Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn.3:3) Jesus’ words could not be more precise. Conversion is a demanded prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom of God. This is of eternal weight.
“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (Jn.3:8)
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1Pe.1:23)
“If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” (1Jn.2:29)
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1Jn.3:9)
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” (1Jn.4:7)
“Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. … For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1Jn.5:1, 4)
“We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.” (1Jn.5:18)
Without conversion men’s being is vain.
Men are creatures for communion with God. Man was created a “living soul” (Ge.2:7) that could communicate in holiness with its Creator. Sin destroyed man’s communion with God and made man dead in trespasses and sins, separated from God. Man fell from the kingdom of God as a friend and servant therein, and into the kingdom of Satan. Sinful man has been the servant of sin and Satan ever since. Unconverted men serve only the purpose of Satan—rebellion against their Creator. Unconverted men are in a contrary purpose. Unconverted man is not only vain (without purpose), he is a detriment to the rest of creation and an offence to the Creator.
At the best of times unconverted men live in dead works and cannot serve the living God. Unconverted men have no skill in serving God and therefore, cannot fulfill their original purpose. Unconverted men must be taught of God. Jesus quotes Isaiah, saying, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me,” said Jesus. (Jn.6:45) Men do not know the things of God naturally and have a great need to be taught of God. Men need to be taught to pray—“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” (Lk.11:1) Unconverted men need to be taught to profit. Isaiah speaks, “Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” (Is.48:17) Eternal things, the ways of God, are profitable and men need to be taught in these things. Unconverted men profit neither themselves nor their fellow man, and they certainly do not honour God. It is an unnatural and foreign thing for the unconverted to honour or serve God. That is whay conversion is a absolute necessity.
In addition to unconverted men having no skill to serve God they also have no strength for it. God rebuked Israel for her weekness, saying, “how weak is thine heart, saith the Lord GOD, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman.” (Ez.16:30) The Jews bowed low under the pressure of the Law and service of God. God, through the prophet Malachi recounted the attitude of the lost people in Malachi’s day, “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the LORD.” (Mal.1:13) Unconverted men cannot even bring themselves to any kind of power to serve God acceptably. They are week in the flesh and cannot attain unto the holy service of the Lord God unto which they were originally created. The Apostle Paul knew of his and all men’s weakness to serve the Living God and wrote to the church at Ephesus, “Even when we were dead in sins, [that God] hath quickened us together with Christ.” (Ep.2:5) Man’s need is the blood of Christ. For it is Christ Jesus “who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God” so that He might “purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (He.9:14)
Man would not be half the pitiful creature he is if he only lacked power and skill to serve God. His real crime, and that which cripples him most to properly serve God, is not his lack of ability, but his lack of will. Out of the unconverted man’s mind we hear, “depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” (Job21:14) This was the sin and folly of the Gergesenes, who, “when they saw [Jesus], they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.” (Mt.8:34)
Without conversion men’s religion is vain.
Men are religious creatures. We were created this way by God to love, worship and serve Him with all our hearts. With men being sons of fallen Adam and, therefore, dead in trespasses and sin, their nature and substance is corrupted to the core. Therefore, “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Ro.8:8)
Men love to give forth their religious performances. It certainly makes them feel better to do so. Unconverted men are well known for giving forth their prophecies, communicating their religious understanding and knowledge. They flaunt their great faith, their self-sacrificing for the poor. Unconverted men can even go so far as to give their bodies to be burned for religion. But all this is for naught without conversion. The Apostle to the Gentiles knew this and wrote, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1Co.13:2-3) Without the love of God being shed abroad in a person’s heart at conversion all religious movements towards God are fruitless, and actually condemning.
The Lord God, who is high and holy, is sickened by fleshly religion. God told Israel: “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.” (Is.1:14) So disgusted with man-made worship and service was God that through His prophet Malachi God called, “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought?” (Mal.1:10) God was yearning for a living man that would see the abomination of carnal service and shut the door of the Temple and stop the vain service and worship.
