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RICHARD BAXTER ON CONVERSION #10 –
HINDRANCES TO CONVERSION – PART III

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

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


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


The eighth hindrance to conversion is sin becoming a habit. When sin becomes such a habit that you feel it is necessary to continue doing it, sin becomes the ruler of your reason. Our depraved natures produce very strong sin, but habits make sin even stronger. When people have committed sins for a long time they become hardened, as the hands of a gardener or a carpenter become hard. So sin becomes familiar to them; they become “past feeling” and begin “to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:19). When people are often intoxicated, or commit other horrible sins, it hardens their consciences to the next temptation. By often sinning people lose their ability to tell right from wrong, or to feel guilty. Their hearts become so hard that they feel they cannot live without sin. As a drug addict thirsts for more drugs, so they thirst for the pleasures of the sins they have become addicted to committing. They feel that they must have these sins. No wonder that habit in false religion, drunkenness, and other sins enslave people and damn them to Hell. Sinful habits are a great obstacle to conversion.

You young people should be careful not to develop sinful habits. You who already have sinful habits should take a strong stand against those habits and go no farther in them. It is sad that you have gone so far in sin already. But if you go on in sin even one more day, God may give up on you. If you add even one more sin to the heap, it may sink you into Hell. Oh, how foolish it is for you to put off repentance, when habits of sinning make it harder and harder to be converted.

Remember that the habits of sinning are no excuse. What if you had the habit of spitting in the face of your father, would you think it a good excuse to say it was your habit to do so? The oftener you sin, the oftener you rebel against God, and the oftener you sin against Him, the more you should be sorrowful over it and stop doing it. What greater insanity can there be than to think you can be excused for sinning because it is your habit.

If you love sin because you are used to it, you will soon see whether you can love Hell because you are used to it.

Hindrance number nine is foolish self love, which keeps you from judging yourself harshly enough, or makes you think you can be saved without being converted, or causes you to think you are converted when you’re not. If you think you don’t need to be converted, or falsely hope that you are converted already, no wonder you don’t seriously seek conversion. Like many people who have cancer, they hope there is no danger, or they hope it will go away, or they hope that some medical treatment or alternate therapy will cure it – until they have no hope at last, and finally give up all hope whether they want to or not. This is the way that many people treat their souls also. They know that something is wrong with them, but they hope that God will not condemn them, or they hope to be converted later, or they hope that their prayers and beliefs will save their souls – and they hold onto these false hopes until they see it is too late – and they die without any hope at all.

“When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth” (Proverbs 11:7).

“What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul? Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?” (Job 27:8-9).

“The eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost”

(Job 11:20).

There is hardly any greater obstacle to conversion than the false deceiving hopes of sinners, who think they are converted when they are not, or hope to be saved when they have no reason for such hope.

If you didn’t have these false hopes you would be in despair – and might soon be converted.

You must give up all hope of being saved without conversion. You will not find Heaven on the road to Hell. Until that kind of despair fills your heart, you cannot expect the saving change of conversion. You will not give up your sinful pleasures, and go through the difficulties of conversion, as long as you think you can be saved without it. False hopes keep your heart from breaking, although it must be broken over your sins. If you knew that you must be either converted or condemned, and had no hope of being saved unless you were converted, you would pray hard for conversion, listen carefully to every word of the sermons, follow the advice of your pastor, and give up your lost friends. But you have false hopes that you may be saved the way you are – and so you are sloppy and lazy, and don’t seek conversion strongly enough. Do not be satisfied with saying, “I hope I will be saved.” Seek Christ in real conversion until you find Him.

The next hindrance to conversion is counterfeit grace, or half-conversion, which does not really convert the soul, but only strengthens the false hopes I have mentioned. The man who has a “half-conversion” feels some misery over his sin, gives up lost friends, gives up some former sins, and seems to be converted. He may even think he knows the date, the time, and the sermon that were the means of his “conversion.” He may remember a great change in himself and think it was a saving change, and yet only have experienced the superficial convictions and feelings which many lost people have felt. This is a frightening state to be in. It quiets your conscience until you awaken in eternal flames. Oh, if you only knew what a terrible thing it is for people to live all their lives thinking they are saved, and then to die and find they are in eternal misery. If this happens to you, you will have no hope. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (II Corinthians 13:5). If you do not examine your counterfeit conversion now, you will have countless ages to do so in Hell.

Another hindrance is neglect of the proper education of children.Many are raised with ignorance of the truths of the Bible until they are adults, and already hardened in evil habits. Some are even taught from childhood to think it is wrong to be a zealous Christian. They have heard nothing about Christians but slander. The things that people learn as little children are generally remembered all their lives. If they receive wrong ideas about being saved when they are children it is hard to change them.

If you were trained in ignorance as a child, seek your salvation while you still have time.If your parents deceived you, don’t let this damn you to Hell. If your parents kept you in ignorance, don’t keep yourself in ignorance. If they trained you to be a lost person, don’t keep being a lost person yourself. You have a friend named Jesus, who is far kinder than your parents. He calls you to come to Him and be saved. Listen to Him, even if everyone in the world is against you. Do not treat your soul as an unimportant thing, like your parents did. Let the love of Jesus draw you to Heaven, instead of the love of your parents drawing you to Hell.

