By Irvin Himmel
No work is more noble than converting lost souls to Jesus Christ. To “convert” means to change or turn. I propose now to examine four major hindrances to conversion.
Failure-to Realize Lost Condition
People who see the need for financial protection do not have to be sold on the merits of insurance. A starving man gladly accepts food when it is offered. A boy lost in a cave shouts with joy when he hears the voices of a rescue group. An injured woman pulled from a wrecked automobile does not tell the ambulance attendants to go away and leave her alone. A drowning teenager will reach desperately for anything or anyone that might save his life.
The gospel is truly good news to the individual who realizes his lost condition before God. But many turn away from the gospel without showing the slightest interest because they feel no need for it. We cannot convert people to the Lord who see no need for the Lord.
The Bible teaches that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Sin is grievous. It separates men and women from the favor of God. Spiritual death is the penalty for sin. “For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23). When people realize that they have sinned and are lost because they have sinned, the gospel has appeal. It is the failure to think on the reality of sin and its awful consequences that hinders souls from desiring salvation.
Thinking They Are Converted Already
Attempts to convert some people are to no avail because they think they have been converted already. Some have been told to believe on the Lord and that is all there is to it. They have believed for a long time, therefore, they feel secure. Others are told that conversion is “getting religion,” hence they think they have been converted because they joined a church and are active in its affairs.
It is possible for one to believe on the Lord and still not be converted. Among the chief rulers “many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42, 43). Anyone who loves human praise more than the praise of God needs to be changed, turned, or converted.
It is possible for one to be religious and not be truly converted to Jesus Christ. The Jews present on Pentecost in Jerusalem were “devout men” (Acts 2:5), and their religious devotion is what brought them to that city from all parts of the world. But they needed to accept the Lordship of Jesus and repent and be baptized (Acts 2:36-38). Saul of Tarsus was deeply religious before his conversion (Acts 26:4, 5). Cornelius feared God, prayed regularly, and proved himself devout before he was told to send for Peter who “shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 10:2; 11:14).
Conversion is the process by which lost souls are delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of Christ. Conversion is not mere feeling, nor is it some supernatural experience. It is obedience to the gospel. The examples of conversion in the book of Acts clearly show that the turning from sin to the Lord that results in salvation includes faith, repentance, confession of Jesus as Christ, and baptism for the remission of sins.
Denominationalism, sectarianism, differences in religious practices, contradictory doctrines, and confusing theories turn people off. Hundreds of different religious bodies claim fellowship with God and claim to offer what lost souls need. Obviously, they all cannot be right. The whole religious scene presents a picture that is not very pretty to that person who appraises Christianity on the basis of the diverse elements that profess attachment to Jesus.
To overcome this hindrance we must urge honest souls to go back to the New Testament for a correct view of the religion taught by Jesus through the apostles. Our Lord is not the author of the heterogeneous mixture that is found in modern religion. The church which Jesus established is not a hodge-podge of doctrines, organizations, and rituals. The picture of the body of Christ given in the New Testament is nothing similar to the chaotic muddle of religious bodies in today’s world.
The apostles warned against preaching any gospel other than that which they preached (Gal. 1:8, 9). They warned against going beyond the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). They urged men to speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). They condemned divisions (1 Cor. 1:10; Rom.16:17).
The smokescreen of religious confusion obscures the view of many who are trying to see how to follow Jesus. The Bible clears away the pollution.
Pull of the World
Another hindrance to conversion is the strong, attraction of the world. Paul referred to this as the “power of darkness.” The pleasures of sin draw one’s attention away from spiritual matters. The lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life pull like a powerful magnet.
Some who have been converted are drawn away from the Lord by the pull of the world. Demas is an example. Paul said, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10).
John wrote, “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. 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. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Reader, if you have not been converted to Christ, what is hindering? He is your only escape from eternal doom.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 13, pp. 216-217
March 29, 1979