Such are men’s religious movements to God that God views them as crude and base. God told Israel that, “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.” (Is.66:3) Unconverted men find great happiness in their abominable religious services, but it is vain.
Jehu is a prime example of this carnal religiosity. In Second Kings chapter ten we find a Jehu that boasts of his zeal for Jehovah. Jehu certainly did have a zeal in executing the will of God upon the house of Ahab and the worshippers of Baal. He slew the entire house of Ahab and Jezebel with all their servants, priests, and loyalists. But by the end of the chapter one wonders what Jehu’s real motive was. Jehu did not have a full heart for the Lord. Jehu continued on in the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and allowed the two golden calves to remain in Israel. Jehu obviously did not have a pure zeal for the one true God or he would have destroyed these abominable idols. GOD would later destroy the house of Jehu for this sin. (Ho.1:4)
James defines pure religion: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (Ja.1:27) Loving service and the putting away of sin is the religion of the converted man, and the only religion of eternal value.
With out conversion men’s hopes are in vain.
The hopes of unconverted men for their eternal good and spiritual blessing in this world are like a bulrush, “whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb. So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.” (Job8:12-13) Hope is built on Jesus blood and righteousness and the only man that is a partaker of Jesus is the converted man. Men have their confidences in other things, but “the LORD hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them.” (Je.2:37)
Without conversion men’s hopes of comfort in this world are vain. I do not mean that sinners will not have some, even many, of this world’s carnal comforts and pleasures. Certainly, that is all they have without conversion. But, “the way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.” (Is.59:8) Peace of heart and mind come by being reconciled to God and in the trials of that attend this life to have the “comfort of the Holy Ghost.” (Ac.9:31) There is no peace with God while in sin, and peace amongst men never lasts long that way either, for one man is always sinning against another and starting wars and fightings—usually out of lust.
The Psalmist writes, “I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.” (Ps.85:8) If the saints lose their peace when they turn to folly for a time what of the unconverted that walk in folly all the day long? “Why should ye be stricken any more?,” rebellious Israel was asked, “ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” (Is.1:5)
The unconverted man may not have much for peace in this life but that is a far sight more than he will have hereafter. The unconverted have no hope of Salvation, and await turmoil in eternity and not peace. The unconverted man’s confidence, “shall be rooted out of his tabernacle [body], and it shall bring him to the king of terrors.” (Job18:14) Such men “shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.” (Job 8:15) The question that answers the demand for conversion is, “for what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?” (Job 27:8) A man’s soul belongs to God (Ez.18:4) and He hath declared that the “soul that sinneth, it shall die.” A man can boast confidence in a salvation all he wants but without God produced conversion he is blowing smoke and God will take away his soul. Proverbs tells us that “the wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.” (Pr.14:32) “When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.” (Pr.11:7) The hopes of salvation held by unconverted men will flee away as their spirits to Hell when they die—“the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.” (Job11:20) The man that hopes in a salvation without being born-again is blaspheming for he calls God a liar.
To be even more pointed and coming close to home; those that are hoping in Christ without Biblical conversion are to be disappointed in the end. The gracious gift of the righteousness of Christ holds all real hope for men. The application of that righteousness to the life of a sinner is the act of justification and conversion (being born-again). Jesus proclaimed: “for I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. … And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn.6:38,40) The benefits of Christ’s work on Calvary come through conversion, as Christ saith, “all things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” (Mt.11:27) It is Christ Jesus that has power to convert a sinner—“As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” (Jn.17:2)
Righteous Lot, whose soul was vexed from day to day as he beheld the wickedness of Sodom was dragged out of that wicked city and the angels “set him without the city.” (Ge.19:15-17) The necessity of Lot’s departure from Sodom was soon seen when the brimstone came dome and consumed the city and its inhabitants.
The sinner is no different in relation to conversion. The coming judgement makes it essential that the sinner be taken out of the kingdom of darkness to escape condemnation and placed outside that wicked kingdom and into God’s kingdom of righteousness. The act of God in making a sinner a child of God in nature is conversion. Ye must be born again! Only then can a man, woman, or youth fulfill their original purpose to love and serve their Creator.