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RICHARD BAXTER ON CONVERSION #6 –
THE NATURE OF CONVERSION – 
A CHANGE OF LIFE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, July 8, 2001


"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10)


I have showed you the work of conversion on your mind and on your heart. The next thing is to show you the change it makes in your life. The same God who requires the cleansing of your heart also requires the cleansing of your life. He does not make us new creations to do nothing, or to continue serving Satan. He makes you a new person for a new work - to serve the living God (cf. I Thessalonians 1:9). "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10).

It is only boasting to say you are converted while living the same way you did before. Neither God nor man will believe you, although you may deceive yourself. Since a new heart produces a new life, let us think about that new life.

1. The first change of the life is made up of the contract the converted person makes with Christ. What has happened in the heart is now spoken with your mouth. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). A converted heart will produce a converted tongue; it will lead you to witness about your conversion both to God and to others.

There might have been hypocritical promises before, which were soon broken from lack of sincerity, but conversion brings you into a true and lasting contract with God.

Before his conversion, although Christ has been offered to him a thousand times, the stupid sinner did not take the gospel seriously, and would not come to Jesus so he could have life (cf. John 5:40). But when he is drawn by the Father he is glad to be united with Christ. When this happens you will be married to Christ - in union with Him.

Have you been brought to this point? Have you taken Christ as He is offered to you? Have you given yourself to Him? Conversion will bring you into this agreement, this contract, with Christ. This contract is the whole basis of your change. It is explained in these words: "The union between Christ and you." This union with Him will cause you to openly confess Christ to the world. You will be quite willing to let them know that you are in agreement with Him.

In this same contract you renounce all competitors to Christ. Before, you served other masters. But now you understand that this can no longer be the case. There can be no more serving God and mammon, the Spirit and the flesh. Christ and Satan are as incompatible as light and darkness. It is the purpose of Christ to bring people out of captivity to Satan and sin (Acts 26:18; II Timothy 2:25-26). God teaches the sinner that there is no possibility of joining these together: either Satan or Christ must be given up. Either sin or salvation must be chosen. Either let sin go or let Heaven go.

When the sinner lets go of sins, turns away from the world and determines that Christ alone shall be his Saviour, he has moved into conversion. At this one act every root of sin is destroyed, but especially the sin that lies behind all the rest - self-love and self-seeking. Every unconverted person lives for himself and seeks things that please himself alone. The carnal self is the great enemy that Christ must subdue in conversion. This is the great idol in every unconverted person, that must be broken down, or there is no salvation.

The very nature of conversion is turning from self to Christ. Therefore, turning from sin to Christ is the very thing sinners should be seeking when they want to be converted.

A young man said that he renounced education as his "god" and came to Christ. It seemed to be true for several years, but in the end his unconverted nature was revealed. As a ravening wolf he nearly destroyed a church, and ruined the lives of hundreds of people, to run after his false "god" and obtain his idol of education, at the cost of his soul and the souls of hundreds of others. Many a person has gone quite far, and seems to have renounced sin and come to Christ, who has shamefully fallen away in the end because he was not brought thoroughly to self-denial at conversion.

It is the remaining interest in carnal self which leads some people to sinful lusts, some people to ambitious ways, and others to fall back into the cares of this world, and so prove that they were unconverted in the end. Therefore you must have a denunciation of the love of self in real conversion. When love of self is turned from in conversion, three great master-sins are subdued: pride, covetousness, and voluptuousness. The destruction of these three sins is one half of the work of conversion. And the other half is turning to Jesus Christ fully.

2. When a sinner has made a contract like this with God, the next thing he must do is actually turn away from the sin he has renounced. Otherwise he has made a false promise to God, and this will not result in conversion. Before conversion all promises are so weakly made that they quickly vanish and the heart of such people is as changeable as the moon. But when they are converted, they become men and women who keep their word, and mean what they say.

O what a sudden change appears in the lives of people when God has thoroughly done His work. I know this work on the heart is the greatest work. It reflects in the life. Therefore people are often greatly surprised when they see the change of a converted sinner. They are surprised when they see the man so changed.

They do not know how God has worked in his heart and changed it. They do not know of the fighting in his spirit between Christ and his flesh. Therefore, since they do not see the inner cause, the outer change of life seems very remarkable to them.

It is a miracle to see the effects of the power of Christ, and how suddenly the change in the convert is often made.

Take a man who has some slight convictions and half-repentance. See how long it takes him to reform. If he was used to some sin, he will not suddenly leave it. He sometimes stays away from it, as though he were reformed, and sometimes he falls again, because he has not truly been changed. But when he is truly converted you will see him leave his sins all at once. He will flee from the things he once delighted in.

The hypocrite, on the other hand, may make a great confession of sin, but he will not decidedly cast it out. He secretly uses his sin as a friend, although he openly abuses it as an enemy. He will not sincerely renounce it, and throw it out with a resolution never to do it again. O how sweetly does he roll it in his thoughts in secret, while he publicly frowns upon it with the severest countenance.

Before conversion we cannot convince sinners to stop their transgressions. We cannot get them to stop their drunkenness, or covetousness, uncleanness, or swearing. Sometimes, they will stop, and then again they will not. Sometimes they have a flash of conviction and stop for a while. But when the fear passes, you see that it is not a change of heart that has taken place. They will love their sin even more when they go back to it.

But conversion makes an everlasting enemy of sin. Away go former sinful customs, covetous practices, wicked speeches and proud actions, as Sarah threw Hagar and Ishmael out of her house, and would receive them no more.

