11 Half-Converted

By John Thiel, Lessons from the Life of Nebuchadnezzar Conference, Audio: mp3

We have come to the point in our contemplation of Nebuchadnezzar where we see him brought a second time to a deep heart-conviction that the God of heaven is to be honoured. How did he come to this second one? Having had the original dream.

Having been privileged that God would show to this heathen king this vision of the image that gave the history of the world after him right through to the very end.

Having seen how God had actually intervened for him to be able to remember the dream plus understand its interpretation when his own wise men had failed him.

Having come to that wonderful conviction and broken down before the throne of God upon his face, time went by and he lost that.

He went so far that he fell severely back into idolatry. He even came to the point that when his trusted men that he had really come to trust as being good helpers in his dominion, these three young men would not worship his image, he turned on them. He had deteriorated so far again that he built this image for everybody to worship completely contrary to what he had seen before in his conviction of God being the only one worthy of worship.

He became infuriated against these young men and even returned to his clairvoyant magicians who encouraged him to build this image. Then God so majestically and miraculously woke him up out of his dead state. God saw something in him that would respond to His powerful intervention through these three young men. He really bedded himself in, yet God could change the tenor of his thoughts.

This happened in a very powerful way. At first he was totally given up to the image, and to his own glory; but then, when that scene happened of these young men not burning in the fiery furnace and of the Son of God being present there, whom he recognised, his image, and all his previous thoughts were just completely changed.

What was it that God recognised in him, which God could tap into and by which He could keep on bringing about this progress of conversion? There was in the heart of Nebuchadnezzar an innate sense of justice and right (Prophets and Kings, p.514.2). It was this that God kept on appealing to. By degrees God achieved a conversion to the point in time after the scene of the fiery furnace. But that conversion that he had now come to was still a short-fall of the kind of conversion that needed to be gained.

We do not realize how untiring are Satan’s efforts to sap our spirituality. {GCB, June 6, 1913 par. 9}

We do not realise. Satan is on our track. We don’t realise how untiring he is in sapping our spirituality. As you go back to where you last received a tremendous, overwhelming sense of conviction, is it true that you can detect a little sapping of your spirituality from that time? Have you seen that sometimes? Satan is doing that.

He is working mightily that the people of God may be only half converted. {GCB, June 6, 1913 par. 9}

He doesn’t mind us being converted to start with and he gives us plenty of evidence, “You are alright now. Look you can talk about your past conversion and feel very smug that you are converted.” Satan is happy with that. He is happy that God’s people may be only half-converted. What happens if we are only half-converted?

Then self will swell to large proportions, and there will be no revelation to the world of the transforming power of God. {GCB, June 6, 1913 par. 9}

A person has been transformed to a particular point, and the world looks on and says, Hmm, yes. But then self comes through in large proportions, and they say, Well, they are just like us after all.

If this power does not rest upon God’s people and move them to sanctified action, they cannot do the work in the earth that has been shown us must be done. Without this power, they will not realize their responsibility as his representatives in a world of unbelief. {GCB, June 6, 1913 par. 9}

We go into this lukewarm state, because we are only half-converted.

We will gain the important realisation that Nebuchadnezzar was powerfully affected by God the second time, but that he was still only half-converted and how this is to be understood for our own benefit.

If we are half-converted, self will swell to large proportions. That statement as we will now discover, happened and was demonstrated in Nebuchadnezzar’s experience. Self swells to large proportions when you are only half-converted like he was. When he was so struck by these young men not being burned in the fire which he thought should surely consume them. When he was so affected by the fact that he could see the Son of God in the furnace, after he had humbly called them out and acknowledged his amazing shortfall; he revealed that he was only half-converted by what he said afterwards.

Daniel 3:29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

Did you ever stop to think that this was wrong for him to do? I have read that in the past, and I have thought, “Good on you; that’s good, you tell them.” I was wrongly impressed when I read this in my earlier years of Christianity, and it slowly dawned on me, wait a minute, was this right?

