The largest lost demographic in the U.S. could very well be those who have had a “False Conversion”.
Jesus states this future reality,
On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ — Matthew 7:22–23
If you take this warning or other warnings about False Conversion in the Bible seriously, then I’m sure that you would want to know where you stand. First, when I use the term False Conversion, what do I mean? Simply put, this is one who thinks they are saved and are in right standing with God, but are still void of the Holy Spirit and have not been born-again. False Conversion can happen for many different reasons. Cultural Christianity can have certain rights of passage or events that can place pressure on children to make a decision too early. Emotionally driven decisions can take place in which the person is feeling guilty for their sin but it is not a Godly guilt that leads to true repentance and faith. There are other examples and reasons that can lead to False Conversion. The main concern for this article is to identify and call those with a False Conversion to true repentance and faith in Christ.
When one goes to the doctor, there are questions that they ask to properly identify your symptoms and then diagnose your illness. There is a passage in John 5:30–47, where Jesus is confronting those who have a False Conversion. We will use Jesus’s teachings and warnings to provide some questions for you to answer honestly.
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. ”— John 5:30–34
#1 — Do you readily accept a message “to be better” and reject a message “of full surrender”?
He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. — John 5:35–36
Jesus’s first test is that of John the Baptist and his message. John’s message is that of repentance and preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven. John’s message was widely accepted as true. People were coming to him in the wilderness to be baptized as a sign of repentance from their sin. John’s message was simple: stop doing bad and start doing good. People were willing to accept this message and that is Jesus’s point in verse 35. If you see your sin and are merely looking for ways to be better and try harder and are not looking for a complete solution and release from your sin, then you may be a False Convert.
What Jesus calls humanity to do is full surrender. In verse 36 He points out that the works that He is doing are greater than John’s, so why are they rejecting Jesus? They are rejecting Him because of the message that accompanied the works: I AM; I and the Father are One; I am the Messiah; Surrender your work and place your faith in Me. This message goes against our human nature. It is completely counterintuitive to the way that everything else in the world works. It takes a supernatural source in us to have this kind of faith. It takes being born-again to believe this.
#2 — Do you readily accept the letter of the Law but reject the Heart of the Law?
And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. — John 5:37–38
How do you read the Bible? On what do you tend to focus? Is the Bible merely a field manual to navigate this life? What is the Bible revealing to us about God, ourselves, Jesus, and salvation?
The False Converts of Jesus’s day took the revealed word of God and focused on the rules. In fact when the False Converts had worries about whether they were following the rules exactly right, they brought in more rules just to make sure they were fine with God.
Jesus’s point in verses 37–38 is that the Father, through His revealed word, the Bible — more specifically the Old Testament, has been declaring to humanity there is One who will come and deliver mankind from their sins. There is One who will obey perfectly because we couldn’t. There is One who will stand in our place of condemnation and death. There is One that will give us His righteousness and take our sin, so that we might be fully reconciled to the Father through Him.
#3 — Do you think that familiarity equals security?
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. — John 5:39–40
The more that we know about God leads to a greater security before God. It makes sense; doesn’t it? But actually Jesus’s point in verses 39–40 is that their knowledge is actually the barrier to their faith in Christ. But why? I would never encourage someone not to read the Bible, especially someone outside the faith. So what is Jesus’s point here? His point is that knowledge of the Scriptures does not equal salvation and security before God. The Scriptures point to the One who does bring eternal life. The Apostle Paul in Philippians gladly and joyously calls out his prior knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures to be dung before his faith in Christ. Would you be willing to lay aside everything that you think you know about the Bible to gain Christ?
Is a barrier to you making a public profession of true faith and repentance in Christ, because you have been the “go to” person for Bible answers?
What will you plead on “that day” referenced in Matthew 7:22 — your knowledge of the Bible or the Person and Work of Jesus?
#4 — Do you readily accept the glory of self and reject the glory of God?
I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? — John 5:41–44
Every False Convert, void of the Spirit of God, thinks that they are worshipping God, when in reality they are worshipping themselves. That is scary to think about, but this is exactly what Jesus is stating. The self-deception is deep and all encompassing.
How do I know if I am worshipping self over God?
Do you choose comfort over truth?
Do you choose acceptance from mankind over God’s acceptance?
Do you thrive off of the flattery of others over the unconditional love of God?
Is your faith in God a means to a greater end? Blessing, Status, Power, Etc.
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you are worshipping self over God. Here is the Good News! Those who are truly born-again actually know intimately that their default mode is self worship. They know that, apart from the Spirit of God, they are incapable of worshipping God rightly. Those that are born-again know that they must abide in Christ daily or they will easily go back to their default mode of self worship. Those that are born-again know that the best they can offer God for their salvation is self worship. They know they need the One who never exalted Himself, but was humble and exalted the Father every moment of His life, to step in and give them His record of perfection.
#5 — Do you focus more on what you are doing for God rather than what God has done for you?
Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” — John 5:45–47
The Law of Moses was the Gold Standard of Morality for these False Converts. It was what they based everything in their life and culture around. It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t state that He will accuse them or judge them but that it will be Moses. They had set their hope in a standard of morality. I’ve heard Tim Keller, a popular Evangelical Pastor/Author, speak on this very notion. To paraphrase Keller, take Jesus’s/God’s standard of perfection out of the equation and just judge yourself based on your standard of morality. You might say, “I hate it when people lie to me.” Do you lie to others? “I hate it when others flirt with my spouse.” Do you flirt with people’s spouses? Whatever the “I hate it when…” statement you have in your life is; do you do that very thing? Based on your standard of morality, would you declare yourself good enough? Neither would God declare you good enough.
Do you believe that your level of righteousness before God is determined by your level of obedience to God?
Does your level of obedience make you feel more or less worthy of God’s love?
Does your disobedience lead you to despair and hopelessness?
Do you obey out of fear of punishment?
In a normal week, what consumes your thoughts more: what you are doing for God or what God has done for you?
All of the Bible including the Law of Moses is declaring the necessity of God to provide a Saving Substitute and a Sacrificial Lamb. Mankind is hopeless without it. We can’t obey enough. We can’t obey from a pure motivation. God needs to come in and give us a new heart, put His Spirit inside of us and write His law on our hearts.
To those False Converts:
Are you ready to fully surrender to Jesus Christ alone as the answer?
Are you ready to know the Heart of the Law to better apply the letter of the Law?
Are you ready to place your eternal security in Jesus?
Are you ready to experience the unconditional love of God and deny the praise of man?
Are you ready to embrace the work done in your place by Jesus and repent of any work to save yourself?
Have you been born-again?
To those that have been Born-Again:
To emulate the ministry of Jesus, we must not take someone who is doubting their salvation and try to make them feel better about their standing with God. Faithfulness to God’s Word is above the personal comforts of another or yourself. Jesus confronted those in love and truth and shook them out of their religious haze. May these questions lead to helpful conversations with those who are wrestling with this issue. May the Spirit use the Word to bring people to true faith and repentance. May the Spirit use the Word to affirm those, who have been born-again, of their status before the Lord.