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Sunday, 29 July 2012

Conversion; Conviction!

Last Sunday (22nd), my wife and I paid our first - but, hopefully, not our last - visit to the Café Church in Bergerac.  This is an English-speaking Christian Fellowship that meets on a monthly basis, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them.  The speaker, last week, was Paul, a retired officer from the Metropolitan Police who had served under Met. Commissioner David (now Sir David) MacNee.  He, in turn, was a member of St George's-Tron Church in Glasgow, where my wife and I met, and were married to one another, and he even, as Chief Constable of the then City of Glasgow Police Force, signed the photographs for our first passports!  Indeed, I stood beside his dad in the bass section of the church choir!

Paul shared a good message, but one part of it stuck out for me.  He was speaking on the call of Isaiah, as recorded in what we know as the 6th chapter of that Old Testament prophet's writings.  Paul emphasised the chorus of the seraphim: "Holy, holy, holy, is YHWH Sabaoth", and spoke of the holiness - the 'otherness' of Almighty God.  He reminded us of the conviction that came upon Isaiah - "I am a man of unclean ("filthy" in my New Living Translation) lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips."  In the light of the Holy One, Isaiah knew exactly what he was, and what he deserved.  He was a sinner, who deserved only the wrath of this pure and sinless One.

As often happens - and this is no criticism of any speaker.  Indeed, I would be delighted to learn that others did the same when I am delivering a message! - my mind went off on its own; nudged in a particular direction by what was being spoken from the front.  I began to think about the difference between what often, today, seems to pass for conversion; and a genuine conviction.  It seems to me that too many claim to be converted without ever having experienced a real conviction with regard to their own sinfulness.  Is it not the case that, too often, we encourage people to repeat "the sinners' prayer" without having first made clear to them the extent of their personal sinfulness - and the fact that the holy God cannot even bear to look upon it?  In a "come to Jesus, and all will be well" situation, are we not encouraging enquirers to gloss over their sins?  In our "seeker-sensitive" services, are we not guilty of trying to make the Gospel fit the circumstances, instead of bringing people under the full light of the Gospel.?  Paul reminded us of the Hebridean Revival when people came under conviction of sin in their homes; in their workplaces; in schools; even in the street.  This, of course, is a work of God the Holy Spirit - Who alone can convict people of their sins.  However, as I suggested in the previous post, this led to the right questions being asked, and the work of those who were already disciples of Jesus was then to explain, and disciple these new lambs of the flock.

Perhaps we in the so-called "west" need to come to a new point of repentance; acknowledging that our own efforts have not resulted in any great growth in the Kingdom of God; confessing that we have, all too often, expected Almighty God to bless the plans that we have made in our human frailty; and seek His will in our efforts to evangelise, and to be the kind of witnesses that He desires us to be.  Perhaps we need to remember that, while this Almighty God deigns to use us, He is perfectly capable of working without us!  Perhaps, when we respond as Isaiah responded, to the vision of the glory of God, we will be able to respond, with greater results, as he responded to the invitation of YHWH Sabaoth - "Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?  Here am I Lord; send me"!

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