Personal conversions vary according to experiential emphasis and depth, emotional accompaniment, outward impressiveness, and surrounding circumstances. But God is a God of order as well as a God of variety. All converted persons experience something of the required scriptural marks - heartfelt misery, deliverance, and thankfulness; and the fruits of conversion - love to God and others.
We may not take away from, nor add to, God's Word. We may never underemphasize the variety of God's converting work. When this takes place, man adds to God's Word. He then establishes additional man-made marks and characteristics of conversion to God's marks. The result is that struggling souls are perplexed and hindered by the multiplication of man-made marks that are taught as being necessary. A person can also attempt to force all conversion experiences into a similar mold, one which resembles his own conversion experiences.
The opposite danger is that a person underemphasizes the necessary scriptural marks and fruits of conversion. When this happens, man takes away from God's Word. The result is that people are misled to believe that they are converted to God without experiencing the scriptural marks, or evidencing the fruits, of true conversion. They trust in non-scriptural evidences such as a statement which impressed them, a song which touched them, or a feeling that moved them, which did not produce the required scriptural marks and fruits in their lives.
God despises both of these underemphasizing practices and so must we. Both replace God's Word with man's ideas. May God's Word be our infallible guide, solely and completely! The marks and fruits of true conversion are not a one-time occurrence; the continual experiencing of repentance, faith, and obedience are necessary. This is explained in Chapter 17, when studying sanctification.
Have you been converted by God's grace? Between God and your own soul, can you find the necessary scriptural marks and fruits in your life? The importance of this question cannot be overemphasized!
Our church forefathers, the Reformers, frequently used the following Latin expression: "Sola Scriptura," which means, "Solely Scripture."
How does this truth apply to the teaching of the necessary marks and fruits of conversion?
The Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day XXXIII, Q. and A. 88-91
Q. 88. Of how many parts doth the true conversion of man consist?
A. Of two parts; of the mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man.
Q. 89. What is the mortification of the old man?
A. It is a sincere sorrow of heart, that we have provoked God by our sins; and more and more to hate and flee from them.
Q. 90. What is the quickening of the new man?
A. It is a sincere joy of heart in God through Christ and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.
Q. 91. But what are good works?
A. Only those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God. and to His glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men.