Part 2 covered the main events leading up to my own conversion, including the part my wife played in it, up to my complete unconditional surrender to God. It covered my change from the attitude of "get" to that of "give." But I was not yet actually converted not even to that initial experience most professing Christians believe to be the total of conversion. We are still far from answering in this series that overall question: "Conversion sudden experience, or lifelong process?" It had been the bitterest pill I had ever had to swallow: to admit my wife was right in turning to what I had called "religious fanaticism." It was hard to admit that having had AMBITION aroused early in me generating SELF-CONFIDENCE was all SELF-CENTEREDNESS and therefore wrong. It was not easy to give up everything my heart and whole life had been set on.
Prepared in Advance
God prepared in advance the apostle Paul by an education under perhaps the greatest teacher and educator of his time the learned Gamaliel. Paul (his name had been changed from Saul) started out with an almost superhuman fanaticism to destroy the new religion; Christianity. He was as eager to stamp out Christianity as the most fanatical members of the PLO are to wipe out the nation of Israel today. Like Saul, I was applying my energies in the wrong direction. I was striving for SELF-gain SELF-glory. I wanted to be recognized as one of the "SUCCESSFUL" in the field of business. I was living primarily in the GET philosophy, which I have shown originated with Satan the devil. I had argued that "all these churches can't be wrong and they get their religion FROM THE BIBLE." I was shocked dumbfounded to learn that in Protestant Sunday school I had been taught in most basic doctrines the very OPPOSITE of what the Bible actually SAYS. I had to learn in this initial most intensive and in-depth study where the real fault lay. The Holy Bible is the world's number-one seller. Millions own Bibles who never read them. Other millions read them but DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS! Adam and Eve were taught directly in person by God Himself. But they DID NOT BELIEVE WHAT HE SAID. They did believe Satan when he came along. Jesus came with His gospel message the ANNOUNCEMENT of the coming KINGDOM OF GOD which will restore the GOVERNMENT OF GOD and bring PEACE to the earth. But after 3'12 years of CHRIST Himself preaching that message to thousands, only 120 actually became BELIEVERS (Acts 1:15). People do believe what other books say. But the Bible is the very written Word of God actually GOD speaking in print and few indeed believe what God says. They make of it a mystic book which almost NOBODY UNDERSTANDS yet it is plain and simple; it says what it means and means what it says. I had studied hard, deeply, thoroughly. I DID NOT WANT to believe my wife was right. I was studying with an unconverted, carnal mind a mind enabled to understand PHYSICAL things by the addition of the HUMAN spirit to the human brain (as in all humans) but I NEEDED a second Spirit to enter with it to UNDERSTAND the things of God His HOLY SPIRIT. That's why it took SIX MONTHS of intensive, in-depth study to come to see what my wife had been able to see and understand in 15 to 30 minutes she already HAD the Spirit of God.
What the Holy Spirit Is
Just what IS this Holy Spirit? First of all, it is the Spirit which comes directly from God; which, entering into a human, impregnates that human with GOD-life eternal life just as the male sperm entering into a female egg cell (ovum) impregnates the woman with a new human life then begotten in her womb. "The [Holy] Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" (Rom. 8:16). The Holy Spirit, secondly, is the Spirit of UNDERSTANDING. It opens the human MIND, in conjunction with the human spirit, to COMPREHEND to UNDERSTAND spiritual knowledge, spiritual principles, spiritual facts. It opens the mind to UNDERSTAND the LAW of God, "because the carnal mind [natural human mind without God's Holy Spirit] is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). So the Holy Spirit opens the mind to UNDERSTAND God's way of life, and to be willingly subject to it as the WAY OF LOVE. And LOVE is outgoing. It is love toward God and concern for the good and welfare of others equal in amount to our self-love and self-concern. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit of God entering into one imparts to the mind a new and opposite attitude God's attitude; instills in that mind GOD'S LOVE, far transcending natural human love the love that fulfills His law. Fourth, the Spirit instills in one the gift of CHRIST'S OWN FAITH the very same FAITH with which He healed and performed miracles. Faith in GOD that BELIEVES what God SAYS! It is the Spirit of POWER not physical, but spiritual power: power to resist temptation, power of WILL to DO God's way. Now I had struggled (with at least an HONEST mind, I must admit) for six long months to learn God's WAY of GIVE as opposed to Satan's way of GET, which I had previously practiced. My study had led me to UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER of my life to God. I learned that Christ had bought and paid for me by the sacrifice of HIS life, and I now GAVE OVER MY LIFE TO HIM. Of course, as I said in the previous installment, by this time my own estimation of myself had shrunk so low, I didn't see how God could ever USE my life - but it was now HIS, if He could use it.
