Delivered at the Bible Baptist Church, Porterville, CA, during the Sunday School hour, on August 12, 2001.
1. Five years ago a number of our Church kids and parents went to our Churchís annual summer youth camp on Mount Palomar, near San Diego. Itía camp we run with another Church, and Godís blessings were above and beyond my most optimistic expectations.
2. But something tragic occurred at that camp that highlights what has become a terrible problem in many Churches across the country. For about two days there were a whole bunch of very nice kids from various southern California Korean congregations. One night, during their chapel service their preacher was talking about how great it is to be a Christian and to know Jesus. Their services were all in English. He then proceeded to ask how many of those young grade school kids would like to get saved.
3. Folks, every single kid in that large room raised a hand, indicating he or she would like to get saved. When they did that their speaker led them all in a prayer, asking Jesus to come into their hearts. And when they had all prayed he proudly announced that, "Praise God, every single one of you kids just got saved."
4. What that speaker applauded as a great spiritual victory was, instead, a horrible and devastating spiritual setback. How many of those approximately 150 kids actually got saved, and how many were spurious conversions, I will never know. But I personally doubt a single one of those kids went home saved.
5. My experience convinces me that, just like when I had such an experience when I was a child, though most of those precious kids went home from camp still lost in their sins, they are now worse off than they were before, being wrongly convinced that they had been saved just because they prayed some prayer, asking Jesus to do what He most certainly will not do. Jesus does not enter anyoneís heart to save them.
6. Do you realize, my friend, that some people who consider themselves to be Christians are, in fact, not saved at all? Do you realize that most people in the United States consider themselves born again Christians? Yet no one in America even considers the possibility that most professions of faith, most religious "conversions," most salvation "decisions," are what I term spurious conversions.
7. Let me explain: The word "spurious" refers to that which is false, that which is counterfeit, that which is not genuine. A spurious conversion, then, is a conversion that is a counterfeit conversion. Itís a salvation experience which is false and does not, in fact, result in a person getting saved. Itís a decision for Christ which is not a decision for Christ after all.
8. We had a famous evangelist from Georgia preach at our Church about nine years ago. I think it was January of 1993. And we had so many people in our auditorium that I asked the men who were Church members to step outside. The sermon he preached was about Jesus on the cross.
9. The message he preached was tremendous. At the conclusion of the sermon some 54 people came forward to be saved and were dealt with as carefully as we knew how. But not one single person who indicated he had gotten saved that evening has ever been back to Church. So far as I know, 54 spurious conversions, because Christians go to Church. Thatís right. Christians go to Church.
10. Folks, I think the United States, I think the world, is full of these spurious Christians. Do you doubt what I say? Consider this subject of spurious conversions from two different sides.
1A. FIRST, ALLOW ME TO ESTABLISH THE REALITY OF SPURIOUS CONVERSIONS
Perhaps you think itís a lack of faith to doubt the reality of someoneís conversion. Perhaps you think that Iím just being pessimistic and negative when I question whether someone is truly born again. Maybe you need to see some Biblical examples of spurious conversions. Okay. Let me show four examples to you, four examples of false professions of faith, that cause damage to the cause of Christ and eternal destruction to their own souls. You see, I think it causes harm when a lost guy or gal pretends to be a Christian.
1B. First, There Is The Case Of Judas Iscariot
1C. You donít deny that Judas was a lost man, do you? Neither can you deny that he pretended to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And my friends, we have no evidence that until the very end Judas Iscariot did not believe himself to be genuinely saved.
2C. But the fact that he betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he committed suicide by hanging himself, and is described in the Bible as the son of perdition, clearly shows that Judas was lost. And how many people were shaken by his betrayal? How many turned away from the Savior they were considering because of that man? Weíll never know what harm he caused.
2B. Second, There Is The Case of Simon Magus
1C. Philip, one of the original deacons, was a great man of God, a wonderful preacher. God sent revival to the city of Samaria where Philip labored in the ministry. Many people came to Christ. So many, in fact, that Philip probably didnít have the opportunity to carefully deal with each and every person who professed Christ. The result was some spurious conversions. Simon Magus was one such example.
2C. Acts 8.9-13: "But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done."
3C. How do we know Simonís was a spurious conversion, though his testimony was, like Judas Iscariotís, convincing enough to fool a number of people? Acts 8.14-24: "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me."
4C. Several indications that Simon Magus was not genuinely converted, though he had believed, but not to the saving of his eternal and undying soul: First, he tried to buy the Holy Spirit of God in exchange for money. What does this reveal? It reveals his profound misunderstanding of the personality of the Spirit of God, the deity of the Spirit of God, and the power of the Spirit of God. Such profound ignorance could only mean he was not saved. God is not bought with money.
5C. Second, this was understood by Simon Peter, who recognized that Simon Magus had no part nor lot in things spiritual, and that his heart was not right with God. Peter then directed Simon Magus to repent and seek Godís forgiveness. In other words, "Get saved, Magus."
6C. But in case you remain unconvinced, consider Simon Magusí response to Peter. Apparently having no confidence that he had any access to Godís throne of grace himself, Simon Magus pleaded with Peter to pray for him, verse 24. Clearly a spurious, or false, conversion.
