How the Reformers Rediscovered the Holy Spirit and True Conversion

Sinclair Ferguson: Luther’s story is well known; Calvin’s less so. Luther was wrestling with the concept of the righteousness of God, and had come to hate it; Calvin had an immense thirst for a secure knowledge of God, but had not found it. While not the whole truth, there is something in the notion that Luther was looking for a gracious God while Calvin was seeking for a true and assured knowledge of him. In Luther’s case, the ordinances of late medieval Catholicism could not “give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain.” In Calvin’s case, neither the Church nor the immense intellectual discipline he had displayed in his teens and early twenties, and certainly not all his acquisition of the skills of a post-medieval humanist scholar, could bring him to an assured knowledge of God.   ROMANS 1:16 For all the differences in their backgrounds, educations, dispositions, and personalities, a good case can be made for thinking

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Regeneration and Conversion

By Archibald Alexander: The necessity of a change of moral character in man, arises from the fact, that by nature all men are “dead in trespasses and sins,” and, therefore, if any of the human race are ever saved, they must be regenerated ; for, even if a man could be justified and yet remain under the power of sin, he could not be happy, because sin contains in itself the seeds of misery, and such an one would certainly be incapable of participating in the joys of heaven, which require a holy nature to perceive or relish them. Therefore, our Lord said to Nicodemus, ” except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is not necessary to be very exact in distinguishing between regeneration and conversion, especially as the Scriptures appear to speak of both together. But, it may not be amiss to remark, that regeneration, which is the communication of spiritual life,

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What does it mean to “accept Jesus”?

Ray Ortlund: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”  1 Thessalonians 1:9 You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons.  Our hearts are multi-divided.  There is something like a board room in every heart.  Big table.  Leather chairs.  Coffee.  Bottled water.  Whiteboard.  A committee sits around the table.  There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, the childhood memories self, and many others.  The committee is arguing and debating and voting.  Constantly agitated and upset.  Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision. We are like that.  We tell ourselves it’s because we are so busy, with so many responsibilities.  The truth is, we are just indecisive.  We are held back by small thoughts of Jesus. A person in this condition can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways.  One way is to invite him onto the committee.  Give Jesus

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Teach Believers What Happened to Them in Conversion

  John Piper: Everyone who is converted to Christ is converted through partial knowledge. Real knowledge, to be sure — otherwise, there would be no true conversion — put partial, nevertheless. This is not surprising, of course, since that’s the only kind of knowledge we have as finite creatures, especially in this fallen world. “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The Obvious Worth Speaking But speaking the obvious is very useful. For example, it may be obvious that the blue sky is glorious today, but it is not pointless to say to your friend, “Isn’t the deep blue sky beautiful today!” Till that moment he may have been blind to the obvious. And suddenly you woke him up to joy — by saying the obvious. My point here is that when a person is

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Irresistible Grace

John Piper in Bloodlines: We have seen this in regard to our humanity-wide depravity (point one of Calvinism), and in regard to Christ’s atonement of a people from every race and tribe (point three of Calvinism), and in regard to God’s gracious, unconditional election of a people out of this depravity and through this atonement (point two of Calvinism). And we have seen that the way we participate in that salvation is through justification by faith alone. This faith comes into being through conversion—that is, through being united with Jesus by faith so that we die with him and rise with him to a new life of faith and love. … God overcomes our depravity and our rebellion and grants us the gift of faith and repentance. This is often called irresistible grace. We believe that when Christ died to obtain his church (Eph. 5:25), he obtained for her not only the grace that results from faith (like forgiveness and

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What does it mean to “accept Jesus”?

  Ray Ortlund Writes: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”  1 Thessalonians 1:9 You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons.  Our hearts are multi-divided.  There is something like a board room in every heart.  Big table.  Leather chairs.  Coffee.  Bottled water.  Whiteboard.  A committee sits around the table.  There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others.  The committee is arguing and debating and voting.  Constantly agitated and upset.  Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision. We are like that.  We tell ourselves it’s because we are so busy, with so many responsibilities.  The truth is, we are indecisive, held back by small thoughts of Jesus. Such a person can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways.  One way is to invite him onto the committee.  Give Jesus a vote too.  But then he becomes just one

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What is the danger of altar calls?

