The Danger of False Conversion
Millions who consider themselves "Christian" have been taking their conversion for granted. How can you be sure you are truly converted?
All around us are signs that we are living in the "last days." Economic crises continue to reverberate around the world, and events in the Middle East are heating up as the "Arab Spring" movement continues to bring down dictators who had ruled for decades. These events along with many others are heralding the soon return of Jesus Christ as King of kings (Revelation 11:15).
But what about you and me? As time is running out for the world, and for us individually, we need to consider soberly whether we are genuine servants of the living Christ. Jesus reminds us that "he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations" (Revelation 2:26).
So, are you "overcoming"? Are you changing your life—day by day, month by month and year by year, through Jesus Christ living His life within you?
We need to "get real" about our own condition. As the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified" (2 Corinthians 13:5). Does the Christ of the Bible truly live His life within you through the Holy Spirit? Or did you (as I did!) simply grow up in a church and take all of its doctrines and practices for granted?
Although people tend to cherish favorite opinions and man-made traditions—and although we hate to be told we are wrong—today's "mainstream Christianity" is a dead religion.
Some of us realize this. But most people hate to admit it. People find it painful to admit they have been wrong. But they will soon have no choice. God will bring an end to mankind's secular and anti-God ways. "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12).
Are you prepared for this? God tells us to make ourselves ready! The time is now! Most of you who read Tomorrow's World regularly realize that, in the past, you had been lacking something spiritually for many years. Now, you have come to understand a great deal of new truth. A new way of life is opening up before you. Now, you are beginning to really understand Bible prophecies, and the great purpose being worked out here below. So, ask yourself: if you were really a Christian for all those years before you began to learn what you now know, why did you lack so much understanding? Why did God seem so much less real to you then than He does today?
We need to face the facts! Excusing ourselves will do no good whatsoever when we are brought before the judgment seat of God! We need to examine ourselves honestly!
The little word my is precious to most people. They lovingly speak of "my opinion"—and of "my religion," "my way" and "my God." People do not like to be told that their opinion, or their religion, is wrong.
Yet, in all this maze of religious Babylon, somebody has to be wrong! Are you willing to admit that it could be you? May God help you to do so! Because, if we will believe our Bibles, we will find that most of the people on this earth are steeped in religious error. Even most professing Christians are deceived!
One of the least understood principles in the Bible is that God has purposely blinded this world (Romans 11:8), and is letting it go its own way and learn lessons during this first 6,000 years of human history. At the same time, God has allowed Satan to influence mankind. Scripture plainly describes Satan as "that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).
Do you find that hard to believe? It is true. In many places, your Bible indicates that this whole world has been completely deceived in spiritual things. Remember that a deceived person does not know he is deceived. He is sincere. But he is sincerely wrong!
The great false religious system dominating our Western world today is pictured in Revelation 17. God describes this apostate church as a fallen woman—a great whore with whom "the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (v. 2).
Because of false teachings and false concepts assumed since childhood, most people are spiritually drunk—having a distorted outlook so that they are unable to see spiritual truths. Like drunkards, they are stupidly satisfied in the foggy, hazy, confused spiritual state in which they find themselves.
They think they are all right—on the surface at least. But deep down inside is the haunting realization that something is missing—their religion seems empty. God seems unreal somehow, and so very, very far away.
The great religious deception that has gripped this world is the result of Satan the Devil working through false ministers who preach a counterfeit Christianity. After all, a deceiver is a counterfeiter. And Satan the Devil is the supreme counterfeiter of the ages! Therefore, his ministers have a doctrine that appears to be the truth.
The Apostle Paul describes these false Christian ministers—who were already prevalent in his day: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his [the devil's] ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13–15).
Yes, Satan the Devil has ministers! They appear to be the ministers of Christ! But actually, they teach a doctrine of "no works"—no obedience to God's law. Therefore, they themselves will be judged according to their evil works!
God warns us to test every spirit or spiritual doctrine that comes through men. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
Unknowingly, and in most cases sincerely, most of you reading this article have in the past been deceived by false preaching—which originated and proceeded forth from Satan the Devil through his demon spirits which inspire and influence the religious systems and false ministers of our day! It is time to wake up!