3B. The Third Case Of A Spurious Conversion Is The Corinthian Fornicator
1C. First Corinthians 5, please. Perhaps you remember reading of this fellow who had committed fornication with his fatherís wife. Hearing about this horrible situation while in the city of Ephesus, Paul wrote First Corinthians, in part, to order the Church at Corinth to expel this fornicator from the body. Of course, this must mean the fornicator was a part of the body. And that meant the Church leadership, either Paul himself when he was there, or the pastor after Paulís departure, thought this fellow was saved and baptized him, bringing him into the body.
2C. Now, many modern commentators think this young man was saved, but was backslidden and in need of rededication. First Corinthians 5.5, however, clears up the matter completely. Notice the word "may be saved." A single word in the Greek New Testament. There are two ways the future is dealt with in the Greek language, using the future tense of the verb or the subjunctive mood of the verb. Using a future verb indicates something will happen. Subjunctive means something might happen or hopefully will happen, but you donít know for sure.
3C. "May be saved" just so happens to be a subjunctive verb. In other words, Paul is not certain this fornicatorís spirit will be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Since a Christian cannot lose his salvation, it can only mean this fellow was not saved and that Paul hoped he someday would get saved. In other words, another example of a spurious conversion, another false conversion.
4B. Finally, The Case Of Demas
1C. Demas was one of Paulís co-laborers, a man he trusted and served God with. How long he had been with Paul we do not know, but we do know that Paul was a stickler about faithfulness and consistency. His reluctance to allow John Mark to accompany him on a second missionary journey shows that Paul was quite demanding of those who served God with him. He rightly expected much of a man who claimed to be a Christian, as sholuld we.
2C. Imagine what a surprise it must have been to Paul, then, when Demas, who is mentioned in Colossians 4.14 and Philemon 24, turned out to be a lost man. And how do we know that Demas was a lost man? Second Timothy 4.10: "For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia."
3C. Consider what Demas did. He abandoned Paul during his time of great need, while he was imprisoned and awaiting execution. Though he himself was in no danger, he left. Now read Jude 19: "These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit." Consider what Paul said about what Demas had done. Now read First John 2.15-16, 19: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. . . 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
4C. Old Demas was lost, all right. At least I think he was. For how long he had fooled Paul, we do not know. Whether he had fooled himself, we will not know till we get to heaven. But understand this, people: Not everyone who says he is saved is saved. Not everyone who thinks he is saved is saved. Not everyone this preacher thinks is saved is saved. And not everyone who lives for a time like he is saved is saved. The reality of spurious conversions, false conversions, cannot be doubted.
2A. NOW, LET ME ESTABLISH THE REASONS FOR SPURIOUS CONVERSIONS
How do there come to be lost people who are convinced, and who convince others, they are converted?
1B. First, Spurious Conversions Occur By Reason Of A Sinnerís Depravity
1C. Sinners are wicked people. Even the very best sinner who has ever lived is a perverse and despicable person in the sight of God. It is not pessimism to acknowledge the complete inability of lost people to do good in the sight of God, itís reality.
2C. So, because "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," Jeremiah 17.9, two things can be counted on with many people who claim to be saved: First, the deceitfulness of your hearts will convince you and will seek to convince others that you are saved when you are not saved.
3C. Second, the desperate wickedness of your hearts drives many of you to despise and reject the Lord Jesus Christ at the very moment in time you are claiming to embrace Him as your Savior, Isaiah 53.3: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
4C. And friends, to deny that this happens is to deny the reality of what Godís Word says about sinners and what the Bible illustrates in the lives of the men weíve just taken notice of, Judas Iscariot, Simon Magus, the Corinthian fornicator, and Demas, the lover of this world.
2B. But Thereís Another Reason Spurious Conversions Occur. Thatís The Delusion Of The Preachers
1C. Judas fooled all the other apostles of Jesus Christ. Simon Magus fooled Philip and, perhaps for a while, Simon Peter. The Corinthian fornicator may have fooled Paul and he certainly fooled the pastor of the Corinthian Church. And Demas fooled Paul. What does that tell us? It tells us that itís impossible for any man of God to be absolutely certain that he is not being deceived by some wolf in sheepís clothing, or some goat pretending to be one of the Saviorís sheep.
2C. Imagine how many spurious conversions, then, there are in todayís spiritual climate of Jesse Jacksons, Bill Clintons, and even fundamental Baptists who lower the bar. Folks either flatly deny even the possibility of false conversions, or they treat the whole issue as a casual thing.
3C. "But preacher, we canít tell whether someone is saved or not." We canít? Then how in the world can we hope to obey Godís command, in Second Corinthians 6.14? "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers?"
4C. To be sure, we canít tell perfectly whether or not a conversion is real. But we can certainly try to do a better job than weíve been doing in this country for 200 years.
1. How do we do a better job? Get behind your pastor. Support his ministry. Hold him up in prayer. Though he and I have never discussed the matter, no pastor thinks everyone in his congregation is truly converted, especially not a pastor with the vast experience of Dr. Barta. How do you know itís not you whoís lost?
2. My friend, you need your pastorís help, since if youíre lost youíll need his guidance, and if youíre immature you canít tell up from down. Please do not pretend this subject is not serious, affecting you and everyone you know, because there is no subject upon which your mind will light thatís not more serious.