We are now to mark #5 of authentic conversion from Jonathan Edwards’ “Religious Affections”.
Edwards says that true conversion is accompanied by a deep-seated conviction, “a solid, full, thorough and effectual conviction of the truth of the great things of the gospel.”
This Spirit-produced conviction leads the believer to lose all things as rubbish for the surpassing value of knowing Christ. There must be historical knowledge of the facts of the gospel event, but that is not enough to be born again. There must be this new conviction of the beauty of the Gospel that God alone births or creates in the sinner.
This happened to Peter when he confesses Jesus as the Christ. Peter didn’t just somehow come up with this on his own, but his mind was opened to the truth of who Christ truly was.
Matthew 16:16–17 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
Before our conversion, the Bible says that we were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and were blinded by Satan. But when God in His awesome power birthed faith in our hearts, He opened our eyes not only to the facts about Jesus in the gospel, but also to the BEAUTY of Jesus in the gospel.
2 Corinthians 4:4-6 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
As a newly regenerated Christian, we now have the knowledge of the light of the glory of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ. This Spirit-birthed knowledge produces within us a heart-felt and strong conviction that the gospel is not only just true, but it is also beautiful.
As believers we need both. We need to have the assurance that what we believe about Jesus in the gospel is actually true and rooted in historical reality. But we also need to have this truth become precious and beautiful and glorious to us.
A very elementary way of saying it is that we need to have both head and heart knowledge of the Scriptures. The truths of Scripture must inform our minds, but they must also inflame our hearts with a passion for Christ. We learn the Bible not just for information, but also for transformation. And once we’ve been transformed by the sovereign regeneration of God’s Spirit, He produces within us a solid confidence and conviction in the truth of the gospel.
We can echo Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 1:12: “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Once we’ve seen the beauty of Jesus in the gospel, and have grasped the truth of the gospel, it leads us to abandon all pursuits as “dung” for the surpassing joy of knowing Christ more deeply.
Philippians 3:7–9 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
Edwards says, “To have a conviction, so clear and evident and assuring, as to be sufficient to induce them, with boldness, to sell all, confidently and fearlessly to run the venture of the loss of all things, and of enduring the most exquisite and long-continued torments, and to trample the world under foot, and to count all things but dung, for Christ.”
One of the clearest proofs that you and I have been born again is that we see in Christ the greatest treasure worth pursuing and we not only believe the gospel to be historically true, but also worth giving up all as “dung” to gain Him as the greatest prize.
Non-believers may admire Christ and they may assent to the historical facts of the gospel, but they in no way can say that they would give up all for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.
Have you given up all for Him? Do you desire Him? Is your righteousness found in yourself or only in Christ? Do you boldly, confidently, and fearlessly desire to lose all for the exquisite joy of knowing Christ more deeply?
If you have, then that is proof that you are a true Christian.