One of the most heartbreaking experiences is to watch someone who has been raised as a Christian or someone who has been a member of the church - suddenly leave it.
- They stop coming altogether
- They go to another religion
- Usually their church meeting time gets taken up by sports, work or other activities.
When this happens we scratch our heads and wonder how so-and-so, who used to be so faithful could just stop coming.
- We blame the devil or sin
- We blame the church for not doing enough for the person
- We blame the person's lack of commitment or faith
These may all be true, but sometimes I think the reason is that the person was "indoctrinated" but never really "converted".
Indoctrination vs. Conversion
A person is indoctrinated when he/she is taught to think a certain way and to respond in a certain manner. Indoctrination isn't a bad thing. It's what Solomon is talking about when he says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6 Indoctrination is drill, practice, training in a set of ideas, principles that will guide your thinking, your speech and your conduct.
The only problem with indoctrination is that it is no substitute for conversion - only a preparation for it. Conversion, on the other hand, means to change. There is no drill or memory or work in conversion, it happens only once, and once it happens you know.
Conversion is the end result of indoctrination. If the indoctrination bears fruit, conversion takes place. Indoctrination talks about Christianity, conversion experiences it.
In the church, some people are well indoctrinated:
- They know the information about Christianity.
- They can talk the "lingo" of Christianity.
- They can go through the motions of worship, fellowship, good living.
But when they are challenged by temptation, adversity or a call to deeper commitment, they fall away because they were well indoctrinated but never really converted. Conversion is a process and in this process there are four areas in a person that need to change for total conversion to happen.
You could say that during this lesson this morning you are being indoctrinated in the way that a person is totally converted to Christ. Total conversion requires conversion in 4 areas.
1. Head Conversion
The main difference between indoctrination and conversion is faith. Indoctrination is knowing and understanding, remembering and the ability to discuss and even teach others your faith. Conversion requires a person to actually believe as true what it is that they have learned.There's a big difference between knowing and believing.
I know that there are 200 million communists in Russia but I don't believe that they are correct in their understanding. Conversion to Christianity requires the head to change what it believes. Conversion requires that we believe:
- That there is one God only
- That Jesus Christ is the only Lord
- That you are a sinner and lost
- That God has spoken through the Bible
- That salvation comes through faith in Christ
We can know these and other doctrines about Christianity but our conversion only begins when we decide that the things we know about Christianity are indeed the truth and the only truth against which all other truth is measured.
2. Heart Conversion
They say the longest distance in the world is the distance between the head and the heart. Many believe but they never allow what they believe to enter and convert their hearts. The heart represents the seat of the emotions and the emotions need converting because they are at the core of who we really are.
Paul the Apostle was a great example of a person whose head and heart were converted by Christ. As a Pharisee he has been indoctrinated in the Law and Jewish traditions. He had an opinion about God and who Jesus was - a very zealous opinion which led him to persecute Christians. When he heard the gospel, he changed his mind about Jesus and who He was (head change) and gave his life to serving Him (heart change).
Jesus said, "Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also." Matthew 6:21
You love with your heart, not with your head. Conversion means that the object of your love has changed. Before you loved yourself, your pleasure, your will, people who are like you, your world, your goals. You know conversion of your heart has taken place if you love God, what pleases Him, His will, His people, people who are like Him, His kingdom, His will for your life - more than yourself. Believing in Jesus in your head leads to loving God with your heart.
3. Calendar Conversion
A change of mind and heart is usually made evident by a change in one's calendar. At first the changes are small and obvious - Sundays, Wednesdays for church. But then we see ourselves circling time each day for prayer and Bible reading.
- Time to be with Christian friends.
- Time to serve others in the name of Christ.
- Time to prepare lessons because we're teaching others about Christ.
As the conversion process continues we find that we have less time for ourselves, less time for worldly selfish pleasure, less time to advance our wealth and position in this world. For some, the realization that we're losing control of our calendar as Christ begins to dominate our time, sends a feeling of panic through our souls.
- Some refuse and fall away at this point.
- Some fight it and run themselves ragged trying to keep two calendars going - theirs and God's.
- Some "borrow" or use God's time for worship or service in order to get ahead on their work or extra sleep or simply catch up on worldly hobbies and pleasure.
What they don't realize is that they may be getting ahead in this world by using up God's time but they do it at the expense of their own spiritual lives. We may end up making a little more money or getting a better grade on a test, but in sacrificing our spiritual life to do it we lose whatever benefit we may have received from God during that time. We also clearly demonstrate to others, to the church, and to the Lord Himself what our true priorities are.
Others accept the shift from a worldly based schedule to a kingdom based schedule and the peace of mind and security that this brings. Time is precious because it measures our life, to convert our calendar to Christ is, in essence, to give Him our lives.
4. Cash Conversion
It is said that when Constantine, the emperor of Rome was converted to Christianity, he ordered all of his armies to be baptized in order to follow his lead. When his men were immersed in the water, they allowed themselves to go under but held their swords above the water to signify that their weapons would still be in their control. Many people today do the same thing when they are baptized except that they hold their wallets out above the water.
Letting Christ control our minds, hearts and time is one thing - but money, we like to be the ones who control that. The Jews were taught early by God that 100% of what they owned belonged to Him and He allowed them to keep up to 90% of it if they honored Him with the first 10%.
We mistakenly think that we own our stuff, we control our money and we give God a small token of our stuff to say thank you. But 3,500 years from the time God originally taught this idea to Moses and the Jews - the principle remains the same.
Conversion means that we give back to God what rightfully belongs to Him - the rightful ownership of everything we possess. Conversion means that we acknowledge His rightful ownership by giving Him a generous (10%+) first portion of all that He has allowed us to have.
The cash conversion in our lives is not really about money - it's about using money to show that we no longer trust money to sustain us, we trust God to sustain us. As my "giving" increases what really increases is that my faith and trust resides in God and not my bank balance.
Summary / Invitation
The reason for the teaching, the preaching, the lessons, the "indoctrination" is not just that we know a lot about religious stuff - the purpose of indoctrination is conversion. And conversion or change must work in 4 areas if it is to be complete:
- A change of mind. We hear, understand and believe as true what God says in His word.
- A change of heart. We confess our faith without shame, we repent and change our ways, we are baptized to bury the old sinful man and save the new loving man.
- A change of calendars. Our time is at God's disposal and what we want is to be faithful to Him regardless of how much or little time we have. Borrowing His time to advance us in this world does not advance us in the kingdom.
- A change in our giving. The Lord loves a "cheerful" giver - why? - because a cheerful giver is a converted giver. You can only give your money cheerfully if you've already given your head and heart and calendar to the Lord. If you've given the first three, the money follows easily, naturally even cheerfully - but if your heart isn't right and your time is still your own, you won't part happily with your money either.
Most of you here today have been indoctrinated but have you been converted? Some may need to begin the process by honest Bible study or being baptized. Others may be stuck in the middle of the process, refusing to change your heart, calendar or wallets. These people need to pray to Jesus to help them give up and allow Him to take over certain areas of their lives.
Ask yourselves today, "What part of me has not yet been converted?"