Conversion

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Van, Mar 17, 2011.

  1. Van

    Van
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    Conversion, salvation, and rebirth are terms used to describe both turning from a self directed life to one where you constantly try to defer to your understanding of the will of God and trusting in Jesus alone for your life, rather than your own instincts for self preservation, on earth and in the hereafter. It takes being selfless rather than selfish, humble rather than prideful, and brave rather than cowardly. While many claim to follow Jesus, few actually surrender all, which is what it takes to follow His commandments.

    One of my Pastor's tells a wonderful story about an itinerant tight rope-walker. He would come into town, posting proclamations about his performance the following day at noon, and then spend the afternoon and morning getting ready. He would stretch a tightrope across a gorge or any high and dangerous abyss, set up a viewing area and a little stage. At noon, as the town’s people gathered, he would take a balancing pole and walk the tightrope, nearly falling several times. Then he would take the stage and display a large wheelbarrow. He asked the crowd, how many of you think I can walk the tightrope and wheel this across and back. Some in the crowd would be enthusiastic and holler “Yes you can!” but most would be silent, quietly hoping he would not fall in the attempt. Out he would go, pushing the wheelbarrow, staggering now and then but finally returning to the stage, safe and sound.

    Next, he would challenge the gathering again, this time saying, “How many of you believe I can wheel this wheelbarrow across the tightrope with this 100 lbs. sack of potatoes in it. Most of the crowd would holler back, “Yes you can!” but a few remained silent, still not getting it. Naturally, out he would go, sweating and shaking and in he would come smug and smiling. After climbing back on to the stage, he would make his final challenge. “How many of you believe I can walk that tightrope, and wheel this wheelbarrow with a person in it?” The crowd, now getting it, would holler “Yes you can!” and almost no one was silent. Then he asked, “Who is going to be first?” and the crowd suddenly grew very silent. The difference in believing that Jesus can save lost souls, and trusting in Jesus for your life, is the same difference as shouting “Yes you can!” or climbing into that wheelbarrow.

    When I was a young lad my folks took me to Sunday school every Sunday morning. I learned about God’s judgment and the need to be saved from the coming wrath of God. I learned the story of Noah and how through Noah’s obedience God saved the animals. I learned the story of David’s bravery. And I learned about Jesus and how he died for me. I was quite comfortable in my feeling of security; God and Jesus would protect me. Then I had a revelation.

    One day I was watching a film on television. It was a biblical epic, set near the time of Christ and it concerned people who secretly believed but had to hide because of government persecution. At the end of the movie, as I watched confidently expecting everything would turn out ok, the Christians were caught and taken to something that looked like a dudgeon to me. While the movie focused on the lead and his girl, I pictured myself as being in there too, just like the little boy depicted hugging the bars. But everything did not turn out ok, the bars slide up and they were herded into the arena to meet the lions. I stood up, sick and afraid. I knew I did not have the courage to walk smiling into a place where I would be torn to shreds. I knew I was not brave enough to be a true Christian. I was sick and afraid not because of a stupid movie, but because I was going to hell. I was probably 12 years old.

    Not too many years later, the new Pastor of our church took an interest in me. He encouraged me to get involved with the youth groups at church. He had three daughters, named Faith, Hope and I do not remember the third girl’s name but it was not Charity.
    Faith was my age and very pretty. Besides attending Sunday school, I had started staying and going to church, to listen to what Pastor Bill had to say. Sometimes I would sit with Faith.

    That summer our youth group went to a camp called Forest Home. Faith and I rode up to camp with her Dad. We had a wonderful time at camp. In the evenings the participating Pastors would speak. One of them I had heard before. He had spoken to a much younger audience and had talked about a little lost lamb. I expected much the same when it was his turn one evening. But he surprised everybody. He spoke about missionaries and martyrs, and about the cost of Christ’s cross. Many young men and women went forward that night, but I stayed put, I knew I was not up to it. But something happened a night or two later.

    After another long day of hiking and playing ball, we finished listening to the evening speaker and walked back to our cabin. The cabin had three rooms, the one at our end with two youths and Pastor Bill, a middle one with two more youths, and then a similar room to ours at the far end. After we talked for a while, we got into bed and Pastor Bill started to pray. The youths in the middle room, being I suppose overly tired, started to giggle. The longer Pastor prayed, the louder they got. I could not believe it. How could they be so rude to a man of God, a man that spent his whole life doing good. I was angry. After the prayer, Pastor Bill got out of bed, walked to the connecting door to the middle room and said something like “If you were my kids, I would beat the tar out of you!” Then he went to bed. Under my covers I smiled and thought “Right on.”

    The next morning, I got my second revelation. The first thing Pastor Bill did, after he got up, was to go into the middle room and close the door. But I could still hear him. He apologized for what he had said. He asked those two twerps for forgiveness. I could not believe my ears. In my value system, he had been totally in the right, they had been totally in the wrong, and so I was bewildered by his action to ask for forgiveness. I knew he was as different from me as the man in the moon. I knew I didn’t get it because Christ did not live in me, but I wanted to get it, to be like Christ, to be a true Christian.

    That evening, at the close of the message, I walked forward. Not because of anything said that night, but because of the example of quiet courage demonstrated by Pastor Bill. If he could live for Christ, so could I.

    The next day I spent praying and meditating on my commitment. I knew I wanted to do right and turn away from sin, but I also knew I was weak. I knew I was not a phony, or a hypocrite, that my belief in Christ as my savior - that His death on the cross had paid for all my sins - would get me into heaven, but I was gravely concerned about how I would live my life. Because I was barely getting by at school I knew I could not be a Pastor or missionary, that the best I could do was to work hard and contribute to church. Pastor Bill baptized me on a Sunday evening shortly after returning to Long Beach.

    Two things need to be said about my conversion. One, I always felt convicted of sin, I was never happy or content that I fell (and fall) so short of the mark. And two, I am very happy that salvation is based on genuine commitment, not works. John tells us that those that fall away were never really with us, so I am going to finish the race, secure in the fact that although I may finish behind the pack, I am on the right track. John 3:16
     

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