The Process of Conversion
Enslaved in Sin
The Red Sea
of Zin (Sin)
of Shur (Sure)
of Paran (Parents)
Faith in Christ
Israel's Exodus from Egypt and sojourning in the desert, while actual
history, also represents two things: The individual Christian and the Church.
It can be likened to the journey to the Millenial Kingdom in which Christians
will reign, having been born-again in the desert. But it can also be likened
to the process of conversion.
The Conversion of the Individual
A Baptism of Repentance
A person makes a decision to get right with God in view of his experience
of the enslaving power of sin and in view of the promises in the Bible
about the benefits of following Christ. The Red Sea Crossing is
a baptism of repentance, like John the Baptist offered. This was in preparation
for following Christ. Many may hear the gospel, but not get it. They hear,
but they don't fully understand the essence of the message. They may get
water baptized and make a verbal confession in all sincerity, but in their
heart not yet really received the message. And it may take years in a church
environment before they receive the revelation. They may become very active
Christians, not realizing that they haven't come to understand the message,
and not having been born of God yet. Paul ran into some of these brethren.
Paul asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."
So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they
replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He
told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus."
On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.Acts
The Desert of Development
As Jesus himself was baptized by John and was led into the wilderness by
the Spirit, so also He represents the Christian who has decided to follow
Jesus into the desert and there to be tempted by the devil. First he is
led to Mount Sinai where he receives the Law. For the Law is our tutor
to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith.
The whole wilderness experience prepares the Christian to enter
the promise land. It does this by developing humility, which leads
to convictions which are essential prerequisites to entering the promise
land. When Jesus was in the wilderness, he also mentioned this, quoting
from the Law which was received in the desert, from Deuteronomy 8:2,3
Humility is the most essential character quality. It is the reason why
all followers of Christ must pass through the desert. Isaiah mentions of
the qualities of a person that make one to be esteeemed in the eyes of
"Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these
forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what
was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither
you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that
man does not live
on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."
Humility also leads to Conviction that the Bible is God's Word, and
as such he derives his life from it, meaning that he reads it with a mindset
of application and submission.
"This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in
spirit, and trembles at my word."
Humility leads to Conviction of Sin. Unless one is convicted
of sin, he will not be born of God.
Death in the Desert
There are many who follow Christ presumptuously. At one time Jesus was
in the desert with a multitude of people. And they were hungry, so Jesus
miraculuously gave them lunch. Then he went to another place and they followed
him. But Jesus told them
"I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw
miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill."
There was a whole generation of Israel that left Egypt optimistically.
They are those who are motivated to follow Christ with a "what do I get
out of it" attitude. But they had not prepared their hearts to submit to
Christ as Lord. They expected Christ to be like Santa Claus to them, giving
them free gifts but not demanding anything of them. As a Christian starts
to follow Christ, he may have false expectations and complain when those
expectations are not met.
So in John 6, when Jesus told this crowd that they must change their
way of thinking, that He must become their source of life, many deserted
him, even of his disciples. These are like those of Israel who deserted
God in the desert. They wanted to go back to Egypt. Ever meet those
who have claimed to have been Christians before, but they fell away and
consciously no longer follow Christ? John writes of them:
"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For
if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their
going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19
And Jude also
"I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of
Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe".
Peter also writes of them:
"If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome,
they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would
have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than
to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that
was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to
its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the
mud." 2Pet 2:20-22
Many parents, even unbelievers, may send their children to church and Sunday
shool, hoping that it will make them into better kids; morally superior
kids. And it does. There is no question that Christianity has had a positive
impact on the society. So also with individuals. In following Christ, in
repenting from sin, a person will experience an escape from the corruption
of the world. But then having escaped, they may look back and say, "You
know, I really prefer my former way of life to the Christian life." They
are like Lot's wife who looked back to her home in Sodom and was turned
into a pillar of salt. In Luke 17:32,33 Jesus warns:
"Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life will preserve it."
The Wilderness of Commitment
And this is the attitude that one must develop in the desert, or else you
cannot enter the promise land. We must count the cost of following Christ
and burn our bridges. We must never again look back and prefer our former
way of life. In John 6, while the crowds deserted Christ, the the Twelve
did not, saying:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:68,69
The Christian life may be difficult, especially during the process of conversion.
But for those who have the quality of faith that saves, there's really
no where else to go. For them there is no other option. They have committed
themselves to following Christ wherever that leads.