It was right for the king to make public confession, and to seek to exalt the God of heaven above all other gods; but in endeavoring to force his subjects to make a similar confession of faith and to show similar reverence, Nebuchadnezzar was exceeding his right as a temporal sovereign. He had no more right, either civil or moral, to threaten men with death for not worshiping God, than he had to make the decree consigning to the flames all who refused to worship the golden image. {PK 510.4}

It is exactly the same principle. At first he threatened them with death to worship the golden image, now he threatens them with death if they don’t worship God. It came from a heart that was not yet fully converted. This kind of missionary work of enforcing our belief on others by all kinds of ways and means is exactly the same principle as what he was doing here.

God never compels the obedience of man. He leaves all free to choose whom they will serve. {PK 510.4}

This is very difficult for the natural heart to understand and accept. The natural heart will always interpret that, “Wow, what I have found I have got to push it down the throat of others;” and we don’t stop to consider how to communicate the things that we have found so powerful, in such a way that it will be attractive to the others. We need to understand this, and we can’t understand it if we are only half-converted. We will always think, “Come on, these people ought to know by now;” and we put that sort of coercion behind our missionary outreach.

Nebuchadnezzar was still affected by a selfish heart, a self-motivated witnessing to others, but he was strongly impressed by the Lord; there was no question about it. Sister White is here talking about the period after Jesus left, when the Papacy came into existence:

The archdeceiver had not completed his work. He was resolved to gather the Christian world under his banner, and to exercise his power through his vicegerent, the proud pontiff who claimed to be the representative of Christ. {SR 329.2}

Here is a description in parallel to what Nebuchadnezzar was suffering.

Through half-converted pagans, ambitious prelates, and world-loving churchmen he accomplished his purpose. {SR 329.2}

Was Nebuchadnezzar a half-converted pagan at this stage? Absolutely. This was exactly the same picture here.

Vast councils were held, from time to time, in which the dignitaries of the church were convened from all the world. In nearly every council the Sabbath which God had instituted was pressed down a little lower, while the Sunday was correspondingly exalted. Thus the pagan festival came finally to be honored as a divine institution, while the Bible Sabbath was pronounced a relic of Judaism, and its observers were declared to be accursed. {SR 329.2}

Was this not what happened to Nebuchadnezzar? He was convicted in his first vision; then he turned the vision through his semi-conversion into something similar to Sunday in the place of God’s Sabbath. Then he came to this other conversion, and he used the same half-converted spirit of the papacy to condemn and threaten with death anybody that would not worship God. Nebuchadnezzar fell into this very trap.

It was not surprising that the successful, proud-spirited monarch should be tempted to turn aside from the path of humility, which alone leads to true greatness. Between his wars of conquest he gave much thought to the beautifying of his capital, until the city of Babylon became “the golden city,” “the praise of the whole earth.” Isaiah 14:4; Jeremiah 51:41. His success in making Babylon one of the wonders of the world ministered to his pride, until he was in grave danger of spoiling his record as a ruler whom God could use. {SS 267.3}

He was in grave danger because he was so proud of what he had done. The hanging gardens of Babylon are known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. That is what we learnt at school in history. This was a recorded glory that he had been establishing. This proud-spirited monarch was tempted to turn aside from the path of humility which he had endorsed twice now. We are to learn this lesson, how success and the skills that we may have, and that we do so well with, can actually be a trapping for us; and in our half-converted state self will rise to large proportions.

In the word of God only is this clearly set forth. Here it is shown that the strength of nations, as of individuals, is not found in the opportunities or facilities that appear to make them invincible; it is not found in their boasted greatness. It is measured by the fidelity with which they fulfill God’s purpose. {Ed 175.2}

Nebuchadnezzar became great, and his strength was not in his boasted greatness. “It is measured by the fidelity with which they fulfill God’s purpose.