Paul Alexander writes: The altar call confuses “coming forward” with coming to Christ. In order to be saved, people must repent of their sins and believe in Christ, which has nothing to do with walking down an aisle. The altar call may deceive people about their spiritual state. The altar call encourages people to think that they have been saved because they’ve come forward and prayed a prayer. But this isn’t necessarily true:the outward response of coming down to the front is no guarantee of genuine faith and repentance. So, the altar call may lead people who haven’t repented of their sins and trusted in Christ to think they’re Christians. The altar call may encourage people to base their assurance of salvation on their decision—a one-time event in the past—rather than on Christ’s work for us and in us. The altar call confuses “coming forward” with baptism. According to the New Testament, baptism is the way Christians are to publicly profess their

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First Things First

“The beauty and brilliance of the kingdom of God can’t be grasped practically without grasping it spiritually. You can’t do one without seeing the other — and seeing it requires being set free by God. In order for us to really experience the kingdom, to taste and see the glory of kingdom life, the king has to burst open the prison of our hearts and minds, and give us new eyes to see and new ears to hear.” Jared Wilson, Your Jesus Is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Saviour.

Evaluating Whether Church Members Are Unconverted

From Brian Croft at The Gospel Coalition Blog: Sometime back, a pastor wrote me and asked that I address the issue of how to evaluate a church member I suspect is unconverted. Even though I have sadly dealt with this on more than one occasion, I tremble to communicate in any way that I have all the answers on this matter. Nevertheless, it is a reality, and it is especially so for anyone who goes to pastor an established church whose previous patterns of taking in members were less than healthy and biblical. So, here are a few suggestions as you wrestle with this all important and very difficult issue in your church. Recognize you are not God. Make sure you start here. It is common to jump quickly to conclusions about a church member’s spiritual state based on his disapproval of you and your vision for the church. It is often not that simple. We are not all-wise and omniscient

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That’s Not Salvation

“Some people, when they use the word “salvation,” understand nothing more by it than deliverance from hell and admittance into heaven. Now, that is not salvation: those two things are the effects of salvation. We are redeemed from hell because we are saved, and we enter heaven because we have been saved beforehand. Our everlasting state is the effect of salvation in this life… What a great word that word “salvation” is! It includes the cleansing of our conscience from all past guilt, the delivery of our soul from all those propensities to evil which now so strongly predominate in us; it takes in, in fact, the undoing of all that Adam did. Salvation is the total restoration of man from his fallen estate; and yet it is something more than that, for God’s salvation fixes our standing more secure than it was before we fell. It finds us broken in pieces by the sin of our first parent, defiled,

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The Nature of Conversion by Joseph Alleine

Conversion then, in short, lies in the thorough change both of the heart and life, in which: 1. The AUTHOR of conversion is the Spirit of God. Conversion is a work above man’s power. We are ‘born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man—but of God’ (John 1:13). Never think you can convert yourself. If ever you would be savingly converted, you must despair of doing it in your own strength. It is a resurrection from the dead (Eph 2:1), a new creation (Gal 6:15; Eph 2:10), a work of absolute omnipotence (Eph 1:19). 2. The efficient CAUSE of conversion is both free grace, which is internal, and the merit and intercession of the blessed Jesus, which is external. 3. The INSTRUMENT of conversion is the Word and those who minister it. 4. The final END of conversion is man’s salvation, and God’s glory. 5. The SUBJECT of conversion is the

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New affections: the fruit of regeneration

James Buchanan (1804–1870) Church of Scotland minister and theologian. Here he is on the converting work of the Spirit: “The man is a new creature because he has been endued with new affections or rather his affections have been directed to new and worthier objects. Formerly, they were withdrawn from God, and as they must have some object they were centred on some wordly thing – power or pleasure or wealth or fame – and hence he was ungodly, as having no supreme affection for God and subject to worldly lusts…these lusts are not eradicated by conversion; they may no long continue to be to the believer what the Canaanites were to Israel…But their power is broken, when, under the teaching of the Spirit, the mind is turned from lying vanities to the living God and new, and holier and better objects are embraced by the heart’s affections.” (HT: Adrian Reynolds)

