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RICHARD BAXTER ON CONVERSION #9 –
HINDRANCES TO CONVERSION – PART II

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, July 29, 2001


"Who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?"
(Galatians 5:7).


The second hindrance to conversion is bad company. It is dangerous to be a companion and friend with ungodly people. Even if they don't say anything against what the Bible teaches, they will do much to obstruct or stop your salvation by keeping your thoughts and conversation on other things, and by giving you an evil example, as if eternal things were not necessary. Worldly talk and living turns people's minds to neglect heavenly things. Also, they will tempt you to do things that oppose the work of the Holy Spirit, and try to get you to sin, which produces damnation. The noise of their foolish laughter and foolish talk will drown out the voice of your conscience and of the Spirit of God. It is hard for a person to think of his duty as a Christian, and to keep from sin if he is around those who sin.

O what a dangerous thing it is to have friendships with people who are worldly or sensual and are enemies of godliness. The Bible says, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20).

Do all you can to avoid being with those who would obstruct your conversion, and make close friends with those who will help you in the matter of your salvation. I do not mean that a small child should leave ungodly parents or that a wife should leave her ungodly husband. Your relations bind you in your place. But I mean that no one should willingly be a companion of those who are not good Christians. Choose the best Christians for friends. Live among those on earth that you would wish to live with in Heaven.

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers"

(II Corinthians 6:14).

"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (II Corinthians 6:17-18).

The next obstacle to conversion is ignorance of the truth. A person will not turn to God or turn away from sin without knowing who God is or what sin is. No one will go against his own nature and forsake the world, including the things he loves the most, until he knows why this is necessary, and knows of something better to be obtained by converting.

All the wickedness in the world is loved because of ignorance. Even those who think they know these things, and yet remain unconverted, do not really know them, but only believe them as opinions, doctrines that they have never experienced themselves. The truth is that you must know the truths of Scripture by experience to be converted. The Bible says, "How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" (Romans 10:14). "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). "He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth" (John 12:35).

Sinners would not play with sin if they really knew what they were doing. They would not run in crowds to eternal ruin, if they truly knew what they were doing.

If you want to be converted learn the way of salvation and the Scriptures which teach salvation. Nothing but the light of knowledge can get rid of darkness, because Satan haunts people in the night of ignorance. But if you bring in the light of Bible knowledge he will be gone. You need to (1) Listen to sermons from the Word of God, (2) counsel with godly men, because these are the means of knowledge, and (3) read the Bible every day.

If you think you can be converted without knowledge, you have deceived yourself. God has made His way of salvation clear in His Word, and He has sent you preachers and teachers, and many other helps. So you have no excuse if you remain ignorant. You can know how to be a Christian even if you aren't a scholar. If you think you can be excused from this knowledge, you may as well think you can be excused from love and obedience, because you can't have either one of these without knowledge.

If you think you can be saved without so much knowledge, you are deceived. Christ said, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). How can you have eternal life without such knowledge?

The next hindrance to conversion is unbelief. This means you will not be persuaded by the Word of God, but continue to doubt the things God has revealed in the Bible concerning the everlasting state of mankind. Unconverted people only have a little knowledge of these truths, not enough to overcome their sinful desires.

You have three great enemies of the Christian faith. If you do not overcome them, you will lose your soul. They are,

1. Your own unbelieving heart, and sinfully depraved nature.

2. Satan, who trembles himself, but does all he can to stop you from believing.

3. Ungodly friends who are used as instruments of Satan to keep you from being converted.

If you wish to be savingly converted, you must believe the Word of God. You must fully believe what it says about everlasting happiness for the saved, and everlasting torment for the damned. To believe the Bible savingly you must do the following things:

1. Do not trust your own heart or your own thoughts. Your heart and mind are natural enemies of the Word of God. No wonder they don't believe it!

2. Do not think too highly of your own mind, as though you could easily understand the depths of the Bible.

3. Hate the first temptation of Satan, to doubt the Bible. Cast out these horrid thoughts and do not keep thinking about them.

4. Hate the company of unbelievers, who dare to speak against the Bible. Leave them at once when they say a word against the Scriptures.

5. Learn the Scriptures. Read the Bible daily and memorize verses that will help you.

6. Submit to the truth you know. Do not reject or neglect what you already have learned. Let the truth you learn affect your life and thinking.

By doing those six things you will do a lot to overcome your unbelief.

