Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 33 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 88-91.
This week, we will continue to work our way through the section on the believer’s gratitude for God’s gracious work in our lives. But don’t get the impression that this whole section is about the various ways that we experience and express the emotion of gratitude; it might be better to think of this section in terms of the appropriate response that we should show in heart and in life to the grace of God.
Gratitude is not expressed in emotions alone; it also directs our actions. Think heart and life! How do we respond in heart and life to the grace that God has shown us? Today we are going to discuss what is involved in conversion.
Lord’s Day Focus...
Question 88: What is involved in Genuine repentance or conversion?
Answer: Two things: the dying away of the old self, and the coming to life of the new.
I appreciate Kevin DeYoung’s opening thoughts on this question. Kevin writes,
Conversion is essential to the gospel. The world needs to learn, and we frequently need to be reminded that Christian is not about refurbishing a few morals here, or helping you find your own unique spiritual journey there, or simply trying to get you to agree to a few theology statements. We need to be converted.
Within our American culture, the idea of conversion has been set aside, on purpose. We all accept the fact that we are not perfect people, most of us can accept the fact that we are broken people, but few are willing to accept the fact that we need to be converted, utterly changed. Maybe we just need to turn over a new leaf. We just need to have a fresh start. We just need to meet some new people, take a vacation, and get our minds right.
This way of thinking assumes that our problems are actually small and that we can handle them on our own. But when the Bible speaks about our problems, our deep-down needs, it refers to them as anything but small. According to Scripture, “we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1).” According to the Bible, “there is none good, not even one…We have all gone astray (Rom 3:10-18).”
In Genesis 6, God gives us an assessment of the state of mankind and it is not even close to being manageable, at least not for us.
Gen 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Our human condition is far more serious that we care to admit and therefore the remedy is far more involved than we often realize. We don’t simply need to make a few changes, we need to be changed, utterly converted, from the inside out.
So, this issue of conversion is essential to the gospel. But there are a few more words that we need to learn. Conversion is important. It is understood to be the human response, though initiated as a work of grace, it is our response to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration.
Regeneration, or new birth, is a secret act of God in which He imparts new spiritual life to us. The work of regeneration belongs to God alone; he is active and we are passive, in fact the Scriptures not only say that we are inactive in this but that we are dead, which is why regeneration must occur for us to be saved.
Regeneration is a mysterious act of God where he reaches down and cleanses us from sin by the blood of Christ; He creates in us a new heart and fills us with His Spirit who guides us in truth and righteousness and this enables us to respond to the call of God with faith and repentance.
That response to God’s call is what we understand to be conversion. Conversion is our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation.
We would understand that conversion has two sides to it, a divine side and a human side. Our repentance and faith are active, meaning the opposite of passive. We believe and we repent, but the Spirit of God is at work in us to empower and direct us in both believing and repenting.
Now that we have a little bit of the theological backstory in mind let’s look back at that first question, which states that two things are involved in genuine repentance and they are: dying away of the old self and coming to life of the new.
True conversion entails our dying to our old sinful way of life (mortification) and coming to live in a new way of life (vivification).
Question 89: What is the dying away of the old self?
Answer: It is to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it.
Conversion involves both the heart and the life. It involves the heart because true repentance begins with a genuine sorrow over sin. In 2 Cor 7, the Apostle Paul talks about the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow is when we feel bad that we got caught. Godly sorrow is when we feel bad that we sinned against God.
True repentance starts in the heart and it grieves over our sin. But that grief eventually leads to action. We begin to hate our sin and eventually we turn and run away from it. Theologians call this contrition. Contrition is a kind of grief that leads to repentance and it is motivated by godly remorse.
David in Psalm 51 showed true godly sorrow. He grieved over his sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah. He grieved because he had sinned against the God of Grace. His grief led him to genuine repentance. True repentance is not just being stirred in our hearts, it is when the stirring of our hearts leads to a change in our life.
Question 90: What is the coming to life of the new self?
Answer: It is wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to.
This is the second half of true conversion. We go from a wholehearted grief over sin that leads us to reform our lives, to being filled with joy in the gospel and a sincere desire to obey God out of gratitude for His grace.
It might be helpful to think about it this way, when we were dead in our sins our heart and life were completely given over to the world. But in true conversion our heart and life are completely renewed by God. We were blind but now we see. We were in prison but now we’re free and that freedom bring joy to our hearts and a new direction in life.
Conversion is about transformation. When I was a kid in school, I studied the life cycle of a caterpillar. I’m sure that many of you did the same thing. The caterpillar started out as a slow, dull and very limited creature. But a time came in its life cycle when it would build a cocoon and it would live inside that cocoon undergoing a radical change.
We call this change, metamorphosis. And when the time comes the caterpillar will emerge from the cocoon and it is no longer what it once was. It has completely transformed into a butterfly. Metamorphosis is a picture of human conversion. By the power and grace of God we are completely changed from dead in sin (heart and life) to alive in Christ (heart and life).
Question 91: What do we do that is good?
Answer: Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for His glory; and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition.
I love Ephesians 2:1-10 because it gives us theological understanding for what takes place in the whole process of salvation and the Christian life. It talks about our spiritual state apart from Jesus. It reveals just how sinful our sin was. Then it moves to show us that behind the scenes work of God. Even when we were dead in sin, God made us alive through Jesus.
But the summary of all God’s work comes in verses 8-10,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
There is a beautiful complexity in Ephesians 2 but there is also a profound simplicity. God has done a work of Grace in our hearts to bring us to salvation by faith in Jesus. He has done this work in us so that we will accomplish good works. He wants us to do good in this world. He wants our heart and life to reflect His goodness and glory.
The good that we do is not based on our own ideas or even our established cultural traditions. The good we are called by God to walk in has been outlined for us with God’s Word.
Over the next several weeks we are going to learn the scope and sequence of the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in, so I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 34 and questions 92-95.
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Thanks for listening.
 Kevin DeYoung, The Good News We Almost Forgot (Pg. 159)
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology Pg. 709