In these last days before the second coming of Jesus Christ, you need to know whether or not you are prepared to meet your God! With an open mind, you should be willing to prove whether or not you have ever been really converted.
This is serious stuff! People's misplaced confidence in a false conversion is a great and mortal deception, which can cause them to forfeit their eternal destiny! But what about you? Are you willing to face this possibility? Are you willing to change if God shows you that you have never really been converted before?
God's word says: "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9). In plain language, you must have Christ's Spirit in you or you are not a Christian—you have never been converted.
A truly converted person is filled with and led by the Holy Spirit of God. God places and lives His very life within us through His Holy Spirit. By this means, we are begotten of Him as children—and thus partake of His very nature! "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14).
Frankly, in the past, most of you reading this article did not even know what the Holy Spirit was, what it was supposed to do in your life, and what would be the real result of your being led by God's Holy Spirit.
In Romans 5:5, God tells us that "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts" by the Holy Spirit that we have received. Through His Spirit, God gives us His love. Thus we partake of His nature—His character. And God's character is expressed in the spiritual principles contained in the Ten Commandments—obedience to God's Law. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
God's Spirit leads us to obey Him as our Maker and Ruler. The Apostle Peter was inspired to remind us that God gives the Holy Spirit "to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32).
Real conversion, then, involves a genuine surrender to obey God and His Laws. Peter was inspired to tell us how to be converted. He said: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
We repent of sin. And what is the Bible definition of sin? "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV). So, to really be converted, you must repent of breaking God's law! Remember that Jesus Christ, in the New Testament, magnified God's law—particularly in Matthew 5 and the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. We are to keep not only the letter but the spirit or intent of God's law in every facet of our lives. Jesus said: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4).
Then, we need to be baptized as an outward sign of our willingness to completely bury the old "self"—and literally give our very lives to God and to Jesus Christ as our personal Savior, High Priest and Master.
The Apostle Paul describes baptism as a burial of the old self (Romans 6:1–4). It is to be a complete immersion of the body under the water, as a symbol of the burial of the old selfish self in the grave.
Frankly, even most so-called "baptized" people (many were just "sprinkled") never really knew what to repent of! They did not know what sin really is. Perhaps they sincerely intended to "do better" or to "make their peace with God." But since they were not taught what sin actually is, they never really repented of sin! They were never "broken up" about the wretched state of their lives, determined to "bury" their own human vanity and selfishness—which expresses itself constantly in the lusts of the flesh.
They never really repented! They never took seriously the study of their Bible. They just continued to "go along" with the customs, the ways and the traditions of this world. Their lives were not actually changed. They never came to know God personally! This is how most "Christians" are today.
By contrast, speaking of truly converted people, Jesus explained that the Spirit of truth "will guide you into all truth" and "will tell you things to come" (John 16:13). If you are truly converted, God's Spirit will guide you into truth you did not know before, and will help you grasp Bible prophecy in a way you never previously understood.
Yes, genuine conversion actually revolutionizes the lives of Christians! It renews their minds, their attitudes—their very character! Converted Christians come to know God as never before. They begin to pray and talk to God in a personal way. And they receive real answers to their prayers! As they grow, they become more and more like Christ with every month and year that goes by!
Sadly, most who call themselves "Christians" have never even begun to get ready to start on the road to the genuine Christian life.
Are you willing to face this fact—and act on it?
The Almighty God who created our minds and our human nature warns us in the book of Proverbs. He cautions: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25; 14:12). It is only human nature to believe that your way is right. But God says that the way that seems right to you will end up in death! Remember that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
The greatest stumbling block that prevents most people from accepting the truth and being truly converted is their own vanity. Countless people have grown up in and attended some sort of church, so they hate to admit that they have never been converted! Human nature makes most people want to proclaim their own righteousness. They never truly repent; never come to really abhor themselves as sinners!
But the true God commands us to quit justifying the self! "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7).
Perhaps you think that you have not been wicked? The Almighty God declares: "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). He reminds us that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (v. 23).