Conditions To Receiving Holy Spirit
The biblical CONDITIONS to receiving God's Holy Spirit are two: REPENTANCE and BELIEF. Remorse is far from real repentance. Real repentance is developed by godly sorrow. It means a complete ABOUT-FACE a total CHANGE from the GET
I had argued that "all these churches can't be wrong and they get their religion from the Bible." I was shocked dumbfounded to learn that I had been taught in most basic doctrines the very opposite of what the Bible actually says.
way of Satan to the GIVE way of God. But I could find no PROMISE in the Bible that anyone would receive the Holy Spirit until after water baptism. As I have said, I had made a most THOROUGH and in-depth STUDY of this whole question in many outside sources. But I had been brought up in a Protestant church which did not believe in water baptism, and I had not yet studied what the Bible said about water baptism. Now I did study it thoroughly. I did find one exception where the Holy Spirit was given without and prior to water baptism: at the house of Cornelius, a Gentile captain over 100 Roman soldiers. But even so, Peter commanded water baptism. Nevertheless, there is NO PROMISE of the gift of the Holy Spirit prior to water baptism. And I'm sure God did not want me to come into His ministry the EASY way. Therefore, I was baptized. Now along with my Bible study of the question, I had counseled with three ministers a Baptist, a Seventh-Day Adventist and a Quaker. I chose to ask the Baptist minister to baptize me.
Baptized into Christ Not Denomination
But I had learned that we are baptized "into Jesus Christ" (Rom. 6:3), NOT into a religious denomination. I learned, when I asked this minister to baptize me, that he had no authority to baptize me, except INTO HIS CHURCH. I was required to go before a board of trustees to see if they would give their pastor authority to baptize me into Jesus Christ. Somehow I had a peculiar feeling, as I sat before that dignified, stern-faced board. I was still comparatively new in biblical knowledge and understanding, but as they questioned me, I soon saw that their understanding of the Bible was very elementary compared to mine. Somehow I felt almost like Jesus at age 12, sitting before the august and dignified body of doctors of religion, who "were astonished at his understanding and answers" (Luke 2:42-47). Anyway, the board members were sufficiently impressed when I quoted the scriptures that we are to be baptized into Jesus Christ not a religious denomination that one suggested, "Well, after this man has shown us what the Bible says, I don't see how we can refuse his request that we authorize our pastor to baptize him into Christ without requiring him to join our church." The others then agreed. Of course that baptism was an EXPERIENCE one I shall never forget. It was on a Sunday night. I was buried under, and came up out of the water. It was a type of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
What the Experience Was Like
But just what was the EXPERIENCE· of receiving the Holy Spirit? Did I feel certain physical sensations were there tingling sensations going up and down my spine, as some Pentecostal people claim to feel? No! Nothing of the sort. But there was a very definite spiritual experience! I came up out of that water feeling as if all my sins had been left buried there. I had a sense of knowing that I was CLEAN spiritually. There was the conscious knowledge that now I was really God's son I had fulfilled His requirements. I had given my life to Him, and there was a very definite KNOWING that His HOLY SPIRIT had now entered my mind and life! And His Spirit did definitely witness with my spirit that I was His child (Rom. 8:16). It was a definite KNOWING a changed attitude of mine not a physical feeling. Up to this time, as I have said, I was wrestling with these biblical questions, studying almost night and day, with a carnal mind. I was really amazed to find that from that moment, real UNDERSTANDING of things I studied in the Bible came easily and quickly, compared to my experience with a carnal mind. I was now WILLING to accept God's truth whether it was what I wanted or not. I no longer sought MY will, trying to prove it by the Bible, but I merely sought God's will. Yes, that was definitely a "SUDDEN EXPERIENCE." But was I now "saved"? Was my salvation now completed?
