Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


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Character vs. Conversion

  • Jim Townsley
  • Jan 2, 2019
True conversion to Christ results in a spiritual transformation. The country preacher stated it well when he said, “God gives you a new “want to” when you get saved.” The Bible clearly states believers have gone from darkness to light. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” - - 1 Peter 2:9.  This new birth results in every believer becoming the temple of the Holy Spirit and now they possess a new nature. Consequently the process of sanctification has begun and a continual change of behavior resulting in a more holy life is soon realized.
This new experience is accompanied with great excitement for the believer and his fellow church members of the church. However it is important to remember that every new convert is a babe in Christ and maturity requires time. Patterns and habits of a lifetime are not all changed in one day. Change should be manifested in all believers but the rate of change will differ. There should be expectations for these new converts to learn and grow as they develop convictions in their lives but all expectations must be realistic. Feeding a new convert meat instead of milk can cause them to choke. The great challenge for church planters is to determine how much to push these new believers concerning matters of holiness. Pushing too much too soon can drive them away and too little can cause them to be worldly. Being patient with new believers is very important but challenging them to grow is imperative. The right balance of patience, encouragement and challenge should be the goal of every preacher. Keep in mind that many patterns of behavior have been established over a lifetime and some problems may prove difficult to change.
The Bible makes it clear that the immediate change that accompanies salvation does not totally change character that has been established over a lifetime. It must be understood that a person can be saved and obtain a new nature yet be immature in many aspects of their spiritual life. Everyone has a past and some pasts may be ugly. Having observed this process of sanctification for a few decades it is my observation that some habits are hard to change. In fact, far too often people will grow only to a point and unfortunately they may not be willing to face serious life issues which mean they will never overcome them. This usually results in them leaving the church, carrying their problems with them from church to church, never really dealing with the root issue. Sadly there are far too many carnal and worldly Christians.
Sometimes generational habits are so established that Satan holds a grip that becomes a stronghold upon their lives. One of many examples is families that are always in debt and can never get a handle on their finances. It can be difficult to break the chain of iniquity that has plagued their family for generations. Other sins that seem to plague people are gossip, lying, anger and laziness. These patterns of life and many others can cause a new believer to become stagnant and backslidden from which he may never recover.
This sad reality plagues church. The key for every church member is to fully surrender to the will God and be willing to make difficult changes to his or her life when necessary. The goal of the pastor is to preach the whole counsel of God and labor continually until Christ be formed in every believer. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” - - Gal 4:19.  I know the gospel can change every person’s life and every evil habit can be overcome. However I also realize everyone will not respond to the gospel or allow the Holy Spirit to completely control their life. I want to help every member grow in grace, but unfortunately not everyone will do so.
Preachers, we must recognize that character and conversion are two different issues. Salvation immediately produces a new nature but character takes a long time to change and in some cases people will be unwilling to make that commitment.