True Converts and the Joy of Salvation

Joshua West

When witnessing to people you have to dig deeper than merely asking, “Are you a Christian?” The term Christian means different things to different people. Many people will answer yes to this question without thinking twice. 

In Scripture we find two contrasting examples of different reactions to the opportunity for salvation. The first is the parable of the rich young ruler found in Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-27 and Luke 18:18-27. The second is the parable of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price, both found in Matthew 13:44-46. 

The story of the rich young ruler is about a young man of great wealth who meets Jesus. In that brief encounter he asks him the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Scripture says that Jesus looked at him and loved him, and then proceeded to tell the young man what stood between him and eternal life. Jesus said, “Go and sell all you have and give to the poor and then you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me.” 

What is odd is that the young man never asked about following Jesus, he merely asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus made it clear that it would cost him everything and that he would then have to follow him. 

Jesus didn’t tell him to pray a prayer while no one is looking around, all heads bowed, and all eyes closed. He gave the man a loving, but firm, ultimatum. But because the man was wealthy and unwilling to give up his wealth, he went away sad. 

In our age this man wouldn’t have gone away sad. We would have sworn him in as a deacon and put him on the financial committee! Jesus’ reaction to the man didn’t seem very seeker-friendly, but maybe we know better than he does about building the church. What is obvious is that this man saw more value in his life, and what he had in this life, than he did in the person of Christ. 

In Matthew 13:44-46 we see what a true convert’s reaction to the gospel and the call of Jesus to follow him looks like. Jesus gives two parables where the subject of these stories has a much different reaction than the rich young ruler. 

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." 
Matthew 13:44-46 (NIV) 

It says in the parable of the treasure in the field that when the man found the treasure that in his joy he sold everything so that he could buy the field. Here lies the difference between the rich young ruler and the man who sold everything to buy the field. 

People who see Christ as a treasure will gladly give anything and gladly give up everything to obtain him. This a far cry from how salvation is preached today, but we should be careful when weighing out these concepts, because eternity hangs in the balance. 

The New American Mission Field 
What is one of the neediest places in America for the gospel to be preached? One place where the true gospel is in short supply but desperately needs to once again be preached is in many of our Evangelical churches—the American mega-churches, and the seeker-friendly churches. 

Those who are false converts fill the seats of these entertainment-driven, self-centered churches. They are comfortable and catered to. Most of those pastors are terrified that if they preach a hardline message against sin, or a message on holiness, or a message that focuses on the self-denial of the cross, people will leave the church. 

There is no room to be a coward when you are a pastor. Being a pastor is about preaching the truth no matter what—being willing to help someone to see and know truth no matter what the personal cost might be. It’s not about building a brand or an image, or even filling the seats. It’s about being like the apostle Paul, who was so persuaded by the truth and so consumed by the gospel that nothing would stop him—not suffering, not persecution, not even death. 

False converts are lost. But they are more self-deceived than most lost people and we must reach them with the truth of the gospel. If this wasn’t the case, then why did Jesus warn us so often about this issue? Why are so many parables and teachings of Jesus aimed at this particular group? 

Therefore, we must preach the true gospel. Not a gospel of accommodation, not a seeker-friendly, or sin-accepting gospel, but the true gospel unedited and uncut. 

It seems that many within in the American church would rather keep the sanctuary full of people than preach like Peter did, like Paul did, and like Jesus did, rather than preaching a message of repentance that says a tree that doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 

This isn’t a hostile message; it’s a message of love and a message of truth. It’s a message of warning and a message that says, “I care more about your eternal soul than I do about anything else.” The American church desperately needs a revival of the gospel because the hour is late. 

In Christ,

Pastor Joshua 

Joshua West is a pastor, evangelist, and author. He is also director of the World Challenge Pastors Network.