Soul Surgery: Part 8
Part 8 of a 9-part series by Pastor Alan Redpath given over the course of 1959.
Conversion In Soul Winning
Conversion is a transaction which takes place altogether between the soul and God. It follows conviction and confession, both involving a new revelation of the need of a Saviour. It takes place at the moment when the salvation offered to us in the Lord Jesus is recognized and appropriated.
Here the worker can do little except help to center the thoughts and attention of the person to whom he is speaking upon Christ and His redeeming love, instead of upon sinful self. If the patient stopped at the previous stage of confession, he would be like a sick man who mourned the magnitude of his disease, but saw no hope of healing. He would become a kind of religious hypochondriac. The burden of his sin must fall from his shoulders as did that of Pilgrim on his journey to the Celestial City. He must come to know not only the poignant sorrow for his sin experienced on Calvary, but also the triumphant joy of that resurrection morning.
The Christian worker needs thoroughly to understand the psychology of conversion. Viewed from man’s side, it is an act of faith in which the sinner deliberately and finally turns from all known sin and identifies himself with Christ for the future in a saving, victorious unity and fellowship. Viewed from God’s side, it is an act of His free grace by which He is able, through bearing human sin, righteously to forgive the sinner, to maintain the righteousness and authority of God’s justice, and so to effect in Christ a reconciliation—a new relationship in which the barrier of sin no longer remains. The result of this two-fold act is a fundamental change so important that the Lord Jesus calls it a new birth. A modern religious psychologist uses a strikingly similar language when he calls the change that occurs at conversion “the formation of a new ego.” To be converted, to be regenerated, to receive grace, to experience religion, to gain assurance are so many phrases which denote the process—gradual or sudden—by which a self hitherto divided and consciously wrong, inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right, superior and happy in consequence of its firm hold upon spiritual reality. All of this is another way of saying that conversion from man’s aspect means to turn in repentance and faith toward God; and from God’s aspect it is to be regenerated, born again of the Spirit of God (Ephesians 2:8; John 3:5; Matthew 18:3).
We read in Philippians 3:7–11 what experience meant, for instance, in the life of Paul: the great expulsive power of a new affection that purged his soul of all the old pride, fanaticism and discontent.
This is not something which pulverizes a personality, but transforms it. To the confusion of the powers of darkness, the Holy Spirit is able to take hold of a man’s weaknesses and sins, and actually make them gifts and graces under the government of the Holy Spirit.
The basis of conversion, therefore, is the awakening of a new self, and the vital element in this new birth is the dawning of a new affection which henceforth dominates the heart. Conversion is in fact a falling in love with the divine Lover of our souls. It is a passion for the unseen and the eternal which above everything else can change the heart, strengthen the will, illuminate the mind. Confession is the birth of love in the heart.
I believe this is a tremendously important thing for us to understand in these days when intellectualism is at such a high premium. If this is not accompanied by the melting of heart, the collapse of the citadel of self, and the entering of the Holy Spirit to dominate, there is no true new birth. Real spiritual experience begins when God, hitherto outwardly argued about, is now inwardly experienced. When we cease using the unstable airplane of speculation to seek Him somewhere among the clouds we find Him within our own spirit, where the living water rises from our innermost being, as Jesus said it would. God outside us is a theory; God inside us becomes a fact. God outside us is an hypothesis; God inside us becomes an experience. God the Father is the possibility of salvation; God the Spirit is the actuality of life, joy, peace and saving power. The experience is as fresh as the creation morning itself.
Now the worker needs to realize all this and allow the truth to grip his own heart. All the sinner needs to know is how hateful his sin is in the eyes of the Lord, and that as he turns his face resolutely toward God in Christ, He is able to cleanse him from sin and to empower him for a new life of righteousness and victory. There may be little or nothing of theological belief, but a loathing of sin, the confession of utter helplessness, then a hand stretched upward, and the consciousness that Another has grasped the hand, and thereafter freedom, strength and peace.
One of the greatest scholars in India told recently how, largely through reading the Bible, she was drawn to the “religion of Jesus,” as she called it. She was baptized and experienced comparative happiness for a number of years. However, she became increasingly dissatisfied as she realized that she had the “religion of Jesus,” but not Christ Himself. She went on to say, “I was desperate. I realized that I was not prepared to meet God, that sin had dominion over me, and I was not altogether led by the Spirit of God. I had therefore neither received the spirit of adoption, nor had I the witness of the Spirit that I was a child of God. What was to be done? My thoughts could not and did not help me. I had at last come to an end of myself, and unconditionally surrendered myself to the Saviour, asking Him to be merciful to me, to become my righteousness and redemption, and to take away my sin. Only those who have been convicted of sin, and have seen themselves as God sees them under similar circumstances, can understand what one feels when a great and unbearable burden is rolled away from one’s heart. I shall not attempt to describe how and what I felt at the time when I made an unconditional surrender, and knew I was accepted to be a branch of the true Vine, a child of God by adoption in Jesus Christ my Saviour. Although it is impossible for me to tell all that God has done for me, I must yet praise Him and thank Him for His loving-kindness to me, the greatest of sinners. The Lord first of all showed me the sinfulness of sin and the awful danger I was in of everlasting hellfire. Then He revealed the great love of God with which He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
“I do not know if any one of you have ever had the experience of being shut up in a room where there was nothing but thick darkness, and groping to find something of which you were in dire need. I can think of no one but the blind man whose story is given in John 9. He was born blind, and remained so for 40 years, and then suddenly the Mighty One Who could give him eyesight met him. Who could have described his joy at seeing the daylight when there had not been a particle of hope of ever seeing it? Even the inspired evangelist has not attempted to describe that joy. I can give only a faint idea of what I felt when my mental eyes were opened, and when I, who was sitting in darkness, saw a great light—when to quote the words of 1 John 2:8, ‘The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth’.”