An illustration of this truth is found in the history of ancient Babylon. To Nebuchadnezzar the king the true object of national government was represented under the figure of a great tree, whose height “reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: the leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all;” under its shadow the beasts of the field dwelt, and among its branches the birds of the air had their habitation. Daniel 4:11, 12. This representation shows the character of a government that fulfills God’s purpose–a government that protects and upbuilds the nation. {Ed 175.3}

People could find repose in this big tree. This was given to Nebuchadnezzar for him to understand, You are the government over such a nation, that is to be a protection to all its inhabitants.

God exalted Babylon {Ed 175.4}

What? Who did? God exalted Babylon,

…that it might fulfill this purpose. Prosperity attended the nation until it reached a height of wealth and power that has never since been equaled–fitly represented in the Scriptures by the inspired symbol, a “head of gold.” Daniel 2:38.  {Ed 175.4}

But the king failed of recognizing the power that had exalted him. Nebuchadnezzar in the pride of his heart said: “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” Daniel 4:30. {Ed 175.5}

Instead of being a protector of men, Babylon became a proud and cruel oppressor. The words of Inspiration picturing the cruelty and greed of rulers in Israel reveal the secret of Babylon’s fall and of the fall of many another kingdom since the world began: “Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.” Ezekiel 34:3, 4. {Ed 176.1}

This is how in his semi-conversion, Nebuchadnezzar deteriorated for a long time. Even after the fiery furnace it continued; he went back to that. It was a quite few years from the fiery furnace to the time when he saw in vision that tree. He had actually returned to the cruelty and oppressiveness of his nation. However, we notice that God’s work of conversion that He had been doing and that He was wanting to complete in Nebuchadnezzar, was, and can be, altered. If I and you are converted to some degree, but the conversion must continue, you personally can halt this conversion. We can stop it. This is the seriousness of this subject. Remember the Galatians? They were Christians who were converted from the pagan world. Here Apostle Paul is saying something very interesting to these Galatians:

Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

He is rebuking the Galatians because, in their partial, Christian conversion, they halted the process and began to be legalistic, and to engage themselves into a faulty gospel concept.

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Nebuchadnezzar had Christ in front of him; the Galatians had Christ in front of them.

Galatians 3:2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if [it be] yet in vain.

What has happened to you? You have reverted to the flesh instead of the Spirit that had changed you. We must examine ourselves very closely. Yes, we can talk of a past experience of conversion, but how is it now? Apostle Paul was actually identifying in the hearts and lives of these half-converted Christians that they were reverting to the flesh and seeking salvation through the works of the law, not motivated by the beauty of how God comes to us through Jesus Christ. This is what we can do. He says, I marvel. As the Apostle Paul marvel, we can together marvel as we behold Nebuchadnezzar.

The glorious impact of the first dream, then his backsliding, and next the experience of the fiery furnace, and his humiliation, and as we marvel at him and maybe at others of whom we think, “Come on, you shouldn’t be like that; why are you legalistic? why this, and why that?” as we behold Nebuchadnezzar, let us examine ourselves. There is a statement in the Bible that actually says we are to do just that. It is so easy to drop into a fleshly Christianity because we are half-converted. Self takes great proportions. That is why churches become proud that they are God’s church. It is self; and I can talk so confidently that this is God’s church, and I can lose my way, because I am beginning to become proud, “Look how God has blessed me.” Laodicean, rich and increased with goods. The Bible says, Take a good look at yourself, that you don’t slip into this because of a halfway-conversion.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

A reprobate is somebody who turns back. The profound impact of God upon the life of Nebuchadnezzar is something on which we can reflect back in our own life. Maybe we haven’t even been so profoundly impacted like he was, but we did find wonderful discoveries in God’s word, and we were impacted, and it caused a conversion.

