The problem of belief in God has never been solely to convince the conscious mind. If it were, He would need only to raise up brilliant debaters and apologists rather than pastors and churches that nurture. Paul wrote, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10, KJV).
It is easy to confuse deep, heartfelt conviction with mere intellectual assent and to think salvation is thereby accomplished. I do not mean to say that anyone’s conversion experience is thereby invalid, but that it did not finish the process. We have been too easily convinced of completion.
When belief in the heart, to whatever degree, opens the floodgates of understanding to the mind and conviction to the spirit, and we respond in the sinner’s prayer to invite Jesus in, we are redeemed and justified. Our sins are washed away in the blood of the Lamb and our destinies are changed from hell to heaven. We are once and for all time fully saved.
But the experience of conversion is not all there is to being saved. Salvation has a larger meaning than justification, redemption, being born anew, going to heaven or all these put together.
Redemption, justification, being born anew are entrances to the process of growing into salvation (1 Pet. 2). Going to heaven is the end product. All of what happens in between, the process of sanctification and transformation, is the major part of salvation, which means “to become whole, to be healed.”
When we ask, “Have you been saved, brother?” we mean redeemed, justified, born anew and going to heaven. Well and good. But perhaps the question is confusing. If we mean, “Has the Lord gotten hold of you, paid the price, and set your face toward heaven?” every born-anew Christian ought to answer with an unqualified, “Yes, I’m saved, and I’m going to heaven.”
But concerning the process in this life of being saved, none ought ever to reply that it is all done. Each one should answer, “I’m saved, and I’m being saved every day,” because “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14, NASB).
Although every believer is in process, he knows by faith that positionally he has already been made perfect and is already being raised up to sit with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Whatever further conversions of the heart we explore ought never to be taken to imply that our first conversion was invalid or insufficient.
On the other hand, no matter how dramatic or conclusive that conversion was, we run the risk of crippling our abundant life the moment we build a tabernacle as though it once and for all finished the process it, in fact, only began. The heart needs to be transformed anew every day, or we fail to grow in Jesus. Indeed, that is our primary definition of growth in Christ—further and further death and rebirth through continuing inner conversion.
Continual conversion of a believer’s heart moves the heart from unbelief to belief and repentance. This happens as the light of God’s Word reaches into the dark, hidden recesses of the heart, and begins to prepare it to produce good fruit (Matt. 13:3-8).
Historically, in America, sanctification has come to mean striving to live up to the law on the base of a supposedly transformed character. That struggle all too often has led to judgmentalism because tragically, the transformation had never been complete.
True, we are washed clean at the moment of conversion, and our consciences sprinkled (Heb. 9:14). But not all the character has been transformed at that moment.
Jesus is not yet that firmly seated as Lord in the inner depths of many Christians. It must hurt the Lord deeply that in churches considered most sound, sin so often still runs rampant, even among the leaders. Or where obvious sin has not reared its head, so little fruit of the Spirit is seen.
In such churches, conversion may be complete in the conscious mind, but the heart remains almost untouched.
The Lord must be allowed to fully occupy each believer’s heart. This will be accomplished through the weapon of the Word of God being spoken to one another through preaching of the Word, the ministry of small groups, and through diligent, intercessory prayer for and with each other. As the Word touches the places of unbelief in our hearts, we will arise in conversion to take up the battle cry against the flesh and make it our joy to plunge to inner death and rebirth.
Purity of Heart
Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (KJV). Mark again those words, “pure in heart.” Jesus was saying that those whose hearts are purified come to understand and embrace God for who He actually is.