Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Forced Conversion

Forced Conversion

"And the lord said unto the servant,
Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in,
that my house may be filled."
Jesus, in Luke 14:23

When Christian missionaries came to America with the early Spanish explorers, they brought with them the mind set of religious totalitarianism. Their offer to American Indians could be summed up as this: "Convert to our religion, or die!" Many an Indian in the new world was burned at the stake because he or she refused to cease from their old ways and agree to be baptized into the Catholic faith.

The Christian faith is a faith of ceremony; it is a religion that is "in the flesh". Therefore, men can be forced to participate in it. But the way of Christ is "in the Spirit"; it is a way of the heart. There are no ceremonies in Christ. His way is that way of life. Therefore, no one can be forced to partake of it. Even in the Old Testament, God refused to accept any sacrifice that was not willingly offered. Much more is that the case in this New Covenant of Jesus Christ.

If your religion is a kind of religion that someone can be forced to participate in, then your religion is not God’s religion. Men can force other men to submit to a religious ceremony, such as Christian baptism, but no one can be forced to partake of Christ. Who can force Christ to baptize anyone, or teach anyone, or heal anyone, or hold communion with anyone? The Lord of heaven and earth does the will of the Father, not the will of men. He will baptize, but only if a soul truly repents. He will heal, but only is a soul truly has faith. He will teach, but only if a soul truly humbles itself at his feet. He will grant communion, but only in spirit; never in the flesh.

Because those who find the truth want so badly for others to find it, too, they are often accused of trying to force others to believe it. That is not the case. No one can be forced to believe or to participate in the true gospel. When Jesus told his disciples to "compel them to come in," he did not mean to threaten to burn people at the stake if they did not submit to you. He meant only for us to testify to what he has done for us and to be so full of love and joy and peace that those around us are provoked to come and know Christ for themselves.

Unbelieving Disciples

“But there are some of you who don’t believe.”
Jesus, in John 6:64
There is a type of believing that was impossible for those who were under the Old Testament law, including Jesus’ own disciples. When Jesus came and purchased God’s Spirit for us by his sacrificial death, he brought about a new kind of life, with a new kind of believing. Of course, Jesus’ disciples believed as much as humans could possibly believe without the Spirit, and they loved Jesus as much as humans could love him, but God’s love would fill their hearts when the Spirit came, and then they would be capable of a faith they previously knew nothing about.
But Jesus also had some disciples who did not believe at all. They followed him even to remote places, and they listened to him teach; still, they did not believe in him. Of course, if you had asked them if they believed, they would have said they certainly did, but it was not so. It seems impossible that such a thing could be, but it is actually very common, even today. There have always been people who are attracted by the happiness of faith that they see in others, even though they do not themselves have faith. They want the benefits of righteousness that they see in others, but they do not have a heart for it themselves. In John 6, we are given an example of such disciples of Jesus:
John 6
60. When many of his disciples heard this, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?”
61. But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Does this offend you?
62. Then what if you should see the Son of man ascending to where he was before?
63. It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is worthless. The words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
64. But there are some of you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe and who it was who would betray him.)
Because these men did not believe, but were following Jesus for their own misguided reasons, they could not endure the doctrine he taught. Jesus knew from the beginning that these men did not believe, but instead of telling them not to follow him, he simply did his work and let them figure it out for themselves. Eventually, on their own, they came to the conclusion that Jesus was not the man they expected him to be. They forsook him, and they no doubt considered themselves fortunate to have escaped from what they would have called the Jesus of Nazareth cult.
It is ironic that what those unbelieving disciples did is recorded in verse 6:66:
John 6:66: From that time, many of his disciples turned back to former things and no longer walked with him.