Conversion and Salvation
by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 3 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Salvation is More than Being Saved)
Isaiah 1:26, "And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors
as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness,
the faithful city." Isaiah 6:9, "And He said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye
indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not." Luke
22:31, 32, "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have
you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith
fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." James 5:19, 20,
"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him
know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a
soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
The word "conversion" means "to turn around," "to change direction," "a change of purpose." In summary, it means "turning around the use of something. Conversion then would be "the outward manifestation of regeneration." Regeneration means "re-gening" or "being born of new genes." Conversion then would become the outward change brought about by regeneration. It is God Who places in us the new nature and re-genes or regenerates us. Just as the good Samaritan took the wounded man to the inn and commissioned the host to care for him, even so upon regeneration the newborn Christian is to place himself in a New Testament church so that church and the Christians therein can be used by the Holy Spirit for the converting of a life that was used for self to be used for others, that was lived in sin to be lived in righteousness, and that was producing works of the flesh to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Conversion then is the work of the church and its members as they are led by the Holy Spirit to change the life and work of one who has been regenerated.
Redemption is a work of God the Son. Regeneration is the work of God the Holy Spirit. Justification is the work of God the Father as He declares the sinner righteous in the Son. Conversion then becomes the work of the church as we change the use and purpose of a life.
One block from the First Baptist Church of Hammond there is a building that was occupied for many years by a nightclub. It advertised all kinds of unrighteousness, even to that of nude dancing. For years our people would go to the sidewalk in front of this club witnessing and passing out Gospel tracts. After several years the nightclub closed. We never knew why it closed until one day I received a call from an eastern state. The caller was a gentleman who informed me that he had previously been the owner of the aforementioned nightclub. He told me how that for a number of years he had hated our people because they had bothered him so much with Gospel tracts and with their attempts to try to tell him about the Saviour. He then proceeded to tell me that one night he went home and told his wife that he felt like those people from First Baptist were getting to him. He then said, "Pastor Hyles, they did get to me. I gave my life to God, closed the nightclub, and I wanted to call you to tell you that I am now preaching the Gospel and will be licensed to preach in a few days. I wanted to thank you and your people for being consistent witnesses and for what they have meant to my life."
Shortly thereafter the First Baptist Church purchased the nightclub building. Upon purchase it was ours. The price was paid, the deal was consummated and the building changed ownership. However, the building had not yet been converted. It had the same bar, the same furnishings and the same decor. It was purchased. It was redeemed. It was owned by the church, but now it must be converted in order that it might be used for another purpose. As soon as it was redeemed, or purchased, and as soon as it changed ownership, work was begun by our people in order that it might be converted to use for God, Had we purchased it and left it as it was, it would not be converted. Neither could we go in and convert it before it was purchased. The converting of the building would not have made it ours. It would have made us guilty of criminal offense. The purchasing of the building did not convert it. First the price had to be paid, then the deal was consummated, the title then changed hands, and then the workmen entered to change its use and convert It to use for God.
Now there are many Christians who are saved but not converted. They have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ but their feet do not walk in new ways; their tongues do not speak a new language; their minds do not dwell on spiritual things. They are saved,' but they are carnal. I Corinthians 3:1-3, "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
So regeneration is not a result of conversion; conversion follows regeneration. Conversion does not bring salvation. At salvation, conversion is supposed to begin.
Notice James 5:19, "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him," and especially take note of the words, "If any of you" and "convert him." Notice who gets converted--any of you. This is talking about God's people becoming converted and it is also God's people who do the converting. We often ask each other, "How many conversions did you have last Sunday morning?" What we mean is, "How many regenerations did you have last Sunday morning?" Now it would not be a serious mistake for one to use the word "conversion" in that manner, but in the strictest Bible sense, "conversion" happens to God's people after they are saved, and it is done by God's people.
In the aforementioned building used for a nightclub, the buyer didn't do the converting. When the buyer purchased the building, workers were sent in to take out the bar and other things that had been used for evil purposes. Conversion, then, is a gradual process as believers convert new and weak Christians. Please do not misunderstand. Salvation is not a gradual process! Salvation and conversion are not synonymous!
Luke 22:31, 32, "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Peter had been converted for a long time, but Jesus knew of his denial. He was saying, "Peter, your tongue is soon going to be used for evil. When it happens, it will be converted later and be used again at Pentecost for Me." He was saying, "Peter, your feet are soon to take you out of My will for the purpose of wrong use, but you will be converted, and your feet will walk again in My will and be used for Me." He was saying, "Peter, you will soon warm your body by the Devil's fire, but your body will be converted and be used again for My glory. When it is, strengthen the brethren." This is very interesting. Our Lord was saying, "Peter, as soon as you are converted, then start working at the task of converting others." Hence, the converted becomes a converter.