Like the Corinthians
Not by any means. I was like the Corinthians. They, too, had gone through this initial "EXPERIENCE." They had received the Holy Spirit. They were under God's grace, for Paul wrote: "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 1:4). But the apostle continued: "... there are contentions among you" (verse 11). Later Paul lamented: "And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual [that is, spiritually minded with spiritual understanding], but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ" (I Cor. 3:1). Yet, they had repented, believed and received the Holy Spirit. But let me intervene to say right here that the Holy Spirit is given to us BY DEGREES. Most start out with a VERY SMALL portion of God's Holy Spirit. They are still perhaps 90 percent carnal, as were these Corinthians. At the opposite extreme was Jesus Christ Himself. He was the very begotten Son of God the ONLY begotten that is, the ONLY one ever begotten prior to HUMAN birth by God. Jesus had the Holy Spirit in FULL measure. We, only partially at first yet some to a greater degree than others. I firmly believe that God by His grace granted me a much fuller portion of His Spirit at the very beginning than is the average experience. Why? I had been brought low in morale, SELF-confidence. I had made a thorough study and accepted what I DID NOT want, but
People do believe what other books say. But the Bible is the very written Word of GOD actually God speaking in print and few indeed believe what God says. They make of it a mystic book which almost nobody understands.
what I saw was God's TRUTH. My mind was finally more fully open to God's TRUTH than most. I was more emptied of SELF. I made an unconditional surrender gave my life to God. Further, what I did not realize then was that God was preparing me to be His apostle. He had been working me over spiritually, and as we might say today, He worked me over "REAL GOOD." So much of this world's Satan's ways of GET have worked their way into our minds and attitudes that we simply do not get rid of all of them at once. As Peter says, we," GROW in grace, and in the KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18). Let me here interrupt and ask again, WHAT IS God's PURPOSE in placing HUMAN life here on earth? As I have said, the one thing even God cannot create all at once instantaneously by fiat is holy, spiritual, righteous CHARACTER. That must be BUILT within us with our own consent, with a CHANGE of mind and heart, and with willingness to beseech God to place His character within us. And that is definitely a PROCESS! It requires our own choice, decision, will, and diligence seeking it and working at it.
Experience and Process
So conversion is both an experience and a process. But often I am forced to wonder how many who profess Christianity have ever even so much as gone through the initial process by which we receive God's Holy Spirit! Better search your own heart! I realize fully that all do not have exactly the SAME experience. This initial EXPERIENCE of receiving the Holy Spirit may take place in different ways under different circumstances. All may not have had to swallow such a bitter pill of admitting defeat as I did. I only give you my experience as one example. That's the way I had to go through that initial experience. But conversion definitely DOES require a TOTAL UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER to God and His WAY OF LIFE GOD'S LAW! It DOES require a REAL REPENTANCE. As I said, that is much more than just remorse. I know a man who was so SORRY for what he had done for his sins that he broke down and cried like a baby when he was with his wife and me. But the next morning he was back in the same previous carnal attitude; the remorse was all over, and he had not changed! This initial EXPERIENCE changes one! As the Bible says: "... godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation" (II Cor. 7:10). It means a total ABOUT-FACE. It means turning from the self-centered way of vanity, lust and greed, envy and jealousy, resentment against wrongs or fancied wrongs, rebellion against God's government over one's life, the spirit of competition that leads to strife, violence, war. It means a change TO the way of GIVE the way of LOVE love of and obedience to God, and outgoing concern for the good and welfare of others equal to your own self-concern. You won't completely forsake, at all times, the former SELF; you won't live perfectly all at once the NEW way of LOVE and concern toward others, but your whole INTENTION your ATTITUDE will have made that change. And you may not receive a FULL measure of God's Holy Spirit all at once. You probably will start out as a " babe in Christ" like the Corinthians.
The Old Testament Example
Yet, because conversion definitely also IS a process a development a GROWTH that takes TIME, I also wonder how many we may feel "are just not converted at all," when they are, in truth, "babes in Christ" who have not grown very large SPIRITUALLY as yet, but who HAVE received the Holy Spirit, even in small measure, and are actually GROWING and headed in the right direction. Remember, God looks on the heart the attitude the obvious intention! Many experiences recorded in the Old Testament were intended as examples for us today. In I Corinthians 10 we read: "Now all these things happened unto them [of Old Testament times] for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (verse II). It is true that the Bible deals in types, which any biblical student having the Holy Spirit ought easily to understand. It also deals in symbols but the Bible explains its own symbols, not always in the same context with the symbol. It also contains allegories but the Bible itself explains the allegories so we can UNDERSTAND. In other words, we should never try to interpret the Bible. The Bible interprets itself! In a number of instances as in the Passover Egypt is used as a type of SIN. The taking of the Israelites out of Egypt is a TYPE of our going out from sin. Their entrance into the Promised Land is a type of our entrance into, the Kingdom of God. In these instances as well as many others the physical is a type of the spiritual. The presence of squatters occupying the Promised Land also is a type of sin in our lives. God OWNS the earth. He had assigned by PROMISE to Abraham, for his descendants, this Promised Land. Therefore it rightfully belonged to them, and not to the Gentile nations who had simply moved in and taken it over. God promised to drive out these squatters. But He said: "I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land" (Ex. 23:29-30). Notice also Deuteronomy 7, especially verse 22. God forbade the Israelites to worship the idols and gods of these
The one thing even God cannot create all at once is holy, spiritual, righteous character. That must be built within us with our own consent, with a change of mind and heart, and with willingness to beseech God to place His character within us.
