Conservative talk show host Mark Levin has remarked that “there is simply no scientific or mathematical formula that defines conservatism.” The same, of course, is true for Christianity. Thus this writer asks your forbearance in suggesting the above devotional and spiritual formula for the Bible teachings about conversion, where five C’s represent five different values.
Holy Scripture uses three figurative expressions to describe the sinner’s coming to faith in Christ Jesus as Redeemer and Lord: The sinner turns away from sin to the Savior (Acts 11:21). The sinner is reborn, with a spiritual life, new attitudes, and a new relationship to God (John 3:3). And the sinner is quickened or made alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1).
Such a conversion is instantaneous, for there is no middle or neutral ground between being spiritually dead and spiritually alive. It may be a long time before actual conversion occurs, but when it happens, it happens in a moment. One either has faith and is a child of God or does not have faith and is yet a slave of Satan. However, there are preparatory steps involved, and this brings us to the five C’s …
C1: CONVICTION — For anything positive to happen, the sinner must first be convicted of his sin and condemned status. He must realize his hopeless condition. He must be wounded before he
can be healed.
This surely happened to the Jewish crowd of 3,000 who were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) after Peter accused them of murdering the Lord of Glory. Yet, as did Felix (Acts 24:25), a person may well tremble in his sins before God but yet remain unconverted.
C2: CONTRITION — or sorrow over sin, which leads to repentance to salvation. But not necessarily, not always. Judas expressed sorrow and regret for having betrayed His Master but he then turned on the path that led to suicide and hell. Peter had only to behold the ‘look’ of Jesus, and he went out and wept bitterly–not to his death but to his repentance and life.
Perhaps we do not often wet our pillows with tears as did David, yet he plainly tells us what God desires and does not despise–‘a broken and contrite heart’ (Psalm 51:17).
C3: CONTENTS — namely, the contents of the gospel. This also is a preparatory operation, in which the sinner comes to an understanding of the basic ‘good news’ of salvation. He may not yet believe it in his heart, but he must reasonably know the historical facts in which to believe. In other words, the good seed of the gospel must be sown before it can germinate and sprout. Thus did many Samaritans believe in Jesus only after they had heard the woman’s testimony about Him (John 4:39).
C4: CONFESSION — of faith. Once C’s 1-3 are in place, the sinner has been made ready for a true confession of faith in Christ Jesus. Remember that conversion is instantaneous and occurs the very moment that the sinner has the faintest longing for God’s grace and forgiveness. With his lips he may not yet say anything. A sinful, forgiven woman said not a word but confessed Jesus by coming to Him and anointing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. On the other hand, the Samaritans proclaimed, “Now we believe…for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Outward confession does not always signify faith, but there is no true faith without confession.
C5: THE CONVINCER — the Holy Spirit, who supplies the energizing power in conversion. The Spirit germinates the seed. He convinces sinners of the truths and wisdom of God in Christ. Many think that their coming to God is up to them, that they played a part, that they made a right decision to turn away from their sin and to accept Jesus. But how can a spiritually dead person do that? How can one who is spiritually blind see Jesus as Savior? How can one who by nature has hands clenched into fists of hatred toward God receive the blessing of God? Why would he even want them? This is impossible for anyone.
Even if the sinner decides to hear or read the message of God’s condemning law and His saving gospel, he cannot bring himself to Jesus by his own reason or strength.
Once he hears or reads the Word of God, he has a chance, for law and gospel are the external means the Convincer uses to achieve C1 + C2 + C3 + C4. “No one can say that Jesus Christ is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). No one can enter God’s Kingdom of Grace unless he has been born of the Spirit (John 3:5). No sinner can be saved unless washed and renewed by the Spirit (Titus 3:5).
The Holy Spirit is the Great Convincer, the Great Mathematician of our salvation, for He adds and multiplies knowledge into faith unto the riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Glory, honor, thanks and praise be to the Great C5!