I remember a college professor making a statement in class one day that perhaps half of those who attend Christian churches are not truly converted Christians. That statement startled me then. However, the longer I am in pastoral ministry, the more I see his point. While the percentage may be debatable, the point is that there are no doubt many within evangelical churches (i.e. churches who claim to preach the gospel) who may be committed to the church and its causes, but who are not truly converted to Christ.
Let me give you at least two Bible illustrations of this point. The first one is from Matthew 7. There, Jesus points out that many will say to him in the day of judgment, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” These people sound committed to the very cause of Christ, but something is deficient in them. Jesus, knowing their hearts with perfect clarity, will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Mt 7:22-23). There were various causes in which Jesus and his own disciples were involved on a regular basis, including exorcism, and doing good. Others were involved in some of those same practices, and yet were not truly the Lord’s disciples. They were not converted, though they had performed many good deeds in the name of Jesus. Yet because of their unconverted heart, they were condemned to hell.
A second illustration of this is one of those men chosen by Jesus himself to be part of the twelve. Judas Iscariot was fully committed in his ministry as an apostle. He was one of the twelve who was involved with feeding the 5000, with performing miraculous things, and everything else the other eleven did. When Jesus made the statement that one of his own would betray Him into the hands of men, the disciples were bewildered as to who among them would do such a thing. In other words, there was no speculation whatsoever that it would indeed be Judas. Judas was committed to the cause of Jesus as he proclaimed Jesus to others, as he performed miracles, and as he did good deeds. Yet there was something wrong in the heart of Judas. Judas did not refute Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. However, when the time came, and the provocation was given, Judas showed the true quality of his heart and betrayed the Lord into the hands of those who would murder him. Jesus called Judas “the son of perdition.” While Judas may have been committed on an earthly level to the cause of Jesus, he was not truly converted to Christ in his heart. Judas hanged himself, died, and is unfortunately in hell today.
There are many well-meaning people in our churches today who are committed to various causes of Christianity. Those causes could include feeding the hungry, building homes for the impoverished, helping the fatherless, a church building program, para-church organizations, or a host of other causes that are good and noble in and of themselves. However, that person’s heart, though committed to the causes, may not be converted to Christ. There is a difference. Christianity is not a religion centered around the notion of being committed to various social causes or church programs. Christianity is a call to die to self, to humbly and willingly admit that we are sinful rebels against a holy and righteous God, and therefore we need to be reconciled to Him only through Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross of Calvary. Jesus died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.
Those who are committed but not converted are difficult to identify because of how well they blend in to those within the true church of Jesus Christ, which is why it is good for God’s people to pray for truth to be made known in a clear way. Those who are genuinely converted by the Spirit of God will produce true fruits of repentance, while those who are not will fail to produce fruit that is pleasing to God. As Jesus also said in Matthew 7, “thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (v20). Heaven is full of converted people; hell contains many who were committed, but not truly converted to the cause of Christ. May those who are merely committed be truly converted to Christ for the good of His church and for the glory of God.