Convinced But Not Converted

                                               By David Stahl

          I often hear Christians talk about our faith and our belief.  Now it is true we can exchange these two words in a sentence and not much of the meaning will be lost because they are close in understanding, concept, and context, but when  you look at the spiritual application of these words we find there is a huge difference.  The word believe is really soft and mushy.  We humans can believe anything all day long and it be wrong.  I can believe (also works for those Christians who like claiming the things of God) I am a car, sit in my garage all day, and even go beep beep, but that will never make me a car.  In God you cannot translate or substitute faith for belief they are separate spiritual concepts in application. You know I marvel when I think of faith . To be honest no person alive today and only one in the past has really known how faith works its seemingly magic in our lives.  God took me all the way to India to help me with understanding faith and to be honest again I marvel at the outcomes (signs and wonders), but I do not know and understand how it works.  Oh I know we can read,  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1), but what does that all mean?  No really.  I have heard sermon after sermon on Hebrews 11:1 and to this day, honestly to be able to grasp the concept is far beyond my ability and yours if you are honest. You know I do not need to know how it works, oh no all I need is to know is the one who is working it all through our faith. Paul tell us in Ephesians even our salvation is through faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:8-10)  Grace (what God has done and given us) is God’s part before the foundations of the world was laid and faith (our response to God’s grace) is our part. If we get grace wrong (can do what we want and still be saved) we get over into lascivious or fleshly sins.  And if we get faith wrong we get over into legalism and emotionalism. Sadly way too many churches are here.  There is a balance we must walk for us to be saved.  When I think of “real’  faith I think of Ester saying , ‘if I perish I perish” or Job saying, “though God slay me yet I will trust Him.”  Oddly enough Jesus never made this faith or belief mistake.  He was very clear when it came to issues requiring our faith and our belief.  As a matter of fact like grace and faith there is a relationship between faith and unbelief.  In Matthew Jesus said,  “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”  (Matthew 17:20)  Not because of their lack of faith, but because of their unbelief mountains (or problems in their lives) were not removed. Unbelief was the reason (Hebrews 3:18-19) the Children of Israel entered not into the promsied land. I think one reason why we get off track here with faith and belief is today we get the things of God from other people so we can believe, yet still not be converted because if we get the things of God though revelation (for ourselves) from the Holy Spirit how could we not have faith and believe?  We see this truth in Peter’s life.  Jesus was asking the disciples who do they say I am?  “And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. 15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:14-17) Peter had to have gotten this revelation from the Holy Spirit (and not from the other disciples) who had not come yet.  It was not all of Jesus’ good works, miracles, and sermons that convinced Peter to say of Jesus, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Oh no it was the good work of the Holy Spirit in his life that brought Peter to this revelation. At this time Peter was convinced, but sadly he was not converted.  Okay let us go a little bit deeper here.  We can be convinced about the things of God to a point.  We see it every week on Sunday morning when countless millions of Christians trudge off to church, sing three fast ones and slow one, hear some announcements, take up the tithes and offering, maybe hear a special number, and then hear 15 to 20 (no more than 30 minutes) minutes of inspiring words.  What I call the denominational lullaby. Shhh do not wake them up. They are convinced Jesus loves them and they are on their way to heaven (and may not be), but they are not converted to the truths of the word of God that will enable them to stand and withstand life’s circumstances and difficulties making it to heaven. Having an opportunity to learn, but never learning.  Not converted to the point where there will be spiritual growth and development in knowing God in their lives.  Brother Peter (I really like Peter he is so much like us) experienced this too in spite of his deep revelation who Jesus is.  In Luke we read,  “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”  (Luke 22:31-32)  You knowI hope Jesus really did not pray (as we think prayer is) for Peter because his faith did fail  just a few hours later, but in the end he was a rock.  However,  in the garden and in the court yard of the high priest he was a scared man who failed just like you and I may have been.  Notice Jesus’ words, “when thou are converted strengthen thy brethren.”  Not when you are convinced, but when you are converted.  I wonder what made the difference in his life? That moved him from being convinced to being converted?  Maybe it was the whole garden and court yard experience? In this maybe he saw his weakness and loud mouth boasting of what he would do for Christ, but in the end he discovered he was nothing more than an arrogant liar.  Or maybe it was when Jesus asked him (in John 20) Peter do you love me and all he could say was I am only fond of you.  What is even more amazing Peter walked with Jesus for three years:  he saw the miracles, the deaf ears and blind eyes opened, he tasted of the loaves and fishes, he saw the dead come back to life, and yet he was not converted, but only convinced.  How easy it is to be convinced God loves us, but oh so hard to be converted.  After Peter was converted he was never the same man or leader.  Today many say a leader is a reader, well I would say a leader knows the difference between book sense and the good sense of the Holy Spirit. Peter’s sword was put aside and he listened before he opened his mouth. A real conversion in God will lead us to a quietness and silent spirit. Jesus took it much deeper in the fruit manifested from our conversion,  “And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3-4)  Notice the word “Except” which means there is no other way, it is the only way to be converted to become as a little child.   Not too many Christians want to become little children, oh no they want to be bishops, pastors, deacons, prophets, evangelists, apostles, teachers well becoming all of these are NOT the requirements to go to heaven.  They want to be great, but becoming these (bishops, pastors, deacons, prophets, evangelist, apostles, teachers)  will not make you great.  Jesus said to be great we must humble ourselves as little child.  I guess greatness in our eyes is different than in God’s eyes.  And notice Jesus did not said say shall not enter the kingdom of God oh no, He said the kingdom of heaven which is much different than the kingdom of God.  Maybe many are not converted because we do not want to be as a little child?  Just a thought for us to ponder.  You know what ever is planted grows. If we plant a cherry seed a cherry tree will grow.  So too in the spiritual realm.  When God had us start Christliche Gemeinde Stuttgart back in 1997, Bill Pepper a wonderful brother and mentor to me would come by Germany for a visit.  After a few days of getting the lay of the land he would sit me down for a few hours of counseling me.  How I loved it.  How I loved getting the boom lowered.  Well one of the first times he said I will be able to see what we have planned in the people.  I will be honest at first I did not understand what he was saying, but as time went on and I saw the fruit springing up in lives I knew crystal clear what he was saying.  If outcomes in the lives of the people were unpleasant, well I had some fault in that.  Whatsoever is planted grows.  If I sow seeds of strife, confusion, or division from the pulpit or more important in relationships in the church then these will grow and bear the fruit and more seeds of the fruit which will only be spread to other lives.  So too when it comes to our conversion.  If we are only convinced then the seed we spread will not be strong enough to handle the cares of the world or thorny and dry ground. Real conversion is seen in the lives of mature men and women of God who are able to learn and teach, endure whatsoever comes their way. Are you convinced or are you converted?  The answer is always seen in our lives by others, but sometimes  the truth is hidden from our heart.