Gentile nations. But the wild animals coming in would have been a greater danger. If we were able to drive out EVERY SIN from our lives all at once, we would become spiritually PROUD, and spiritual pride is the greatest of sins. Job had it. And he was the most difficult for God to convert of any man in history. I knew a Pentecostal family years ago. The children were mature grown and married but their mother, so they claimed, was spiritually PERFECT. Truly, she was a good woman, to all appearances. Yet she actually was guilty of the greatest sin of all. She herself claimed to be perfect, without sin. She and her family exalted her above all others. Yet others could see several real sins in her self-righteous, holier-than-thou life.
What Is God's Purpose?
God's PURPOSE is to build HOLY, RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER God's OWN character into us humans. It starts with a REAL and lasting REPENTANCE a total and permanent CHANGE in attitude from GET to GIVE. It requires BELIEF not only believing on Christ but BELIEVING CHRIST: believing and obeying WHAT HE SAYS! Christ is the personal WORD of God. The Bible is that same WORD in print. It is the LAMP to our feet (Psalm 119:105) to GUIDE US in GOD'S WAY, like a lamp on a dark night in the woods, leading us in the way of safety. So, through HIS WRITTEN WORDS, we GROW in the KNOWLEDGE of Christ. It requires constant Bible reading and STUDY. It requires constant earnest, heart-rending PRAYER. It requires FELLOWSHIP with the brethren. In church services, we not only have fellowship with our brethren, but also with Christ and the Father. "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:3, 7). So remember, I have often said God is reproducing Himself. We who· are converted and are being, spiritually matured are merely the type of what we once were before human birth. First, we were begotten in a conception that required both a father and a mother. In order to make human reproduction possible, God formed humans in two sexes MAN and WOMAN. Because He designed us with the potentiality of becoming HIS very own born children, God in His LOVE formed sex as a holy and beautiful thing. But because Satan has no sex, he is jealous; he hates the fact that God gave us humans this blessing. So he has cunningly contrived to DECEIVE humans into the misuse of sex and even its nonuse and total misunderstanding concerning it. Through some professing Christian organizations, Satan has deceived MAN into looking on sex as something shameful, evil and dirty. (See my book The Missing Dimension in Sex.) But this I DO KNOW: There is the initial EXPERIENCE of conversion, when the SELF-CENTEREDNESS in the mind DIES and the Holy Spirit of God ENTERS and produces a total about-face in ATTITUDE of mind. I have to WONDER how many professing Christians have actually experienced the receiving of God's gift of the Holy Spirit? How MANY, because of Satan's deceptive, erroneous teachings, have only seen enough of the truth to say: "I see this TRUTH. I am so GOOD SO RIGHTEOUS that I want the truth, so I'll join this church." Yes, HOW MANY? How many have accepted the truth or what they suppose to be the truth in their own righteousness? They have not as yet even really repented; never MADE THE FIRST INITIAL START of the first experience of conversion.
Begettal of the Holy Spirit
But back to our comparison or analogy of human begettal and development and birth. In the human mother, a life starts as merely an embryo, as small as a tiny pin point. Most truly converted Christians start comparatively SMALL SPIRITUALLY. But the embryo, nourished on physical food from the mother, develops and grows, and after three months develops into a fetus. A spinal cord has developed, a head, arms and legs. Gradually other parts of the physical body develop. After nine months a new human is ready for birth delivery from the mother's womb. So once we are IMPREGNATED given immortal life-given GOD-life by the receiving of the HOLY SPIRIT from the very body and person of God, we are begotten sons of God, nourished on spiritual food through the mother of us all the true CHURCH (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22-23), until BORN by a resurrection as Jesus was (Rom. 1:4). We shall then be composed of spirit. But we must have GROWN in this life to a point where, once BORN of God, we CANNOT sin (I John 3:9). Yes, you see God is REPRODUCING HIMSELF. We can become AS HE IS! But it requires a BEGETTAL (the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit), a period of spiritual gestation, and a final BIRTH, when we shall BE Spirit (John 3:6; Phil. 3:21).