Is convenient conversion wrong?

Convenient Conversion

One of my greatest fears for this American culture is the overwhelming temptation to embrace liberal agendas of entitlements. We award free food to those who are overweight and we hand out free money to those who refuse to get a job. We legalize illegal aliens so they can do our work for us. We import more than we export. We idolize the sordid lives of Hollywood stars and we buy big screen TVs to expose our children to their divorce-ridden, drug-induced morally-depraved lives of spoiled materialism. Americans have grown lazy. We are obese and we are undisciplined. Effort has become our enemy and convenience has become our god.

Unfortunately, the same attitude of casual convenience has found its way into the Christian movement. Consider just one example, the process of conversion. 

Many have so dismissed the authority of God's instructions that they have reduced the salvation experience to a simple thought process. Followers are encouraged to focus on their sin, regurgitate a pre-scripted prayer, hear the pastor pronounce them saved, then exit the drive-through convinced of their salvation. I ask you, “Where is the crucifixion? Where is the death of the old man of sin? Where is the gut-wrenching experience of loss, transformation, and self-sacrifice?”

Thomas Paine once wrote this, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly...".  Is it possible that this is the reason for the decline of Christianity in America? Is it possible that this is the reason our children demonstrate little loyalty to the Bride of Christ or commitment to the values of the One they call "Savior"? Our level of appreciation is directly related to our level of investment. When the conversion process is reduced to a simple mental exercise, appreciation, loyalty and responsible Christian living suffers.

The inspired brother of Jesus put it this way, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26, NKJV) A dead conversion is a half experienced conversion. Both the inner man and the outer man must be united in the process in order for the whole man to be converted.

The Holy Spirit describes conversion as a death, a burial, and a rebirth; three of the most traumatic moments in the human experience. 

Coming to Christ includes many things, but convenience is not one of them! The Holy Spirit describes conversion as a death, a burial, and a rebirth; three of the most traumatic moments in the human experience. 

Notice the following passage. Please give special attention to the vivid illustration and dramatic description the Spirit assigns to the salvation process.

Romans 6:3-4 (NKJV)

"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

Death is final. It is marked by a specific time and place. Death is traumatic. It is marked by specific loss and separation. In order for baptism to be the death described in Romans 6:3-4, it must be more than a casual church initiation service. The Holy Spirit says that baptism marks the moment of death as well as the beginning of new life. Baptism is a salvation marker! Anything less is too casual to be a full recognition of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

So what is the conclusion? Do we save ourselves through baptism? Absolutely not! Does God save us through our free-will choice to join with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection? Absolutely! God does the saving when we join Christ in the sacrifice. Notice again the words of our passage, "buried WITH Him through baptism into death". Coming to Christ is anything but convenient. It hurts. It involves loss, humiliation, and surrender. Conversion is born of crisis. It hurts. It involves loss, humiliation and surrender. Conversion is a crucifixion.

Romans 6:5-6 (ASV)

"For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified from sin."

To those preaching the dangerous doctrine of convenient conversion, please hear me! Effort is not the enemy. Even faith is a work! "Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'” (John 6:28-29, NIV) If belief is a work commanded by God, why can't baptism be a work commanded by God? 

I recently had a friend ask me this question, "If Christ saves us (by) what he did on the cross then why do we have to help him with a baptism?" This line of reasoning has always puzzled me. It's like asking, "If a conquering king saves me from execution, why do I have to help him by accepting his terms of surrender?" Selfless sacrifice in accepting a free gift does not constitute earning. Effort is not the enemy.

The true enemies of conversion are self-righteousness and convenience. The first devalues God's power. The second devalues Christ's cross. May you never be guilty of either. 

Submit to God's plan as an act of surrender. Obedience is the only gift you have. Give it. Don't obey in order to earn, obey in order to submit. Do this and you will discover the solid ground that lies between the muddy holes of self-righteousness and convenience. Make it real!

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