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Marks of a true conversion
- Jacob Ninan
Not everyone has a crisis conversion to point to, with a dramatic change from an old way of life to the new. In many cases the transition is slow, and the people themselves may not be able to remember the day or occasion when they chose to follow Jesus. On the other hand, those who come to church regularly and are active in Christian work may give an appearance of being Christians but it is possible that they do not have a genuine relationship with Jesus in their heart. Let me try to present to you what the essential characteristics are that distinguish a true Christian from one who merely has a name of being a Christian. You can read a more detailed look at this in my article called "Are you born of God?"
No one can be a genuine Christian unless he has been born again (Jn.3:5). This is what happens when a person repents from his sins and places his trust in Jesus to forgive his sins (Mk.1:15). Then God saves him from the kingdom of darkness into His light (Co.1:13) and from death to life (1Jn.3:14), gives us the seed of His nature (1Jn.3:9) and adopts us as His children (Ep.1:5). This salvation is an unmerited favour and an undeserved gift from God which we receive through faith (Ep.2:8,9).
If we have been saved by this grace of God the very least thing that distinguishes us from others is our inner recognition or acknowledgement that God has shown us tremendous mercy in forgiving us our sins. We are extremely thankful for this and we know that we really do not deserve this. This will drive us to love God, and this will be seen in our lives by the increasing importance we give to God in every area of our life (2Co.5:14,15).
There is a spiritual growth and development that starts in our life when we are born again. But if what I have mentioned above--a recognition of God forgiving us in spite of our not deserving it at all--is missing in our life, it is unlikely that we are born again at all. Reading the Bible, prayer, 'Christian' activities in the church or outside, etc., can all be carried out in our own human strength and may get us a name before people. But God cannot recognise such people as His children if His seed has not been born in their heart.
Obviously we need to check our own status in this connection, and we must also do our best in helping other people to come to a genuine relationship with God through Jesus. If we take it for granted that we or others belong to God's kingdom when in fact it is not true, that would be the most fatal deception anybody can be in.
There is so much need for the gospel to be shared with clarity while preaching or writing so that no one will be left in uncertainty about what they should do to be saved. In reality many are deceived about their salvation. Truth has to be spoken in love even if some hearers may get offended, because we should not become responsible for misleading people and letting them get deceived about the most significant issue in their life.