To affirm true conversion implies that there is also false conversion. Put simply, there is such a thing as non-saving faith. Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” has entered the narrow gate (Matt. 7:21). People may know the truth and may have felt grief regarding their sin, but it is a selfish sorrow over what their sin has caused them to suffer, not how it has offended a holy God. The most stark example of a false conversion we have in Scripture is that of Judas Iscariot. In a counterfeit conversion, there is no death to self, no submission to the lordship of Christ, no taking up a cross, no obedience in following Christ, no fruit of repentance–only empty words, shallow feelings, and barren religious activities. On the contrary, with a true conversion sin is abhorred, the world renounced, pride crushed, self surrendered, faith exercised, Christ seen as precious, and the cross embraced as one’s only saving hope. more
Actually, one of the most dangerous things we can do as Christians is to determine our theology by our experience, because no one’s experience is normative for the Christian life. We have to determine our theology from the Word of God, not from what we feel. Not only that, we are open to misunderstanding and misinterpreting the meaning and significance of the experiences we go through. That’s why we are called to check our experiences against Scripture, so that we define our faith by what Scripture says, not by what we feel or what we experience. If we rest our assurance on experience and not on the Word of God, we’re inviting all kinds of doubts to assail us in our pilgrimages. We need to seek authentic knowledge of our salvation, not just some warm and fuzzy experience.
Another fine point by James Montgomery Boice.
Three hundred years is a long time. What kept Enoch walking with God for three hundred years? He had an awareness of judgment coming. He had a sensitivity to the ungodliness of the age. And he drew closer to God as the reality of these things pressed in upon him. The way to graph it would be to make a circle, space these three items around the circle, and then show by arrows that each one influenced the other. The more Enoch was aware of the judgment, the more sensitive he was to sin. The more sensitive he was to sin, the closer he wanted to walk with God. The closer he walked with God, the more clearly he saw that judgment was necessary. Or the other way: the more clearly he saw the judgment coming, the closer he wanted to walk with God, and the closer he walked with God the more sensitive he was to ungodliness.
If you keep close to God, you will keep from sin. But if you sin persistently, you will fall away from God. Then you will rename the sin. You will not talk about pride, the great sin; you will call it “self-esteem,” “self-worth,” or what is “due to me.” You will not talk about gluttony and materialism; you will talk about “the good life.” You will not talk about disobedience; you will talk about “shortcomings.” You will not talk about the Ten Commandments and your violation of them; you will talk about your “mistakes.” It is only when you draw close to God that these things will become increasingly sinful in your sight.
James Boice, Feed My Sheep
How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart? This is a hugely important question if we are to be calm and confident that the spirit with whom we are communing really is the Holy Spirit.
John Owen suggests four ways in which the Spirit and the serpent are to be distinguished:
- The leading of the Spirit, he says, is regular, that is, according to the regulum: the rule of Scripture. The Spirit does not work in us to give us a new rule of life, but to help us understand and apply the rule contained in Scripture. Thus, the fundamental question to ask about any guidance will be: Is this course of action consistent with the Word of God?
- The commands of the Spirit are not grievous. They are in harmony with the Word, and the Word is in harmony with the believer as new creation. The Christian believer consciously submitted to the Word will find pleasure in obeying that Word, even if the Lord’s way for us is marked by struggle, pain, and sorrow. Christ’s yoke fits well; His burden never crushes the spirit. more