Bruce Collins, Evangelist

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Making Converts by Force

Meditation for the week of June 5, 2011

2 Chronicles 15:13  . . . whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

Asa was one of Judah’s good kings.  He tried to get rid of idolatry in the land.  He put loyalty to the Lord before his loyalty to his mother.  He made mistakes late in life, but the Lord said in 2 Chronicles 14:2,  “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.”

I think he did one thing that simply does not work, however.  He tried to make worshipers of the Lord by force.  Since he was king and since he wanted his nation to be worshipers of Jehovah, he gave his subjects no choice.  This might have made Judah a better society with less crime and God certainly gave him credit for wanting to do right, but it certainly didn’t change the hearts of those in the land.  Likely, many who were forced to worship “Asa’s way”, resented him for interfering in their private lives.  I suspect he may have actually made people hate the “gospel” of that day rather than really embracing it.  It is impossible to make true converts to the Lord by force.

There is a saying that goes like this “A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”  Asa could force his people to worship the Lord formally.  He could make sure that the worship of idols was penalized by death.  He could get the people to make an covenant with God that they would worship Him and only Him.  But while he had the power to do all of that, he did not have the power to change hearts and minds.  He could make the people of Judah conform their behavior to the worship of Jehovah.  However, he couldn’t actually make believers out of them.  Israel and Judah, the two divisions of Israel after Solomon’s death found it more to their liking to worship idols than to worship Jehovah.

Recently I was asked by a friend how a person comes to faith.  He wanted to know why it is that some believe in the God of the Bible and most do not?  People have given different answers to this perplexing problem down through the years.  While I believe that the death of Christ is sufficient for all to be saved, and while I believe that God wants all to be saved; it is clear that whenever we preach the Gospel, some believe and some do not.  No one has adequately explained to my satisfaction why that occurs. 

The Bible says that faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17).  It also says, that when the Lord was lifted up (on the cross), he would draw ALL men to himself (John 12:32).  That doesn’t mean that everyone who is drawn comes.  The Lord has sent the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and of righteous and of judgment (John 16:8).  I believe that conviction occurs at some point in every person’s life no matter where they are born.  However just because people are convicted that something Is wrong does not mean that they are willing to search for or believe the truth.  We may believe we have cancer but we may not believe in the doctor who says he has the cure.  Many of us are like that with the Lord who has the cure for sin.

I told my friend who asked the question about how people come to faith, that I can explain the Gospel to people, I can read the Bible to them, I can pray for them, but I can’t make them believe.  Asa couldn’t do that and neither can I.  The only person who can do that is the Lord who uses the Word of God and the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to bring people to faith in Christ. However, even the Lord will not force people to believe if they stubbornly resist Him.  The Lord knows that those who are loyal to Him are loyal from the heart.  They are loyal in good times and bad.  They are loyal like Job when it makes sense and when it doesn’t   Being a believer or a worshiper of the one true God is not an outward religion but an inward conviction that leads to a trusting relationship with the Lord.  Why some believe and some do not is certainly a mystery to me.  One thing I know, we can’t legislate true Christianity.  Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa, apparently approached the people differently.  He set an example himself and then sent Levites to teach the people the law.  I suspect he made true converts of many of the people of Judah.

We can and should preach the Gospel knowing that some will believe and some will not.  We can make people act like Christians, but they will still be lost if they haven’t been convicted and converted by the power of the Holy Spirit as He uses the Word of God.  Forcing people to act like Christians when they are not is not the solution for this world’s problems.  Preaching the Word and seeing people believe in their hearts is the solution (Romans 10:9).

Bruce Collins

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