When a preacher speaks to an unconverted person about the bitterness of sin and judgment for sin, the sinner thinks very little about what he heard. Therefore he goes on in his old ways. But when converting grace comes, it makes people taste the bitterness of sin for themselves. Then they turn away from it.

Grace brings in light from God which shows the sinner what he did not see before - how he has a swarm of snakes under his shirt, and was playing with them at the edge of the pit of Hell. When they see this, they feel it is time to take another path.

In the Bible you see this sort of change many times in true conversion. In Acts 9 you will find that Paul stopped persecuting and never persecuted again. In Titus 3:3-5 we have an exact description of this change of life which happens with true conversion:

"For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 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" (Titus 3:3-5).

No man who lives in his former sinful way can ever be saved, whatever change of heart he may pretend to have.

"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (I Corinthians 6:9-11).

Here you see that true conversion makes an effectual change in the life. You were such, but it is not so now.

When God mentions the conversion of His people, He says concerning their former sins, "Thou shalt cast them away...thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence" (Isaiah 30:22). With hatred a converted sinner will say to his former sin, "Get thee hence. It is by you that I have suffered and would have been lost forever. It is by you that I have wronged God, and therefore get away from me! Get thee hence!"

The description of conversion runs this way in Ezekiel: "Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt" (Ezekiel 20:7-8).

And in Romans, we are given a similar description of conversion:

"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying" (Romans 13:12-13).

Isaiah says the same thing:

"Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1:16-17).

And again, the prophet says:

"Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:6-7).

A hundred more such passages of Scripture could be quoted, all of them showing that there is no true conversion of the heart if the sin of the life is not cast away.

You can know whether the sins of your life are proof of an unconverted heart by this one test: in every converted person, the main bent and desire of his heart is against sin, and his main desire is to destroy it. But in the lost this is not so. How far a man's sin is with or against the prominent bent of his own heart and life, he may discern himself by careful observation.

Next, a converted soul has a new work to do. He has his heart set on a new goal. You will begin to pray right away. You will also have a new way of talking, since you have a new heart, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34).

A converted heart will have a change of companions. People like to be around those who are like themselves. Worldly people enjoy being with others who are worldly. But they do not want to be close to a real Christian. But when converting grace comes your thinking changes. You will no longer want to be with carnal people. You will now enjoy being in church with real Christians.

Another change that comes is that you will have compassion on those who are unconverted. You will desire others to be as free from the Devil as you are! You will have a zeal for the conversion of others when you are converted.

When conversion comes it makes a person pity those who are misled by sin. This is the reason that they trouble you so much about your conversion. You wish they would let you alone, but they will not do it because they care about you.

If you were running to drown yourself, wouldn't it be right to try to save you? So, it is right for us to try to save you from drowning in Hell-fire. If you are angry with Christians who will not let you alone, remember it is because they care about you that they are speaking to you about your salvation.

Many false ministers will leave you alone in your sin. They are unconverted themselves. Since they have so little concern about their own souls, do not be surprised that they care little about yours. Other professing Christians may leave you alone because they don't want to anger you. But they are false Christians. Who could stand to see someone on the verge of eternal destruction and do nothing to help him?



Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "Oh Happy Day"

                                                          by Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)



You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


THE LIFE OF RICHARD BAXTER

“I preach as never sure to preach again,
and as a dying man to dying men.”       

– Baxter.

The best known of the Puritan authors was Richard Baxter (1615-1691). He has been called “the most successful preacher, winner of souls, and nurturer of souls that England has ever had.” Edmund Calamy called him “The most voluminous theological writer in the English language.” Baxter wrote 160 books. George Whitefield, John Wesley, C. H. Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones regarded him highly.

Born in Shropshire into a somewhat poor family, he never attended a university and was always physically weak. Yet he was self-taught, acquiring great learning on his own. He became the pastor in Kidderminster, a town near Birmingham, in 1647. The people there were very wicked. The pastor he replaced was a drunkard who preached only once every three months! Hardly any of the church members were converted when he became the pastor. During his years at Kidderminster he visited all of the 800 families in his church every year, teaching each person individually. He put forth his method of ministry in his well-known book, The Reformed Pastor, the greatest book on pastoring that has ever been written.

The outstanding feature of Baxter’s preaching was his earnest zeal. In his writing and preaching he shows his belief that pastors need “the skill necessary to make plain the truth, to convince the hearers, to let in the irresistible light into their consciences, and to keep it there, and drive all home; to screw truth into their minds and work Christ into their affections.”

He had “no Calvinistic axe to grind,” and sought to mediate between Arminianism and Calvinism. He attempted to soften some points of Calvinism by advocating “free will.” Baxter’s method was a middle way, which he called “mere Christianity” (C. S. Lewis used this phrase from Baxter as the title of his famous book).

His great strength lay in his pastoral ability and in his evangelistic preaching. The main purpose of his sermons was to see the lost converted. His book, A Call to the Unconverted, is a hard-hitting plea for the lost to come to Christ.

Although he preached before the King, in Parliament, and in Westminster Abbey, his favorite pulpit was in his own church, speaking to the poor people of Kidderminster.

After the Act of Uniformity, he was put in prison in the Tower of London for eighteen months because he was unwilling to stay in the Church of England. While in prison, he was often visited by the great commentator Matthew Henry.

Written in 1657, Baxter’s Treatise on Conversion is a great book. But it is too lengthy, and the wording is too difficult, for most people today. I have condensed it and rearranged it, and have changed difficult words to simpler ones, to reach the less literate mind of modern man. I hope these sermons from Baxter are a blessing to you. They indeed correct the shallow “decisionism” of our day – which is damning millions to eternal torment.