by Johnny Hunt

This content is part of a series.

What Is A Disciple? (2 of 2)
Series: What Is A Disciple?
Johnny Hunt
1 John 5:13

INTRODUCTION: Throughout the life of the church, leaders have concerned themselves with the matter of evidence of true conversion. Many people want the blessings of salvation, especially eternal security, but no more.

Even in 1700's during the explosive growth of the Great Awakening, it didn't take long to realize that some people claimed conversions that were not real. Scores of people didn't demonstrate any evidence in their lives to verify their claims to know and love Jesus Christ, which led critics to attack the Great Awakening, contending it was nothing but a big emotional bath without any true conversion.

In defense of true conversion, and partly to expose false conversion, Jonathan Edwards wrote, A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections. In his writing, he gave what he considered the supreme proof of a true conversion, which are a zeal for holy things, a longing after God, and personal holiness. He made a careful distinction between saving versus common operations of the Holy Spirit. Saving operations obviously produce salvation. "Common operations of the Holy Spirit," he said, "may sober, arrest, and convict men, and may even bring them to what at first appears to be repentance and faith, yet these influences fall short of inward saving renewal."

How can you tell whether the Holy Spirit has performed a saving operation? True conversion always produces an abiding change of nature in a true convert. Therefore, whenever holiness of life does not accompany a confession of conversion, it must be understood that this individual is not a Christian.

When Edwards wrote this treatise, popular teaching asserted that, on the contrary, the only real evidence of true salvation is a feeling based on an experience, usually the experience at the moment of the alleged conversion. This teaches that a person's true spiritual state is known by a past experience ...

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