The Spirit of Prophecy addresses the importance of what we should be looking for and examining in our own hearts:

Many of you have made great mistakes the last year; will you repeat these mistakes during the year upon which you have just entered? Human judgment is finite; {RH, January 20, 1885 par. 10}

We mustn’t sit on that judgment seat. Human judgment is finite;

…and men in their blind self-will often trust to their own opinion, and take a course that cuts directly across the path of God’s providence, and defeats his ends. You need to examine yourself carefully to see what is the tendency of your course. The Spirit of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and it will reveal to you your standing and the nature of your work. {RH, January 20, 1885 par. 10}

We are to examine ourselves and recognise that self and self-will engenders my own opinion in discussion times, in talking times, when we get into debates, or when we get into drawing conclusions and we fall into the trap of my opinion.

“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” {ST, October 22, 1885 par. 6}

Do we often have difficulties between each other in the home, like we have had even in the church? What are we told to do? As God has forgiven us, and is bearing us, as He bore Nebuchadnezzar, this is for us to do.

What solemn and important words are these! {ST, October 22, 1885 par. 6}

When Sister White writes that, it pulls me up. I was just reading casually, Yes, we should do that; but what is written here? “What solemn and important words are these!

And what weight do they have with us? {ST, October 22, 1885 par. 6}

“Yes, we should be meek and longsuffering and forebearing.” Are we lukewarm in our reading? or do we really carry the depth of what it is saying here, so that we can examine ourselves? What am I like? How impatient am I? How much do I wipe over the top of somebody who doesn’t agree with me? I can’t tolerate this person, and I don’t become longsuffering. If I am annoyed with somebody, I cut them short. We must examine ourselves. Is self operating here? Is the natural flesh operating? Let us examine ourselves.

If any have been in the habit of giving [these words] away to someone else, I hope they will now take them home to their own hearts. {ST, October 22, 1885 par. 6}

We know that we want other people to be kind to us. We know that we want other people to be patient with me. “Please, don’t judge me. Please, don’t be hard on me.” Well, take those words to yourself. Don’t give them to others.

Closely examine yourself, Christian reader, not once a week, but daily, and see if you are cultivating a spirit which is meek, {ST, October 22, 1885 par. 6}

Cultivating means going out and digging up the soil. Are we cultivating that spirit of meekness?

…see if you are cultivating a spirit which is meek, forbearing, long-suffering, humble, and teachable, and are thus bearing in your life the precious fruits of the Spirit, which grow on no other than the Christian tree. {ST, October 22, 1885 par. 6}

There is the tree that Nebuchadnezzar was supposed to be. After seven years of madness, which we will study into detail, he finally did become such a tree, with the fruits. But not at this stage.

We are not to pass on indifferently. We must inquire into the character of our thoughts and feelings, our tempers, purposes, words, and deeds. We are not safe unless we are constantly and successfully warring against our own sinful corruptions. {TDG 83.4}

We are not safe. We are to examine ourselves. What are we to examine? “We must inquire into the character of our thoughts.” What are you doing with your thoughts? Are you letting them run away in your considerations of others instead of the word of God? How you think about people, how you feel, our tempers, our purposes, ours words and deeds, we are to inquire into the character of these; and we are not safe unless we constantly war against those sinful corruptions.

We must consider whether we are an example of Christian holiness, whether we are in the faith. {TDG 83.4}

Am I showing to the people around me Christian holiness?

Unless we search diligently examining our hearts in the light of God’s Word, self-love will prompt to a much better opinion of ourselves than we should have. We must not be so earnest in our efforts to set others right that we shall neglect our own souls. {TDG 83.4}

It’s easy, isn’t it? I can see the faults of the other one, and we think we have to go to that person and correct his faults. No. I must correct mine.

We need not be so zealous for our brethren and in this zeal neglect the work that needs to be done for ourselves. Another’s wrong will not make our cases any nearer right. There is an individual work to be done for ourselves, which we should in no wise neglect. . . . {TDG 83.4}

Here is what Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t doing, so God had to step in and continue to bring him to the point. As we are studying him, we are called upon to watch what is happening there and examine ourselves. With what sort of a spirit is my half-converted condition in danger of ruling my life?