Now notice John 15:16, "Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you." Especially note the words, "fruit should remain." The Saviour was simply telling us that we are to be soul winners and that as soon as we win someone to Christ, we are to convert them. They are the fruit, but the fruit should be cared for properly in order that it may be converted or remain.
In World War Two, I became a paratrooper. I was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, Special Troops Battalion, Parachute Maintenance Company In jump school and in the early days of my jumping, we jumped from airplanes that were called C46's and C47's. Later on we jumped from C82's, which we called in those days, "the flying boxcar." Several years after my discharge from the Army, I was flying from Natchez, Mississippi, to Dallas, Texas, on a Delta Airlines commercial flight. The plane looked strangely familiar to me. so I inquired of the stewardess concerning the type of plane we were flying. She said, "This is a DC3." I told her that it reminded me very much of the old C46's and C47's from which I used to jump. She then informed me that that is exactly what we were flying. She told me that Delta Airlines had purchased some C46's and had converted them for commercial use and called them DC3's. Here was a plane that had been used for war. It had been purchased and converted that it might be used for peaceful purposes. The old uncomfortable seats had been taken out and nice plush ones had replaced them. The interior of the plane, as well as its exterior, had been completely changed in order that that which had been used for war might now be used for peace. The stewardess called this "conversion." Now 'If Delta Airlines had converted the plane before purchasing it, it would not have been lawful. Likewise, for the child of God to attempt to be saved by his good works is against the law of God. First comes the purchasing, the ownership, the redemption. Then comes the conversion. When the plane was purchased by Delta Airlines, was it converted'? Of course not. When it was declared officially the property of Delta Airlines, was it converted? Of course not. Conversion was done by a group of workmen who were commissioned to convert that which had been purchased. Human instruments went into the plane and carried out the will and obeyed the orders of the purchaser in changing the plane from destructive purposes to constructive ones.
So it is with salvation. We were purchased by the precious blood of Christ, regenerated by the Holy Spirit and Justified by a declaration from God the Father that we are now righteous in His sight, not because of our righteousness but by the righteousness of Christ which was imputed to us by our acceptance of Him. Romans 10:2-3, "For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." Upon our acceptance of Christ, human instruments are commissioned to help us become converted. This is what Ananias did to Saul of Tarsus. This is what Nathan did to David. This is what church members are to do to each other, whether it be to a new convert or to a brother or sister overtaken by a fault.
This means there are degrees of conversion. It takes more to convert one who has been in the depths of sin than it does to convert a little child who is being reared in a Christian home and has just received Christ as Saviour. Once again, remember that we are talking about conversion, not salvation. There are no degrees of salvation, but there are degrees of conversion.
During the 26 years that I have been Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hammond, we have purchased many businesses and dwellings to be used for the Lord's work. We purchased the building owned by the Estee Sleep Shop. It is now used for our Junior 1 Department. We purchased the Reliable Furniture Company. It is now used as a rescue mission. We purchased the Seifer Furniture Company. This five-story building is now being used for Sunday school departments and classes. We purchased the Berey Brothers Department Store and now use the building for our Spanish Department. We purchased the Style Furniture Store. The buildings were demolished and the property is now being used for parking. We purchased the Werth Furniture Store. It is now being used for our Pathfinder Department and our Sunbeam Department, which is the ministry with our educable slow. We purchased the Hammond Drapery Company, which is now a youth center and is also used for our Blind Department. We have recently purchased the Huisenga Fur and Gift Shop, and it is being converted at this time to be used for God's work. The same is true for the Elks Lodge building. We purchased the Stoltz Drug Store. It is now used as an auditorium for the preaching of the Gospel in the Spanish language. We purchased the Gene's Restaurant. It houses our Deaf Department. We purchased the Temple Diner and tore it down in order that we might enlarge our auditorium. We purchased the Minas Parking Garage and now use it for church parking. In addition to these buildings we have purchased a beauty shop, an optometrist's office, a tailor shop, a hatchery, a nightclub, a storage building, two apartment houses and several dwellings. All of these have been converted from secular use or even sinful use to spiritual use. It was much easier to convert the apartment house than it was to convert the nightclub. It was easier to convert a dwelling than it was a building owned by a lodge, but in every case, as soon as the building was purchased and the deed was transferred, we started the process of conversion.