Yes, we have all sinned! We have all broken God's laws. Most people are still breaking His laws—and trying to justify doing so!
But God thunders: "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah 55:8–9).
Our own human ways and reasonings, apart from God, are always wrong! Do not apply this only to other people—apply it to yourself!
It is almost certain that most of you reading this article still have what the Bible describes as a "carnal" mind. Many of you think you are already "saved," when the truth of the matter is that you never have come to the place of total surrender to God and His absolute rule over your lives! Therefore, you have never received God's Holy Spirit and been begotten as His spiritual son or daughter.
That is why you have not been able to understand Bible prophecy before! That is why you never really understood the great purpose being worked out here below. And that is why God always seemed so far away—so unreal.
This lack of God's Spirit is the reason that you were not continually growing in grace and in knowledge—and that you have lacked vital scriptural truths for so many years of your life.
Now it is time to awaken! Now it is time to be really converted!
First of all, you should apply this article to yourself. And you should strive not to let your feelings be hurt by the correction and the exhortation which is given here in deep love!
Remember that when Jesus had been showing His disciples that they had to "eat" of Him and His message, many had their feelings hurt and drew back. "Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can understand it?'" (John 6:60). But Jesus asked the twelve: "Do you also want to go away?" (v. 67).
Then Peter gave an answer that has the same significance today. He said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (v. 68).
If God has shown you by the "fruits" that what you are reading in this magazine is the truth, then you should fear to turn aside from the truth! Where else would you go?
Thousands of you have come to realize that you are receiving the truth and message of God through this Work—the Tomorrow's World telecast and the Tomorrow's World magazine. You are beginning to realize that this is the Work of the true Church of God.
But you have never thought of actually doing very much about it! If we are the servants of the Most High God, then you ought to follow our teaching and example as you see it is according to the Bible. You ought to apply such articles as this more literally and personally in your own private lives.
The Apostle Paul was inspired to write: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). You need to imitate the example of God's true ministers—and of Jesus Christ.
Frankly, most of you reading this article have never counseled with one of God's true ministers about real conversion and baptism. But the opportunity is there if you are willing to take it. Hundreds and thousands of you Tomorrow's World readers have phoned, written or contacted us by the Internet to request personal counsel from a true minister of Jesus Christ. If you have begun to understand that the Work behind this magazine is the Work of God's true Church today, and you recognize the importance of changing your life—for real—do not fail to contact us at the Regional Office nearest you, as listed on page 30 of this magazine.
One way or another, all of you readers need to realize the vital importance of coming to a real conversion! Do not put it off so long that you miss the opportunity! Remember that God does not have a habit of doing His Work through deceived ministers! If you want to be really sure of your spiritual state, you should counsel with the true ministers of God who are being used as instruments to preach His message to this dying world. You then need to humble yourself to take their advice—to follow their instructions—if you are satisfied that they are truly God's ministers.
Never forget that before real conversion comes real repentance. You need to humble yourself until you can sincerely say, as David did, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me" (Psalm 51:2–3).
Notice that David did not try to justify himself—he acknowledged his sin freely and asked for forgiveness. He continued: "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight" (v. 4). God did not need to argue or "reason" David into admitting his guilt! In the light of God's commandments, David had come to see himself as he really was and to abhor himself. And neither you nor I are any better than David!
When you are finally ready to repent of breaking God's laws, of following human traditions, of conforming to this society and its ways, then here is what God requires of you: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
Were you formerly a "religious hobbyist" who liked to argue "how I see it" with God's ministers? Were your "feelings hurt" when they showed you, from the Bible, that you were wrong? When the time comes that you are truly converted, you will not hang on grudgingly to an old false conversion. Instead, you will be grateful for your teachers. You will be humble and teachable like a little child. You will not think of yourself as a "spiritual giant" as you start down the road of real conversion. And you will realize the great danger of letting your old spiritual pride and vanity convince you that a previous false conversion was "the real thing." Rather, you will be grateful to God for His Church, and for His ministers who are teaching you His Truth (Romans 10:15). And you will have the great peace that comes with knowing that you are truly being guided by God, as never before.