The generation that entered the promise land had to follow their parents
around in the wilderness, waiting for them to die. Their parents representing
a deficient faith, as the writer of Hebrews describes them:
"we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief."Heb
They had a faith that wavers and looks back and doesn't have salvific value.
Such a faith is not characteristic of Abraham's faith, which represents
the quality of faith that saves:
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God,
but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded
that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited
to him as righteousness." Romans 4:20-22
Rather they had to leave their parent's dead corpses in the desert. Jesus
demands no less of us
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy
of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy
of me." Matt 10:37
Let us leave behind our doubts and worldly expectations. Let us not look
back, but press on forwards. "No one who puts his hand to the plow and
looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Let us leave also behind our fears. For the final challange that Israel
faced was overcoming its worldly fears. Saving faith is a fearless faith.
Though fearful of God, it is bold, confident and courageous. The first
in the list of people who will go to hell according to Rev 21:8
are the cowardly. We have come to share in Christ if we hold
firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.Heb 3:14 So
we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What
can man do to me?" Heb 13:6
"What can man do to me" is what Israel was afraid of. But the next generation,
though they may not have seen the miracles in Egypt, walked by faith and
not by sight and crossed the Jordan River boldly, having had their hearts
circumcised. They belonged to God and no man could touch them.
The Crossing of the Jordan River
While in the desert, they were Christians in name only, those who cross
the Jordan River are those who have been born of God. They have been baptized
into Christ by the Holy Spirit whom they have received. Formerly the Holy
Spirit was beside them, in the cloud by day and in the pillar of fire by
night. It was leading them into a relationship with Christ. And as they
cooperated with the Holy Spirit, so they were led in the right way. Those
who are in the desert and sin against the Spirit with finality, they can
never be saved, having rejected the Spirit's guidance, as Jesus said:
"I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will
be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never
be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Mark 3:28,29
John baptized with water. It cleanses the flesh, but not the spirit. But
Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. It transforms the person permanently.
Not only is the person justified, having had their sins forgiven, but the
Holy Spirit also has an inevitable effect on the person's behavior.
No one who is born of God will continue to sin (in a lifestyle
sense), because God's seed remains in him; he cannot (lost the ability
to) go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 1John 3:9
Every single person who has been born of God overcomes the world, it is
not burdensome for them to live the Christian life, but natural.
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are
not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the
victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that
overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Those with "overcoming faith" will have a characteristically different
behavior than those who will go to hell.
He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his
God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile,
the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the
idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning
sulfur. This is the second death." Rev 21:7,8
Israel's exodus and desert wandering also represents the Christian church.
In fact "The Kingdom of God" has had various representations in history.
But whether it be Israel, the Christian church, or the Millenial Kingdom,
it's always a mixture. Jesus speaks of this in his parables where he likens
the kingdom of God to the following:
Not all who claim to be Christians have been born of God. Thus John wrote
the letter of 1John to clarify the distinction. The generation that perished
in the wilderness represents those Christians whose faith was not of salvific
merit. They did not have the quality of faith that saves. Thus they were
only nominal Christians and died unsaved. But those who entered the promise
land, these were those who had been born of God. Though during the desert
stage, they were yet to be born of God, they continued on in their faith
persevering through the desert and so their faith was acceptable to God.
The Weeds Matt
13:24-30 Until the judgment day, it may be difficult to distinguish
between real and nominal Christians within the kingdom of God.
The Mustard SeedMatt
13:31,32; Mk 4:30-32; Lk 13:18,19 Though the kingdom begins small,
it will be large at the end. And non-Christians will nest in its branches.
The Leaven Matt
13:33; Lk 13:20,21 Nominalism grows quickly in the Kingdom
13:47-50 Though many enter into Christendom, they will be separated
on Judgment day.
When the apostles, and even when Jesus, is speaking to the churches,
they are speaking to mixed groups of people. Many have been born of God,
some have not yet. And of those who haven't, some would later fall away
and lose the opportunity to be saved. It is from this context that many
of the warnings in the New Testament to Christians I believe should be
viewed. When Paul writes in 2Cor 13:5 "Examine yourselves to
see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that
Christ Jesus is in you-- unless, of course, you fail the test?" He
is concerned for their salvation status. As he was also concerned for the
Galatians. Ga 5:4 "You who are trying to be justified by law
have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."And
thus he thinks he may have wasted his efforts on them. Ga 4:11
"I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you." It
is a waste for people to follow Christ and fall away. As I quoted before,
Peter says that such people are actually worse off. Let us not be like
"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word
I preached to you.
Otherwise, you have believed in vain." 1Cor 15:2
The Berean Christian Bible Study