Finally Alive – a review by Tim Challies

Tim Challies, host of the Discerning Reader, reviews Finally Alive, by John Piper. Like many others, I believe this is one of the most important books Piper has written. As I read the final page of Finally Alive I realized that I had found a new favorite book by John Piper. Those who have read my reviews of some of his previous titles know that while I greatly enjoy Piper’s ministry and am indebted to him in many ways, I have not always found his books easy to read. Yet I read Finally Alive with relish, enjoying it from the first page to the last. It is an incisive examination of a topic of profound importance. I think it represents Piper at his very best as an author. This is a book about the new birth, about regeneration, about what it means to be born again. Born again is a term we hear often these days, both within the walls

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CJ Mahaney on Justification and Sanctification

Justification refers to a Christian’s position before God. The moment you were born again, God justified you. On the basis of Christ’s finished work, God thought of your sins as forgiven and declared that you were righteous. Sanctification, on the other hand, refers to our practice before God. It is the ongoing process of battling sin and becoming more like Jesus. Though sanctification is the evidence and goal of our justification, we must never see it as the basis of our justification. Here’s where so many Christians get confused. They try to earn what has already been given to them as a free gift. As Martin Luther stated, “The only contribution we make to our justification is our sin which God so graciously forgives.” There are other vital distinctions. Justification is about being declared righteous; sanctification is about becoming more righteous. Justification is immediate; sanctification is gradual. Justification is complete the moment God declares us righteous. It does not take

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God-centered evangelism

“God-centered evangelism believes all men are fallen and will not come to God by their own power or will, because they are deaf, blind, dead and have no power for spiritual good. Their minds are at enmity with God, and left to themselves, they will not seek God. Men need new natures. We call this regeneration. Regeneration is the work of God alone, and this great work always produces conversion, which is repentance toward God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. Regeneration is a big theological word that views salvation from God’s side—it is the instantaneous impartation of life. Paul calls it new creation. One may, or may not, be conscience of the exact moment when it takes place in them. Conversion, on the other hand, is viewing salvation from the human side. Repenting is something man does. Believing is something man does. Both are a result of what God does. This order is important if you are ever

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The Lordship of Christ

“When Jesus invites sinners, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’ he immediately adds, ‘take my yoke upon you, and learn from me’ (Matt. 11:28-29). To come to him includes taking his yoke upon us, being subject to his direction and guidance, learning from him and being obedient to him. If we are unwilling to make such a commitment, then we have not truly placed our trust in him.” -Wayne Grudem (HT: Reformed Voices)

His Birth and Our New Birth

’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ’God with us’ —Matthew 1:23 Oswald Chambers – My Utmost For His Highest His Birth in History. “. . . that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God ( Luke 1:35 ). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form. His Birth in

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Without the New Birth…

Without the new birth, we won’t have saving faith, but only unbelief. (John 1:11-13; 1 John 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:3). Without the new birth, we won’t have justification, but only condemnation. (Romans 8:1; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 2:17 Philippians 3:9). Without the new birth, we won’t be the children of God, but the children of the devil. (1 John 3:9-10). Without the new birth, we won’t bear the fruit of love by the Holy Spirit, but only bear the fruit of death. (Romans 6:20-21; 7:4-6; 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; Galatians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 3:14). Without the new birth, we won’t have eternal joy in fellowship with God, but only eternal misery with the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41; John 3:3; Romans 6:23; Revelation 2:11; 20:15). — John Piper,  Why Do We Need to Be Born Again? (Part 2) (HT: Adrian Warnock)

Genuine Faith?

. A.W. Towzer: . “My fear is that the modern conception of faith is not the biblical one, that when the teachers of our day use the word they do not mean what the Bible writers meant when they used it. The causes of my uneasiness are these: 1. The lack of spiritual fruit in the lives of so many who claim to have faith. 2. The rarity of a radical change in the conduct and general outlook of persons professing their new faith in Christ as their personal Savior. 3. The failure of our teachers to define or even describe the thing to which the word ‘faith’ is supposed to refer. 4. The heartbreaking failure of multitudes of seekers, be they ever so earnest, to make anything out of the doctrine [of faith] or to receive any satisfying experience through it. 5. The real danger that a doctrine that is parroted so widely and received so uncritically by so

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