Psalm 19:7, "The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." Here we find that conversion is brought about as we use the Word of God. The new convert needs more than Christian fellowship. He needs more than class parties. He needs the Word of God' We must be reminded constantly that all God has ever done, He has done by His Word. Ten times in the early part of Genesis we find the words, "And God said," followed later by the words, "And it was so." The sun, the great light to rule the day, was created and placed in the heavens by the Word of God. The moon, the lesser light to rule the night, was placed by the Word of God. The stars that shine like heavenly chandeliers to make the evening to be a great cathedral were placed in their sockets by the Word of God. The redwood tree of northern California stands as a Samson of the forest because of the Word of God. God painted the deserts of Arizona by His Word and dropped the lakes of Minnesota like 10,000 teardrops of deity by the Word of God. He carved the gorges by the Word of God and raised the mountain peaks like Egyptian pyramids covered by whipped cream by the Word of God. He placed the pine trees standing tall and stately like the heavenly steeple rising above an earthly sanctuary by the Word of God. The rivers pour into the ocean at the command of the Word of God, and the ocean receives the waters from the higher elevation by the Word of God. The scent of the gardenia was sprayed by the Word of God. The loveliness of the rose was made by the Word of God. Everything that God has ever done has been done by His Word. When the Lord Jesus was tempted by the evil one, He resisted by the Word of God. When He comes again to put down the Anti-Christ, He will put him down by the Spirit of His mouth; that is, the Word of God. If parents are to convert children, If Sunday school teachers are to convert class members, if pastors are to convert parishioners, if churches are to convert new converts, it must be done by the Word of God.
Psalm 51:13, "Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee." David in this psalm is repenting of his sin following the rebuke he received from Nathan. David is praying in this psalm, which is called a penitential psalm. It is a psalm of repentance and confession of sin and of pleading with God for restoration. One of the arguments that he uses in asking God for forgiveness is that if he is forgiven, he can help convert people. There are so many of God's people who need David's help, his encouragement, his strength and his teaching, but first David must be converted. He is saved but not converted. For some time now he has been used as an instrument of evil. Now he must be used as an instrument of righteousness. He pleads with God to forgive him in order that he might be converted; in order that he might be used to convert others.
In summary, let us look at God's divine order. First, the unsaved man must have the facts of salvation as found in the Word of God. He needs the precious seed of the Word of God. Psalm 126:5-6, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Following the facts comes faith. The unsaved man puts his faith in Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Then comes the redemption; the price of Calvary becomes valid and we are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. Then comes regeneration. Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." This is synonymous with the new birth. John 3:5-7, "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." The Father then justifies us, declares us righteous because we are dressed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Now the purchase is completed. The sinner has become a saint. His name is written in Heaven. God then gives His Word to the New Testament church and says, "In the power of My Spirit, by the use of My Word, convert him so that lips that once were used to curse Me may be converted to praise Me, so that eyes which were once used for evil can now be used for the reading of the Word of God, so that ears that once heard that which was wrong may now hear that which is right, so that a heart that once was filled with unholy motives can be filled with holy ones, so that a mind that was once used for evil thoughts may be used for constructive thoughts and plans in the work of God, so that feet that were swift to shed blood may now be made beautiful because they transport us to places of usefulness in the will of God." Oh, people of God, not only have we a message to proclaim concerning being born again, but there is a job to be done for those who are born again in order that they may be converted as well as regenerated, redeemed and Justified.
The story is told about an old man who lived in a run-down shack on a large piece of ground in a beautiful neighborhood. Not only was his house run-down and in obnoxious condition, but his lot was filled with weeds and debris. He lived in filth in a neighborhood that housed the affluent and wealthy Neighbors came to plead with him to clean up his yard and his shack. All of their efforts failed. The Health Department threatened to have him evicted, but he continued to live there in his little run-down shack on a piece of property that was grown over with weeds in a beautiful part of town.
One day one of the neighbors organized a campaign to raise enough money that the neighborhood might purchase his property. A large amount of money was raised and a committee was appointed to go to the old man and make him an unbelievable offer for his house and land. This offer was many times its worth. To their delight, the old man agreed to sell and a date of closing was set. On that date the committee came with their attorney to close the deal. They showed him where to sign, but before he signed he looked up at the buyers and said, "Have you noticed anything?"
They said, "No, what?"
He replied with disappointment, for he had fixed up the old place! He told them how he had cleaned and dusted. He had straightened the furniture and done some modest repairing. He told them how disappointed he was that they had not noticed and that he hoped that his improvements in the old shack would enable them to enjoy it more when they moved in. Of course, the neighbors pitifully replied that they did not intend to move into the house but rather to change it totally and transform it that it might be a credit to the neighborhood.
There are thousands of people who are trying to improve the property of their lives before redemption. The first thing to do is receive Christ as Saviour and then be baptized and then unite with a New Testament church so that they might begin the process of being converted as the church in the power of the Holy Spirit and with the Word of God helps the new Christians or the fallen Christians to grow in grace so that their members might be used not as instruments of unrighteousness, but rather instruments of righteousness so that they may not only be saved but also converted!
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