One morning a few years ago I was driving back from the Sarnia Y to our home in Brigden after an early morning workout. And as I was cruising along I came across a sight out of the corner of my eye and I wondered if I saw what I thought I saw. So I wheeled around and took another long hard look and sure enough I saw what I thought I saw. It was a dead racoon with a party hat on. I had never seen that before. And that wasn’t the last time I saw that kind of thing. You would find dead raccoons in our area with party hats on from time to time and sometimes they had beer bottles in their clutches. Now I could’ve been wrong but I doubt any of those raccoons put the hats on themselves. I believe that someone was bored and put the party headgear on the dead raccoons.
Ephesians 2:1 describes unbelievers as dead in their trespasses. That is the way that people are born: spiritually dead. Unbelievers are not seekers…they are stone cold dead. That was my spiritual condition as a teenager. No interest whatsoever…maybe that described you, too…but then came a drastic change of direction. The Apostle Paul was a persecutor of believers before the Lord knocked him off his horse. Matthew 27:44 shows two thieves insulting Jesus but in Luke 23:40 there was only one that was barbing on him. So the one criminal had a change of heart. The Apostle had a change of heart. How? By the Spirit of God. Dead raccoons need bored people to wear party hats…and dead people need the Spirit of God to experience the new birth.
I sometimes don’t know how to respond when someone says ‘happy birthday’ to me because quite honestly, I had nothing to do with it. So I usually pass on my parents phone number because they are the ones who should get the credit. I had absolutely nothing to do with it. My parents should really be getting a party and a Black Forest Cake and so should yours. In John 3 Jesus shot straight with Nicodemus and said ‘you must be born again.’ Nicodemus needed to be reborn. He had nothing to do with his physical birth and he would have nothing to do with his spiritual birth…if that ever happened. It would need to be a Spirit of God thing.
According to Wayne Grudem, conversion is our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation. And that is absolutely true. People respond to the call of the gospel everyday but God was the One who clued us in to respond because dead people don’t respond…dead people can’t do squat…unless they are awakened.
 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh,  that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20 ESV)
I love the way Ezekiel puts it. It helps us see Who’s in the driver’s seat of our conversion and then what happens to the converted soul, change.
We have been talking about marks of a church moving towards health. 1. expositional preaching 2. biblical theology 3. the gospel 4. a biblical understanding of conversion.
Can we know beyond a shadow of a doubt if someone is truly converted? No. When Jesus informed his gang that one would betray him they didn’t all point to Judas, they pointed at themselves. But if the Spirit of God lives inside a believer, fruit will develop. (Galatians 5:22-23). We wonder why a young grouch can become an old grouch and claim Christ as Saviour and Lord. It makes you scratch your head. Could it be that true conversion has not taken place?
In too many circles we are told to put hope in that moment that we prayed the prayer, walked the aisle, or signed the card. At the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul referred to the Corinthians as saints but by the end of 2 Corinthians, he told them to examine themselves…and we each would do well to do that.
Don Whitney wrote a book a number of years ago that I found very helpful called “Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health”. And I simply want to end the post with the ten questions from his book for you to chew on and consider. True conversion brings change not perfection. Spiritual birth does not leave people unchanged and when we claim the new birth and live the same old way that we’ve always lived, it makes God look like He is short on power. In other words it reduces his glory. Please take a few minutes, hours, and maybe even days to examine yourself in light of Paul’s words to the Corinthians.
- Do you thirst for God?
- Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
- Are you more loving?
- Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
- Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
- Do you delight in the bride of Christ?
- Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
- Do you still grieve over sin?
- Are you a quicker forgiver?
- Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?