There are three essential factors in conversion. The first is sin; the second is Jesus Christ, and the result is a miracle. Conviction of sin is a matter of the sinner’s heart; conversion is a matter of both the heart and the will. Is there anything we can do to assist him to make the great venture of faith once he has confessed his sins, come to the foot of the cross, and expressed a desire to be cleansed? Yes, first of all we must give him promises from the Word of God, and then illustrations from personal experience of others who have ventured to take the step with momentous results. Above all, our greatest service to such a soul is rendered through the medium of intercessory prayer. The work is God’s first and foremost.
A brave missionary of the cross recounted how he had been desperately depressed and discouraged. There were a number of folk around he had not been able to win for Christ, and he wondered why. He knew the difficulty must be in himself, and not in the Lord. So he decided finally that he would take a whole week and let God teach him the thing he needed to know. He took his Bible and began to turn it over to see what God would say. He had not gone far before something dawned on him that he had never realized before: that he had not given the Lord His place in his thoughts of the work to be done in winning people to Christ. He read the account of the fall of Jericho before the children of Israel. God brought that about in a way that no one would be able to think that it was man’s work, and therefore those gentiles would realize that the God of this peculiar people was a mighty God, and they too would like to have Him for their God. The children of Israel had walked round Jericho no less than 13 times, simply to make them realize that they could never possibly take it themselves. God wanted to have them for a channel through whom He could give His love and His salvation to others. As this fact dawned on the missionary, he closed his Bible, took a sheet of paper and wrote the names of the men in that locality whom he had been trying to win to Jesus Christ. He lifted them up to the Lord and asked Him to do His work in those lives, to use him as He wished, but enable him to realize that his part of the task was to hide in that Saviour. The thought grew upon him that he had never understood before that God, and not he, was the One Who was to do the work of winning others. On Friday of that week a young man, whose name was on the list, came to him burdened about his soul and about his father, whose name was also on the list. The missionary knew that God was working. “Even yet,” he said, “I am ashamed to say that I did not fully believe that God was going to do all. But on the Monday morning of the following week I started out, and in three weeks God gave everyone of those 11 men whose names were on that list to the Lord Jesus. As a result of that, I will be a different sort of missionary for the rest of my life. I have a new vision of what it is to have a God Who can and will save.”
It is important that we should understand what happens when a man becomes a Christian.
Some Tests Of Faith
- Have I recognized my best attainments are worthless in His sight? (Romans 7:18)
- Do I believe Jesus was made sin for me? (2 Corinthian 5:21)
- Do I believe God raised Him from the dead? (Romans 10:9; Acts 5:31; Hebrews 7:25)
- Have I come to Him in true repentance and trusted my whole being to Him? (2 Timothy 1:12)
- Do I acknowledge the only practical evidence of saving faith is submission to His lordship? (Romans 14:9)
- Am I prepared to confess Him to others? (Luke 12:8)
Because I am eternally secure in Christ that is NOT license to continue in sin—God forbid! The only evidence of new life is new desires, that the life is separate from evil. If we sin it is now a family matter (it is no longer a rebel against God, but a child against his Father), and until that sin is confessed there will be misery. If we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive (1 John 1:9), therefore keep short accounts with God.
What happened when you became a Christian?
- Received by a Person (John 6:37)
- Accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6)
- Received a Person (Colossians 2:6)
- Received the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthian 6:19)
- Born from above (Titus 3:6–7)
- Became part of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:13)
- Became a child of God (John 1:12)
- Became partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)
- Became an heir of God (Romans 8:17)
- Received eternal inheritance (Colossians 1:12)
- Received pardon (Ephesians 1:7)
- Justified (Romans 5:1)
- Accounted righteous (Romans 5:19)
- Freed from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
- Became a saint in Christ (Romans 1:7)
- Reconciled to God (Romans 5:11)
- Freed from fear of death (Romans 8:2)
- Delivered from the law (Romans 7:6)
- Became a priest unto God (Revelation 1:6)
All these blessings must be claimed by faith. The Holy Spirit is given to make them real, and He dwells in the heart of the believer, so make Him not only resident, but President.