The Shepherd’s Church exists to raise up deeply rooted disciples of Christ who are growing in their knowledge of the Word and learning to think Biblically, with all humility, in every facet of their lives. We seek to accomplish this in several ways, but one of them is by choosing various books to read for a given month and then meeting together over coffee to discuss the concepts. November’s book was: “What Is A Healthy Church Member?” by Thabiti Anyabwile, which discusses 10 fundamental character traits of a healthy church member. After reading and discussing this book, I became convinced that our entire church needed to hear this great content. For week 1, week 2, & Week 3 of this series, please visit our website. This week we look at the fourth mark of a healthy church member.
A HEALTHY CHURCH MEMBER IS GENUINELY CONVERTED
We often make the assumption that just because someone is going to church that they are a legitimate Christian. But this is not the case. In the Bible, God gives us clear evidence of what it means to be genuinely converted and church attendance does not make that list. Now let me be clear, church attendance is vital for the life and health of the believer and we will discuss this in a future installment, but it cannot be the way we measure if someone is justified by God, through Christ, and indwelled with the Holy Spirit. It just can't!
In what follows, I will provide a summary of Thabiti’s Biblical argument from his book "What Is A Healthy Church Member". For the believer, this is meant to increase your confidence that you are genuinely converted and to cause you to rest in Christ's finished work and the Spirit's ongoing work in your life. But for the nominal Christian, this post may very well be frightening and may cause you to question your salvation. Just know that this is a good thing. If you were deceiving yourself into believing you were regenerate, while you were still dead in your sins, and if this blog caused you to question and run to Christ, well, that to me is a very good thing!
To that end, let us explore what it means to be genuinely converted.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE GENUINELY CONVERTED?
To be converted, in a Biblical sense, is to be radically turned away from the life of sin and death and to be set free in order to pursue a God-glorifying life of worship. This change is not brought about by human effort or behavioral modification, it is wrought into the believer by God. We lay on the operating table having been pronounced dead, and the only way that life will come back into our dead bones is by the outside effort of the master surgeon. As Christians, we were once dead but by God's power alone were brought back to life. That is conversion.
WHAT BIBLICAL EVIDENCE ACCOMPANIES CONVERSION?
The Bible not only tells us that we must be converted in order to live, but it also teaches that our conversion will be accompanied by unmistakable evidences that show up in our lives. The point is simple, if you are Biblically converted, there will be corresponding Biblical evidence of that conversion. Like a cold is accompanied by various symptoms, Biblical conversion is always accompanied by specific and measurable Biblical symptoms of grace!
To get at this, Thabiti turns to the New Testament book of 1 John, which offers several proofs to determine whether a man or a woman is genuinely converted. For instance, the first proof that we have been genuinely converted is that we seek to walk in the light of God’s grace instead of the darkness of sin and death. This means that true followers of Christ hate their sin (1 John 1:6-7) and eagerly make war with the misdeeds of their flesh (Rom. 8:13) so that they may live. This also means that men and women who deny that they are sinners, or who habitually live in their sin with no Biblical repentance, are not genuinely converted.
A second proof that a man or woman is Biblically converted comes from their love of God in the way God has revealed Himself in Scripture. Thabiti says it this way, because many today love the meek and mild, effeminate and European, Jesus with feathered hair. But few today love the total picture of God that we see revealed in the Bible. Few revere Him for His holiness. Few praise Him because of His justice. And few remember the Jesus who overturned tables, called sinners to “sin no more” and blisteringly rebuked the religious establishment for their moralism and pride. To be genuinely converted, we must have an accurate understanding of the God we claim to love, and we must also love Him for who He is. A crucial sign that we truly have become His, that we love Him for who He is.
A third proof comes from how we love other believers. Christianity is not a lone ranger, self-justifying, path to individual enlightenment. It is a new birth, adopted by a good and benevolent Father, who brought us into a new family called the church that He intends for us to love. Just as an earthly father is grieved when one of his daughters or sons are alienated from the family, so our heavenly Father is grieved when we wander away from communion with the Church. Thabiti goes as far as to say it this way:
“If our love of other Christians is cold, we need to examine whether or not we have savingly believed on Christ Jesus the Son of God."
A fourth proof comes from whether or not the Holy Spirit is at work in us (1 Jn. 3:24b). For the genuine believer, the Holy Spirit gives us particular evidence that He dwells within us (Rom. 8:16). Such as, He convicts us of our sin (John 16:8); He produces spiritual fruit in our lives (Gal. 5:22-23); and He changes our attitudes (Mt. 5:1-12). These changes in our life, again, are not the result of more effort on our part, but the work of the Spirit of God, which looks and feels so much different.
A fifth proof, that Thabiti offers, is persevering faith (1 John 5:4-5). Genuine believers in Christ preserve. While the world, the flesh, and the devil rage against them, they are not overcome. Why? Because they belong to the one who has overcome the world. This means that true Christians will not abandon Christ or apostatize from the faith. The good work that God began in them will continue in them until the day Christ returns for them (Phil. 1:6).
This teaches us that genuine converts to Christ 1) Walk in the light, 2) Love God for who He is, 3) love other Christians and the Church, 4) Have real Biblical evidence of the Spirit's work within them, and 5) Will continue following Jesus until the end.This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, but I think it is a good list to begin with! Now, let us answer the fundamental question of the book, how does this produce a healthy church member?
HOW DOES GENUINE CONVERSION CONTRIBUTE TO CHURCH HEALTH?
Instead of a church being a mixed group of both sheep and goats, the genuinely converted alongside the nominally affiliated, the church that seeks to teach and uphold Biblical conversion will inevitably grow in health. Members will know who they are in Christ, will be eager to grow in the knowledge of God, and will be filled with the Spirit of God. Members will long to pour out love for God and love for others, in an age where love is so shallow, which will make the church a beautiful spectacle to behold. And as individual churches grow in righteousness the entire church will grow in its worldwide effectiveness.
This, of course, is a serious matter for our examination. To be unaware of such a great matter as this would be a tragedy, So, for that, I am thankful we were able to examine it. To the genuinely converted who read this post, these proofs and evidences should encourage you that God is at work in you in spite of your best efforts to resist. For anyone who is left unsure, cry out to Jesus. Beg of His mercy. Do not persist in apathy or pride.
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace"
May the Lord bless you and keep you until I write again!