Another hindrance to conversion is fighting against the Holy Spirit.When God would enlighten a sinner, he often is not willing to see. When God would draw a sinner from his evil way of living and thinking, he is unwilling to be humbled, and fights against the Holy Spirit, and turns away to think of other things. Jesus said to those who rejected Him:

“How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not” (Matthew 23:37).

He may say to a sinner, “How often I showed you a better way, and you would not go the way I showed you. How often I showed you your misery of your way of life, and you would not leave it. When you fight against Christ and close your eyes because you hate the light, and when you resist the Holy Spirit who would convert you, is it any wonder that you remain unconverted?

If you want to be converted, surrender to the Spirit of God Who wishes to convert you. If you refuse His help when He offers it, He may rightly leave you helpless. You cannot be converted unless it is done by the Holy Spirit. But you are resisting Him. How impossible conversion is without His help! The person who wants to be healthy will not insult his doctor, and drive him away. Be careful how you treat the Spirit of God if you want to be converted.

Another hindrance to conversion is indecision, when people hesitate between God and the world of sin. The Bible says:

“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8).

Many people are lost because they hesitate. They have been convinced that they must be converted or perish, and yet they wait, they hesitate between two opinions. They never give themselves to Christ, until God gives up on them, or death finds them still hesitating, and unsaved.

If you want to be converted, do not keep wavering. Turn to Christ.

“How long halt [hesitate] ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal [Satan], then follow him”

“ (I Kings 18:21).

If it is better to be lost for eternity than to leave your sins and turn to Christ, then keep on sinning, and keep the curse of God on yourself. But if it is better to deny yourself, than to suffer the wrath of God, then throw out your sinful practices and turn to Jesus Christ. If it is better to live with sinful friends for a while than to go to Heaven, then keep on being with them. But if it is better to go to Heaven, then why not leave them and come to Christ? What a blind man a wicked person is that he should remain undecided about these things. Why remain undecided whether it is best to go to Heaven, or not? Why remain undecided whether it is best to be damned or not? Why keep on being undecided because you love wickedness? If this is wise, then what is foolish?

Another hindrance is delay.  Many people realize that they must be converted or condemned, and yet they delay and put off the time. They say, “I will be converted in the future, but not yet.” They think they have plenty of time in the future to be converted. They are still healthy, and they think they still have plenty of time to think it over, and study it some more. Because they believe that Christ will receive them whenever they turn to Him, they think it is all right to stay away from Him a little longer. But they may become so hardened by the habits of sin. And many are cut off before they have time to turn to Christ. Many thousands of souls are lost forever who once thought they would turn to Christ. And this happened to them because they delayed their conversion. As the lazy man says, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber” (Proverbs 6:10; 24:33), so the sinner says, “I can sin a little longer,” until he has sinned beyond the possibility of conversion, and has provoked God to leave him. And so he must go to Hell because he waited too long.

Think, sinner, that conversion is not something to be put off.  Should a wise person stay under the wrath of God even one more day? Are you unwilling to stop being a slave to Satan? The fact that you put off your conversion until the future shows that your heart is deceitful, and that you are not really willing to be converted. Those who are not willing to give up their sin today would never leave it, if they could figure out how to keep it. Those who love God would rather be reconciled to Him today than tomorrow. If you knew who God was, you would not put off your conversion to Him. If you knew what the glory of Heaven is that He offers, you would not put off being sure of going there any longer. If you saw what sin is, and its horrible effects, you would quickly turn from it to Jesus Christ. If you had poisonous snakes in your shirt, wouldn’t you grab them and throw them out? Or would you leave them wiggling in your shirt until tomorrow? You would certainly shake them from you now! Sinner, how long will you delay? Will you put off conversion until death takes ahold of you, and you drop into Hell? God has not promised that He will offer you salvation any longer, if you continue to resist Christ. How horrible it will be for you when He rejects you forever and departs from you. God says:

“Woe also to them when I depart from them!” (Hosea 9:12).

“Be thou instructed…lest my soul depart from thee; lest I make thee desolate” (Jeremiah 6:8).

When people reject God, and will not listen to His voice, He often gives them up to the lusts of their own hearts to do whatever they want in a God-forsaken life of sin:

“But my people would not hearken to my voice; and…would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels” (Psalm 81:11-12).

If you had any Christian sense within you, you would say, “I have abused Christ long enough. I am completely ashamed of it, and will abuse Him and treat Him wrong no longer. I have rejected Christ long enough, and have listened to His enemy the Devil far too long already.” If your heart was awakened to think of your condition, you would run as quickly from your sin to Christ as you would from a burning house on fire over your head, or from a boat sinking under you. Haven’t you rejected Christ long enough, and served Satan long enough, and sinned long enough? Haven’t you rejected the converting grace of God long enough? Haven’t you done enough to destroy your soul already? Haven’t you drunk enough of the deadly poison of sin? Haven’t you injured yourself enough by your wickedness? Do you want to harm yourself even more? Will you continue on in a lost condition until you are lost in the night of death, and it is too late for you to turn back to Christ?

“To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts”

“ (Hebrews 3:7-8).

“You may never again have the feelings and impressions that you have right now. Do not put off your conversion to Christ any longer.

(END OF SERMON)


Solo by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "Am I Prepared?” by John Newton (1725-1807).



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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.