In Ethiopia I saw fruit trees everywhere. Mangoes. Avocados. Bananas. For a city boy like me it was pretty cool.
On one occasion I had the privilege of teaching on biblical salvation. Conversion is a genuine miracle. It is not superficial. Inspired by the fruit trees I said, “Sitting in a church building doesn’t make you a follower of Jesus any more than sitting in a tree makes you a banana!”
They laughed. But their laughter turned to sobriety almost immediately. They understood. In my current context this is more controversial.
My Ethiopian brothers and sisters in Christ have different experiences. We were in a different context. We were sitting outside on a beautiful day. We were sitting next to the ruins of their previous meeting-house. It had been burned to the ground years before.
It wasn’t burned down by Muslims. It wasn’t burned down by militant atheists. It was burned down by those claiming to be Christians. They didn’t just burn the building. They burned their Bibles. It’s a wonder no one got killed.
Then they went and sat in their own church building while the others gathered and worshiped God upon the ashes. In an ironic twist some of the mob members were genuinely converted. They saw the response. It wasn’t anger. It wasn’t vengeance. It was to worship and praise the living God. The conviction hit hard. It was deep.
The angry mob’s attempt to destroy this group of faithful people only increased their number. Just like we read about all through Acts. Go figure. Persevering through trials resulting from our faith is fruit of genuine salvation (1 Pet 1:3-9).
These are serious questions: in a culture that emphasizes buildings, programs, and safety, how many would show up to worship if your church building was reduced to rubble by an angry mob? Is God enough? Or do we need the bells and whistles?
Sitting in a church doesn’t make you a follower of Jesus. Conversion does. Here are three miraculous fruits of genuine conversion.
1. A New Relationship With the Word of God. Prior to conversion the Bible is just a book. Some think it is an important source of morals and standards.
The child of God knows that this Book reveals God. The morals, rules, and stories are all secondary. They are important because they primarily tell us who God is. A holy God. A God who saves by His own mercy and grace. A God who calls us to walk with Him. A God who conforms His people to His own character.
The morals and regulations are no longer restraints. They are life.
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3 NASB)
2. A New Relationship With Sin. Prior to conversion we love our sin. We live to gratify the lusts, impulses, and appetites of our flesh.
After conversion God gives us a new nature. It’s new. As in not the same. It begins to hate the sin it once loved. It now hungers and thirsts for righteousness.
This doesn’t mean that genuine Christians never sin. But the relationship to sin has been transformed. What we formerly embraced we now wrestle against. Victories are won. Battles are lost. We joyfully agree that God’s Word is right. The reality of the struggle should not discourage. It is evidence that our nature has changed.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:21-23 NASB)
This war will not end in this life. Our final salvation includes a resurrection. This body of sin and death must die. Praise God we will not endure for eternity in our present state!
3. A New Relationship To God and Man. At conversion we receive peace with God through Christ. We are adopted into God’s family as sons and daughters. We are given the ministry of reconciliation. God is reconciling the world to Himself through Christ.
This changes all our relationships. Understanding God’s amazing grace that He lavished on us in His Son is overwhelming. Seeing others who have likewise been reconciled should cause celebration. God has accepted them into His family. Into our family. There should be a deep love for the children of God (1 John 3:10; 4:20-21). This doesn’t mean just within our denomination.
Seeing outsiders to God’s family should stir compassion. We should desire their reconciliation to God through Christ. Even when they respond with hostility or apathy we will love them. They are made in the image of God. Since we love God and are loved by Him we should have compassion for all who bear His image.
The old nature seeks its own benefit. The new nature seeks the benefit of others.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 NASB)
If these changes are evident in your life rejoice! If not then soberly consider Paul’s words:
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB)
The test is not: Did I sit in church this week? You won’t find that anywhere in Scripture. The test is: Are you in Christ and is Jesus Christ in you?
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB)
Are you new?