False Conversions?

Do you have a category in your mind for a person who professes to be a Christian, but actually possesses no genuine faith in Christ? Is there such a thing as a false convert?  In Matthew Chapter 13, Jesus gives two parables that clearly illustrate the fact there are indeed those who may appear to be a follower of Christ, but in reality, have not been soundly saved.

            In Matthew 13:18-23, Jesus tells the story of four types of soil which represent four types of people who all hear the word of the gospel. The first three soils hear the word, but it never takes root and therefore produces no fruit.  These are people who may appear to receive Christ for salvation or make a public profession of faith, but in actuality, have never been saved. They may have gone through a religious exercise or undergone some type of ritual, but did not experience the transformational power of the gospel deep within their hearts.

            For example, just because a person walks an aisle, goes forward at an altar call, gets baptized, goes through confirmation, or joins a church does not necessarily mean that he or she has actually been converted.  We are not saved by these rituals as important as they be in our spiritual pilgrimage. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone by grace alone.

            In Jesus’ parable of the soils, only the fourth soil represents one who was truly saved because that person heard the word, understood it, and it bore fruit as a result of deep roots.  In other words, there may be many who appear to love Jesus and say that they are a Christian, but when the temptations and cares of this world press in on them, they quickly fall away showing evidence that they were never saved in the first place. Only those who repent and trust Christ alone through being born again are truly saved.

            In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus tells another parable to further magnify this truth of false conversion. He pictures a field with both wheat and weeds growing side by side showing that in the visible church where many profess faith in Christ, there are those who are truly saved (wheat) and those who are only pretenders (weeds). On the final Day of Judgment, the pretenders will be exposed and will experience separation from Christ in hell.

            Some of the scariest words in the Bible come from the lips of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 where he says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

            There will be many on that last day that may have gone on a mission trip, or walked an aisle, or got baptized, or joined a church, or went through confirmation that were never saved in the first place. Jesus never knew them in a saving way through repentance and faith.

            So if you’re reading this today and you are pierced in your heart with doubts or concerns what should you do?  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5to “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?- unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:10: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure…”.

            The Bible is very clear that one does not go to heaven based upon church attendance, the faith of parents or grandparents, being a good person, or going through a ritual like baptism, confirmation, walking an aisle, or saying a “sinner’s prayer.” You are saved when you confess your sins and repent and trust in Christ alone and by grace, He radically changes you from the inside out by giving you a new identity.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Stop pretending and playing games! Instead, repent and trust in Christ today so that you can experience this new life of grace and a future home in heaven!

The Human Heart is an Idol Factory

John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory. There are so many things in our lives that we elevate to the position of “god” because we think those things will give us meaning, purpose, and satisfaction. And many of these things may be good things such as a spouse, family, a career, or a worthy cause. Ezekiel 14:3 says, “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.”

            If there is one theme that we see repeated over and over again in the Bible is that God will not share His glory with another, and that idolatry represents one of the gravest of all sins. When we think about idolatry, many of us picture a pagan person worshipping a statue or bowing down to a carved image.

But for us in America, what we worship is more subtle. I want you to think about those things in your life that consume you. Those things that you are obsessively passionate about. Those things that if they were taken away, you would have great fear, dread, and major disappointment. After a close analysis, those things may have become an idol in your heart.

Psalm 39:11 reads: “When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath!” The imagery in this verse depicts God as a moth coming to devour or consume what is dear to us. The Hebrew wording for “dear to us” comes from the root word “to covet or to lust after.” In other words, there are some idols deep in our hearts that have become dear to us in a very sinful and lustful way. King David the Psalmist prays that God in His disciplining love would come like a moth and consume those idols out of our hearts.

So let me ask you a question: What are you holding onto in your heart that is an idol? What has become so dear to you that you have elevated it above God as the foremost of your affections and desires? I encourage you to be like David who desperately wanted God to come and consume that idol—that thing that was dear to him.

But ridding yourself of an idol is only half the battle. In the end, it doesn’t go far enough. Since our hearts and minds are idol factories, we will just replace it with another idol to satisfy us. We not only need to expel or have God get rid of our idols, but we must replace it with a greater affection and desire. We were created by God to have passionate desires and affections and there is nothing wrong with that. Where the real problem lies is that in our sin and selfishness we prize, desire, seek after, and are passionate about the wrong things. Jesus Christ and His gospel should be what we prize and value the most.

We must expel the affections for idols in our hearts and replace them with a greater affection–the Person of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 13:44-46 Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

The point is very clear. Jesus Himself is the treasure in the field and the pearl of great value. He is the One to be prized, enjoyed, valued, treasured, and desired above all else. We are hard wired as humans in our sin to look at self. We desire self-fulfillment, happiness, and a pain free existence and have elevated idols in our hearts to a position of “godhood” to satisfy those inner cravings.

Instead, let us pray that God would come like a moth and consume those out of our lives and replace those desires with a greater desire in Jesus Himself. Hebrews 12:2: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Would Jesus be the treasure of all treasures and your ultimate satisfaction!