dismissal. If one never forsook craftiness, subtlety as of the devil, double-mindedness and so on, and was not so minded in the reality of liberty which the image of God brings to the relationship of man to God from before time, then does not God know ? The disease of man does not conquer God through its nature, for what man cannot do, God can, and where man can but wander, God can intervene.
As to all spiritual trickery, spiritual nominalism and so on, this is merely another rather complex way of saying NO, for God is a spirit, and desires those to worship Him to do so in spirit, for otherwise the contact is fouled and the life is not desired. This is the level, and this God knows directly, and knew, before creation or sin or fall or pathology could ever attack man.
Sometimes indeed God allows the soul to sense part of the selection process, and at times the soul is swept into the kingdom without much perception of process at all, each component coming like a flower, more or less simultaneously (cf. Acts 9), and even in an intimate structural totality where divisions of aspects hardly appear, since all of it is in one totality of dynamic (cf. SMR pp. 476, point 6). The modus operandi varies, but what operates is the same, the Lord, and that which is sought is the same, man, of whom despite his woes and dysfunctions, and who before God is no mystery beyond and before disease of the soul and disruption of the first blessedness of creation.
While then there are variations in the progression and perception of necessary events in conversion, as apt for what has an element of freedom, there are compulsory elements within it also, such as actually repenting and believing the Lord and His word and receiving Him as the surgeon, the physician, the great Saviour and your Lord, and realising His resurrection as one sure ground for assurance and testimony, the Lord's breaking of what nothing else could break (Romans 10:9, Acts 2:24-28, I Corinthians 15), even death itself. What weapons suffice for Him who breaks the object of ultimate violence, to KILL! Indeed, death was exposed as a dependency of God's judgment, which could be met vicariously, and for many as judgment was transferred to Himself, the self-appointed ransom for many (Matthew 26:28, 20:28, Romans 8:32).
Here was one more act which avoided all overthrow. The hatred of many was even used despite its intentions, to achieve His sacrificially based pardon. Indeed, while permanent death and display never came in the violence of the Empire and the Temple guard to Himself, exhibited by the rotting of a visible body, no one could grab it; if it had rotted then the Bible would be false. But it foretold with a millenia for contrary action; but that contrary action never prevailed; and the crucifixion as predicted, did and it did so WHEN predicted.
Thus as He had said, so it was done, and He continued to function amidst His people, till the mission accomplished, His departure left open the final test to the world, and the final testimony. This blessed resurrection of the very body (Psalm 16, I Cor. 15) which had been interred is, with the crucifixion, the most blessed work, more than comparable to discovering a new world, for it is new life within it that is donated, displayed and confirmed. Here was a major ingredient not only in the existence of the Christian Church, but its ability to exist against any and all human and contrary power, however assailed, assaulted and slaughtered its people. This was integral work of God, sure in His certainty and assured in and before the hour of darkness, as after it. In Hosea 13:14 you even hear the divine voice articulating the vast thrust of divine compassion that HE HIMSELF would be their ransom, delivering from death's sting. How wonderful that the very nature of God not only wrought this but suffered for it.
Far is Aquinas from both the truth and the exaltation of the Lord when he appears to make the point that God could appoint - not just could have appointed - some other means for the reclaim of man. It is made perfectly clear in the Bible that the pre-eminence of Christ (who is a particular person) in ALL things is the situation of faith and truth and testimony. If He COULD be bypassed (He, God, so requiring change to Trinity), then He would be less exalted. That is one possibility which does not exist. It is so stated, so integral, so unalterable, has such a nature.
It is no exaltation of divine sovereignty to make allowance for change in the Sovereign. But exaltation, pre-eminence in all things is the nature of the actual case for the Redeemer. Christ is no mere appointee, as the pope is (wrongly) alleged to be, and at that, contrary to Matthew 23:8-10, where he is not EVEN an appointee at all; it is the LORD (John 8:58) that He is, and talk of things being otherwise in the work, way and witness of God in salvation, when Christ IS the Saviour is delimiting and disreputable.
