With this article we begin a series from our brother Lloyd Cain, dealing with the local assembly. The articles are simple and practical.
As we begin a series of simple articles on the local church, it would be valuable to begin where divine life begins, at conversion. What does it mean to be converted, to be saved, to be born again?
We are going to approach the articles from the standpoint of a young believer coming to his father with a question, fulfilling the words of Moses, "When thy son asketh thee..." Today he has come asking: What is the meaning of conversion? What is the manner of conversion? What are the manifestations of conversion?
Conversion, salvation and the new birth are used in the Bible to de scribe the same experience (John 1:12,33; Matthew.18:3). A person is converted when the Holy Spirit brings him to an end of himself, a recognition of his lost condition, a repentant attitude and then to an appreciation of the work of the Savior on the Cross for the individual. When the Holy Spirit enters the person to indwell him, that soul is born from above and becomes a child of God. Conversion is not religion. It is not reformation. It is regeneration!
What are the evidences of the new life within? What are "the things which accompany salvation?" Let us look at four examples of how conversion was manifested in people who had come into a vital living relationship with the Lord Jesus in the Gospels.
A Change in Our Appetites:
Mark 5:21-24, 35-43, give us the delightful story of the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus. It closes with words beautiful in their simplicity, "He commanded that something should be given her to eat." A new life had been imparted and it was urgent that this new life be nourished if it were to grow and prosper. The clearest sign that regeneration has taken place is the new believer's desire for, and attitude to the Word of God.
Peter told his readers that they had been born again by the incorruptible seed of the Word of God and that they should earnestly desire the unadulterated milk of the Word that they n-dght grow (1 Pet 1:232:3). It was unimaginable that there would be new life without a resulting new appetite. Continual desire is the proof of the initial tasting. The newborn child has two reflexes: the startle reflex and the sucking reflex for the baby is born with the desire to search for food immediately.
Do you as a young believer have an insatiable desire for the Word? Are you sure that the five things which destroy appetite in 1 Peter 2:1 are being judged in your life? Have you established a disciplined approach to feeding upon the
Scriptures that will take you through a study of the entire Bible in five years?
A Change in Our Aspirations:
John 4 relates the story of the wayward woman who became a willing worshiper at the well where she met the One who was the dispenser of living water. She listened with amazement to His words, as He explained how those who continually drank from Jacob's well would thirst, for it could never satisfy. Those, however, who took one drink of the water which He would give would never thirst again. She cried out for that water and after He had dealt with her sin (for there can be no conversion without conviction), her request was granted.
"The woman then left her waterpot." What monumental truths are contained in this short sentence. Did she decide to leave it or was her apparent forgetfulness, the result of her knowing that she would never need it again? Was it like an unbreakable habit which was hanging on to us before conversion that "just dropped off?"
She left her waterpot and the writer adds the word, "then." There was no delay for her for she was a satisfied soul. We should consider her testimony as she went into the city What a spectacle to the men of the city as she told of the living water she had received and of the Savior she had met! She truly adorned the doctrine she presented for they would have seen that the waterpot was missing which she so regularly went to fill each day. Her gospel message was, "Come see a Man." They came for they had seen the change that had been wrought.
A Change in Our Attitudes:
The miracle recorded in Mark 5:1-20 gives us one of the most dramatic evidences of conversion. We see an uncontrolled and unclothed man meet the Transformer of Lives, the Lord Jesus. In the second scene of this drama, we see the same man "sitting, clothed, and sound minded." His thinking was changed! (By the way, pull down your Strong's concordance and look up all references to #'s 4993-4998).
He whose movements were uncontrollable, is now sitting. The restlessness of his former days is replaced by an ability to sit as did Abraham in Genesis 18:1. He who was unclothed is now clothed. Very often, following conversion, the conscience of the new believer is awakened to examine the wardrobe and to test it in the eyes, not of the world, but of God. This was Peter's admonition when he wrote concerning the daughters of Sarah 'who set their hope on God," and thus dressed for His eye, rather than the eye of the flesh (1 Peter 3:1-3).
Not only was there a change in his demeanor and in his deportment, but also in his desires for he wanted "that he might be with Him." His was the only unanswered prayer in the chapter, for he was told to go home and to declare a message concerning the changes caused by a compassionate Christ.
A Change in Our Affections:
Andrew and his companion had heard a great message from a great preacher who was enthralled with the walk and the work of the Lamb of God. As these disciples of John the Baptist appropriated the message, they took their eyes off the preacher and followed Jesus (John 1:29-42). Their affections had been stirred! Their hearts had been won! They had a desire to find the place where He dwelt for an enamored heart. will always want to be with the object of its affections. "What seek ye?" asked the Lord, and they replied, "Teacher, where dwellest Thou?" They came and saw where He dwelt and abode with Him that day. We can test the reality of our conversion by the change in our desires to be in His presence.
With Andrew, however, there is more for "He first findeth his own brother Peter and brought him to Jesus." The word "first" shows the priorities of this new recipient of divine life. He is compelled to tell others of Him. Conversion brings about a change in affections. It was so with Paul for he said, "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor 5:14).
These four examples are only a beginning. Will you read carefully one of the Gospels and mark the things which accompanied salvation in the conversions wrought by the Master in His earthly ministry?