The next hindrance is inconsideration, thoughtlessness, indifference. The inconsiderate person is unconcerned, unmoved, lukewarm, dull, heedless, unmindful, incurious, insensible, unmindful, uninterested.

When the truths of salvation are not thought about and pondered over carefully, they are like medicines which remain in the jar. The medicine will not help you unless you take it into yourself! It is the work of consideration to bring down the truths of conversion from the mind to the heart, and to hold them there until they are felt.

You cannot expect the Word of God to convert you if you don't think about it with deep consideration. If you go to the best doctor in town, all he can do is give you medicine. It is up to you to take the medicine. We tell you the truths that are most useful to your conversion, and if you will think deeply and often about what we say – especially after the services – and meditate on what we say when you are alone – until these truths sink into your heart – you may be converted. But if we can't get you to think deeply and seriously about these things when you are alone, how can we do you any good?

Have you ever seriously asked yourself whether you are converted or not? Have you ever thought of the blessedness of being converted, and the misery of remaining unconverted? Have you dwelled on these thoughts until they sank down in your heart? If you haven't, no wonder you are still unconverted! If you go to Hell, can you complain knowing that I couldn't get you to think seriously about conversion? If conversion is not worth having, it is not worth thinking about very much. But if it is not worth thinking about, I don't know what is!

The pastor does not go home with you after church. He does not see what you think about there in secret. He does not know if you kneel down before God and pray concerning the sermons you hear. The pastor does not know what you talk about to others.

But God follows you home. God sees and hears everything you do. God is ready to help you make use of what you heard in church if you do not reject it by putting it out of your mind after church is over. If you had earnestly thought about who God is, what Christ has done for you, and what Heaven and Hell and death are, could you have remained unconverted? You would escape from your lost condition as you would from a house on fire over your head – and become a serious Christian.

"I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste (hurried) and delayed not to keep thy commandments" (Psalm 119:59-60).

The next hindrance to conversion is hardness of heart and a seared conscience. Although everyone has some of this before they are converted, yet the longer you resist conversion, the greater it becomes. When people sin for a long time and resist Christ a long time, it is usual for them to become senseless and "unreasonable men" (II Thessalonians 3:2).

Dr. Hymers' note: An old atheist who goes to my gym has the face of rebellion – against God. As I was swimming the other day, I noticed him lying in the sun by the pool, sleeping. Even in sleep his face has the experience of rebellion. His rejection of God has gone so long that it appears in the very expression of his face – even when he's asleep! If you go on rejecting Christ, this rejection will also become a part of your personality, making it increasingly difficult for you to be converted as time goes by.

People are born dead in sin by nature. But when they go on choosing to sin, they grow even more dead – that is, they become increasingly less sensitive, and have more death within themselves. As a dead body is fresh at the beginning, and doesn’t appear to be dead when first laid out in the coffin – but becomes rotted after a time – and at last is nothing but a skeleton – so a sinner becomes increasingly corrupted if he remains in a state of death.

When a person is finally so far corrupted by spiritual death that God gives up on him, then a preacher cannot say anything that will even touch him, because he is now so stupid that he will not receive any of it.

Oh what sad work it is to deal with hardened hearts. It is like trying to plow a rock or swim through glue. Speaking to such hardened people troubles ministers greatly. It deadens the minister's hopes, tires him out, and makes him say to himself, "I have labored in vain, and spent my strength for naught." This has broken the heart of many ministers. How horrible it is to see people a few days or years from eternal fire, which they could escape if they would wake up in time. But the pastor cannot get them to think seriously about it!

"Oh," thinks the pastor, "if I could only awaken him, and make him care about his soul, I could prevent his damnation. The Bible is so clear that I think he would see the truth if he would not deliberately close off his mind. But I can't get him to think about these things! How sad to think of everlasting glory which he could have had, and how freely Christ has purchased it, and how freely He offers it to him, and yet he treats it lightly and will not think seriously about it. How sad! How pitiful! How discouraging!"

Of all sorts of sinners, there are few that we have less hope for than those who are hard-hearted. Christ Himself was grieved with the hardness of their hearts (Mark 3:5). And when the Apostles preached the gospel of salvation, "divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude," until the Apostles resolved to leave them to themselves (Acts 19:9).

I beg you to seek conversion through Christ now, before your heart becomes so hard that it is too late.

(END OF SERMON)


Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: “Delay No Longer”

by Philip Doddridge (1702-1751)



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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.