When it is stated in the Bible that there is no other name by which man may be saved (Acts 4), then it does not mean that there is an incidental or accidental or dispensable deal here, but that the whole heavens have no other answer, this recorded not just like the laws of science, which are simply discoveries of what God DID choose in that case, to create, but beyond the heavens, that by which man MUST be saved. It is intensive, extensive and conclusive, Christ not the head of some body, but the Head of His body, which is the Church, which is subject to His order, as a body is to the head. It is the trinitarian commitment to a work in the direct outgoings of His infinitude, chosen before our time was or its beginning began. God being God, nothing else is conceivable. God is as He is and not the puppet or pulpit for the thoughts of philosophers, such as Aristotle, whether with his abstracted and cocooned sort of god, or any other.
It is to God and not to an advent of some natural kind, or even to a supernatural idea, that the believer comes, and it is only this fact that makes it both possible and commendable to worship Him, for the worship of anyone or thing else than God is idolatry, being the subject of many divine disciplines as in Ezekiel (cf. 14), Jeremiah (cf. 4), Isaiah (48:9-22) and Hosea (Chs. 13-14). You see thus in the last especially but not alone, how natural is the supernatural relationship with man, and how unnatural is any other source of being, wonder for worship or saving work for man.
That brings out one facet of conversion. You are not relying on a program, a method used, an empowered preacher-healer-dealer, but on GOD HIMSELF when you come to Christ, incarnate from heaven, restored to it, the actual sacrifice which has changed history so that there are now as it were, road posters on all sides proclaiming the obvious, however many sail by to their doom. There is no secretariat, there are no adjudicators, but God Himself (cf. Matthew 11:27ff.). To man has this priceless gift been given, not only pardon, peace and power to make life meaningful, equipped, normal in its association with that of which it is the image, but with this, the resident president of the universe by His Spirit in the name of His word, in direct communion.
You see sticks in the ground, you see dead limbs surrounded by dirt and perhaps just a little upright, you see broken branches, you see things that look like branches at a distance, but when a branch naturally bearing fruit is seen nestling into its sap source and structure donor, in the enlivening sunshine, then there is a sense not only of naturalness, but of fructification, propriety, nature as given at work in peace, and it has appeal. How much more when man at last comes back to his normal situation, to be with God of a mind with God and delighting in His gracious presence, without naying and snorting, or rust or mildew, without neighing as animals distressed, or baying as with hounds troubled.
Conversion is restoration on grounds prepared to a function normal, in a situation suitable for the human soul. That to have this happen has required a huge payment from the bankroll of eternity, a vast love in the heart of its King, a deep entry into creation on the part of the Creator is a marvel which makes the value of what has been given the more obvious, delightful and heart-warming. That the Maker of stars, the author of matter, the institutor of mind, the producer of spirit for man, should make peace at His cost with creations in His image is a thing so wonderful that one wonders how unhappiness could be found in a world where this has happened; but unbelief and distrust and moral dystrophy have found a way, and this world is going to its place (Matthew 24:35).
It is conversion which is the reversion not to that which this generation at first knew, since it started as pre-fallen; but to what at first mankind began to know, but voided. Aspersion is the frequent answer, even for a regeneration of heart which with invisible power and portent, comes with conversion (John 3) to Jesus Christ. One reads of marvellous physical things which many born deformed have done to make more functional their troubled bodies, and they labour often with a tenacity and purpose to create awe; but this is a painful attainment. Here however, is an option paid for, suitable for all, apt for all, offered to all, and given with heart and longing (cf. Isaiah 48, Ezekiel 33, Luke 19:42), so that a vast divine grief comes at its neglect. Yet there is vast spiritual joy at each single one who comes home (Luke 15:7).
So it is commonplace to have here a gift neglected ? a divine donation despised ? So the world farewells its place, awaiting judgment,
while mercy is at times bypassed even with a frenzy,
when some want to create brilliance from nothing, or nothing possessed with potential - mere abuse of terms, or mind from mental vacuum, or spirit from resourceless particles, themselves product of nothing, or
when more, finding in the infernal evils now raging in man at cost of millions of bodies in agony, minds in trauma and wives or husbands taken often with little thought, or dumped in dereliction, children wandering, minds and bodies raped alike:
yet find no need to return to their Maker and find His salvation.