Karen and I attended a United Pentecostal Church (UPC) recently. Now the people were friendly enough, but I always feel uncomfortable when you go to a church for the first time and they stick a pencil or pen and questionnaire in your face wanting to know: your name, address, phone number, number of kids, reason why you are attending today, etc. My reply usually is no thank you and then I ask is it not enough that God knows I am here today? But, what I really dislike the most is the fake smiles and overly friendly greetings (trying to project they are a church of warmth and love), but we have attended a UPC before. While living in Jonesboro, Georgia, before we took orders to Germany, we attended a UPC. As a matter of fact the church we attended (Dave, Daniel, the pastor’s father, and I literally raised the walls in the church building we built) started in our home the aftermath of a nasty church split. I remember the pastor telling me all of the five UPC in the Atlanta area started from church splits, not God’s idea of church planting. Now it was God’s will for us to attend the UPC in Atlanta as it was for us to attend this service today so I could write this article. The service was a typical UPC service; an emotional hype from the start with an over emphasis on speaking in tongues. But Paul forbid this practice and corrected the Church at Corinth for doing such things, especially in a church service, “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. 5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. 6Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” (1 Corinthians 14:4-6) Speaking in tongues (especially in a church service) is self-centered and a very selfish religious practice that does the local Body of Christ great harm in unity (maybe this why the UPC always seems to be in great strife and splitting) and to the individuals who feel less of a Christian until they (quote) “receive the Holy Spirit.” Now I must agree having the Holy Spirit functioning in our lives is critical with our walk with the Lord, I have a prayer language and recommend this for all, but it must not take preeminence in our relationship with God and must be maintained in its proper function and order. I was hoping the preaching would be strong, but again the service held to the UPC form. As I was setting there the Lord brought to my attention the number of times, during the singing and preaching, the words, “just believe” or “all you have to do is believe.” Well my friend to really walk with the Lord believing is not enough there is a conversion process that must happen in our lives if we are going to walk with the Lord to any degree. Yes we must believe (many verses in the Scriptures bear this truth out), but believing is suppose to lead us to the conversion process of being converted. I see this process play out daily in my life and I choose whether or not I will believe and allow God to work in my life moving me further down the line to His dealings and judgments. I am ever amazed to find in my life things I thought once destroyed still alive and well in me and when (not if) they rear their ugly head I must be quick to allow the Holy Spirit to slay them in my life. My friend we are the gate keeper of our soul. We are the one who can separate ourselves from the love of God. God in His intention and will for our lives wishes none to be lost (in both application and in an objective in our lives), but in reality sadly we know many are daily lost and go out into a Godless eternity because they chose not to accept God’s free gift of salvation. Now this conversion process I speak of is a very painful process in our lives. It hurts when God begins to expose us for who we really are and begins to pull down areas in our lives we are built on for support and strength that are not of Him. All of our religious traditions and practices we hold so near and dear to our heart and identity with who we are in Christ. Ministry, gifts, abilities, all we do for God is not to be our identification in God, oh no my friend, our identification in God is what Christ has done for us. I find the longer we have walked with the Lord the more of these areas we seem to gather into our lives. A new born babe in the Lord knows nothing, but Jesus the One who has saved them from their sins, the lover of their soul. What a wonderful, fresh heart condition to have. But all too soon things will change, our sinful heart will be exposed to us and the approving by God will begin in our lives to conform us into the character and image of Jesus Christ God’s precious Son. Our salvation in Christ is far more than just believing there must be an inward conversion (that will manifest outwardly) that must take place in our heart and spirit, if not there can never be a newness of life in us.

Jesus taught much on the topic of this conversion process, especially with the Disciples. The Disciples (like us at times) really had character and ego problems. Childish displays of anger and arrogance often portrayed their behavior and wrong thinking leading them to think they were greater than what they really were. One day they asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Mathew 18:1) Jesus was a master at crushing their egos and haughty spirit with simple, but very powerful examples. Jesus replied, “Verily I say unto you, Except (no other way) ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.” (Matthew 18:3-5) They were dashed “become as a little child” (not just a child, but a little child), “humble himself as this little child,” but we are adults, mighty men of God we cast out demons and heal the sick we do not need to be humble do we? Jesus was talking about a heart conversion not a size or ability conversion, a need to come down in their own eyes and allow God to open to them the mysteries of their sinful hearts. They were saved (they believed) and even walked with the Lord, but still there was a great need in their lives for more work to be done. Most Christians (here I am again at times) are not willing to endure the purifying fire of the Lord and only believe in Him. But God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29) and we do not like to get to close to God we may get consumed, but that is God’s intention in this conversion process if we are consumed He then can give us His beauty for our ashes. Sadly many main stream denominations and religions seize or recognize this point and take their folks only so far. No need to get the folks too stirred up and unhappy they will not support our programs and agenda. Again believing is a must, but there is much more work we must allow God to do in us. Jesus again said, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matthew 13:15) Most Christians never allow God to convert them and thus the, “people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.” This is not God’s intention for us. God’s intention for us is “any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted and I should heal them.” What a wonderful promise from God.

In Luke Jesus is talking with Simon Peter and said, “Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32) We cannot strengthen the brethren unless we have been converted, unless we undergo this process of God’s dealings and judgments in our lives. As a matter of fact we will destroy the brethren and bring death to every relationship we enter into unless we allow God to strengthen us with might in the inward man. I guess Peter understood what Jesus was talking about because in the Book of Acts we read Peter saying, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19) Now we see for our sins to be “blotted out” we must repent (about face or flow in the opposite direction we were going) and be converted, much more than just believing. Please notice “and be converted” has been set a part with commas to highlight a second and very different action required to have our sins “blotted out.” “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” what a seemingly impossible task. How can we do this? We cannot, God must be allowed to work in our lives to convert us to His way of thinking, to His way of life.