Summary: Are people who profess to having “prayed to receive Christ,” or who claim to be born again, but whose lives are no different than they were before, truly converted? What Christ said in Matthew 7:21 holds the answer. First John tells us what conversion is.
Conversion – What It is and What It Looks Like
Are people who profess to having “prayed to receive Christ,” or who claim to be born again, but whose lives are no different than they were before, truly converted? I believe that when we look at what Christ had to say in Matthew 7:21we find the answer. There we find these words, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” There are many who claim to be saved but whose lives do not provide any credence or authenticity to their words.
According to God’s Word we see that there are two elements to conversion, repentance and faith which are indivisibly bound together, like two sides of the same coin.
True saving faith, which is trusting in Christ alone and His shed blood to deliver us from God’s wrath, includes repentance. Jesus Christ said in Luke 5:32 “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” J. Edwin Orr wrote (in Christianity Today, Jan. 1, 1982, p. 27), “The difference between true faith and what the Scripture calls false faith is simple: it is the lack of repentance.”
If repentance is necessary, we need to understand what repentance is. Many feel that sorrow for sin is repentance. Sorrow for sin is a normal part of repentance. However, it is possible to feel sorry for your sins and yet not repent.
While the main Greek word is a compound word taken from two words meaning to change one’s mind, biblical repentance is more than simply changing one’s mind about God. It is neither with a purely outward turning nor with a merely intellectual change of ideas.” Wayne Grudem gives an excellent definition in his book Systematic Theolog: “Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”
You can’t hold on to Christ for salvation with one hand, and at the same time hold on to your sin with the other hand. To genuinely trust Christ, you must turn from your sin. There are many who profess to believe in Christ while holding onto their sin. But these are empty professions without possession of true saving faith.
Sin is a turning away from God. As someone has said, it is aversion from God and conversion to the world: and true repentance means conversion to God and aversion from the world.
1 John 5:13 states the purpose for the epistle, “these things have i written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” Throughout this letter John gives a number of marks of true conversion whereby we can examine ourselves. Let’ look at five of these marks.
A. No continual pattern of sin
1. People who say they're Christians but if you look at their lives, it's just an unbroken pattern of sin.
2. 1 John 2:4-6
4. There are those who hold to the antinomian view. Antinomian means against the law, that is the people who sort of live without regard for the law of God. And they say Christians can sin, Christians do sin, and frankly, it doesn't matter because we're all under grace anyway. Grace covers absolutely everything. In fact, where sin abounds, grace much more abounds.
5. Romans 6 declares that believers have been freed from the slavery of sin.
6. Christians are not sinless but they sin less
7. 1 John 1:6 (EXB) “So if we say we have fellowship with God, but we ·continue living [are walking] in darkness, we are liars and do not follow [perform; practice; act according to] the truth”
8. "The lost leap into sin and love it; the saved lapse into sin and loathe it." (Blanchard)
B. Awareness of sin
1. Christians cannot sin without the Holy Spirit’s making the believer aware of their sin.
2. JOHN 16:8 states that part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to “… convict or convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
3. James Hastings has written, “One of the first evidences and signs of the coming of the Spirit of God—and His coming is the coming of the light in the heart—is a new discovery of the depth and reality of sin.”
5. The perfectionist says the Christian can reach a place where he doesn't sin, doesn't sin at all. And you have to work to get to that place. And perfectionism is usually associated with some form of Arminian theology which also believes that you can lose your salvation. They teach that a true Christian, the ultimate Christian, the superior Christian is one who reaches a point of sinlessness? That's what perfectionism seeks to achieve.