Our own conversion is a daily matter and a lifelong process, as we are beholding it in Nebuchadnezzar. A lifelong process. When is my conversion complete?

None are living Christians unless they have a daily experience in the things of God and daily practice self-denial, cheerfully bearing the cross and following Christ. Every living Christian will advance daily in the divine life. As he advances toward perfection, he experiences a conversion to God every day; and this conversion is not completed until he attains to perfection of Christian character, a full preparation for the finishing touch of immortality. {2T 505.1}

We want to be among the 144,000. Sister White says we must strive with all our hearts to be among them. We are to learn from Nebuchadnezzar not just to have some powerful impact sometime in the past, and then drift, and then another powerful impact because the Lord doesn’t want to lose me, and then drift; but we are told, through the lessons of Nebuchadnezzar, to take the lessons home that I must not drift.

I must be, especially in these last days, daily discovering another momentous revelation of God toward me, and the next day, and the next day, so that I am continually rejuvenating with the energy of praising God for that which He has shown me has happened to Nebuchadnezzar. It is a lifelong conversion, until we have reached perfection of character, for the finishing touch of immortality. This is the overall lesson of this conference. This is what we are trying to understand. Follow diligently the process in Nebuchadnezzar’s life as we behold in the last four discourses that we will be having, the work of God upon him.

We have seen how far the Lord has shown us. But now, we are heading into the last four studies in which we will see what we must learn to reach that finishing touch of immortality.

Nebuchadnezzar’s noble conception of God’s purpose concerning the nations was lost sight of later, yet when his proud spirit was humbled before the multitude on the plain of Dura, he once more acknowledged that God’s kingdom is “an everlasting kingdom.” Daniel 7:27. He had an innate sense of justice and right, and God was able to use him as an instrument for the punishment of the rebellious and for the fulfillment of the divine purpose. As he added nation after nation to the Babylonian realm, he added more and more to his fame as the greatest ruler of the age. {SS 267.2}

It was not surprising that the successful, proud-spirited monarch should be tempted to turn aside from the path of humility, which alone leads to true greatness. Between his wars of conquest he gave much thought to the beautifying of his capital, until the city of Babylon became “the golden city,” “the praise of the whole earth.” Isaiah 14:4; Jeremiah 51:41. His success in making Babylon one of the wonders of the world ministered to his pride, until he was in grave danger of spoiling his record as a ruler whom God could use. {SS 267.3}

Because he was in danger of losing all together,

In mercy God gave the king another dream to warn him of his peril. In vision Nebuchadnezzar saw a great tree, its top towering to the heavens and its branches stretching to the ends of the earth. Flocks and herds enjoyed shelter beneath its shadow, and birds built their nests in its bought. “And all flesh was fed of it.” {SS 267.4}

In mercy God gave the king another dream. It was this dream that triggered off his final conversion discoveries. Our next message is in reference to that dream, and we will then see the aftermath of it. It has to do with the lessons of your and my conversion, for us to be among the 144,000.

Living in the time in which we are living now, unless we learn this lesson from the beauty of God’s word, and examine ourselves from the word, we will fall into the same danger; and I have seen people in total distraction because their mind was being bombarded from the power of the message of God, and from their own self-will, and it drove their brain into destruction. It nearly sent them mad. I used to think, Yes, that is what happened to Nebuchadnezzar. We can learn a precious lesson from his madness, in the way he became mad, and in the way God stepped in to pull him out of that. We don’t have to go mad. We have this beautiful answer here to keep us sane. I love those words in the Scriptures: The peace of God shall keep your minds (cf. Phi. 4:7). We want to keep our minds.

May God help us to glean the full benefit of this conversion story in the example of Nebuchadnezzar.

Amen.

Posted on March 2, 2015, in Nebuchadnezzar Life Lessons and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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