The Baptist Testimony, Volume 57 Number 4 July/August 2011

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The Baptist Testimony
Volume 57 Number 4 July/August 2011
The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28

Ken Floyd
MARBC Executive Director

“Conviction”
Have you noticed that there doesn’t seem to be as much talk about spiritual convictions anymore?  By conviction, I am referring to a “strong belief in a Biblical truth or spiritual principle that convinces a person to pursue a change of thinking and/or conduct.”  It is the issue that Proverbs 23:7 is addresses by declaring, “For as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.”

The increasingly popular view of what church ministry should be like is reflected by the following list which was written by its authors to be humorous, not serious.  

Characteristics of the Lite Church
(Everything you always wanted in a church, and less!)

10.  Guaranteed 20-minute sermon or your next one’s free!
9.  24% fewer commitments.
8.  Home of the 7.5% tithe.
7.  Your choice of only 8 commandments.
6.  We use just 3 spiritual laws and have an 800 year Millennium.
5.  Only happy hymns and choruses.
4.  Fewer commitments.
3.  No messages on subjects that hit too close to home.
2.  Reclining pews with pillow pads and head rests.
1.  The offering is followed by a complimentary beverage and an after service mint
(Jim Berkley and Gerry Mooney, The Best Cartoons from Leadership Journal, Volume 2)

The church of the twenty-first century should be typified by serious minded, consecrated followers of Christ who are noted for their Biblical conviction, spiritual passion, and compelling compassion.  Certainly the next generation of Christians needs a church that embraces this with wholehearted conviction.  Today’s teenagers are exposed to the reality of terrorist attacks, school shootings, teen suicides, lethal drugs, alcohol abuse, pornography, and sexually transmitted diseases. It’s a different world than previous generations, and we must take specific steps to give them a Biblical value system that will stand strong in the midst of the ethical, moral, emotional, spiritual, and relational struggles they face each day. 

A person’s belief system determines a person’s behavior. In his book, Kingdom Education, Glen Schulz emphasizes the importance of a solid belief system: “At the foundation of a person’s life, we find his beliefs. These beliefs shape one’s values, and values drive actions.”   The great English preacher Charles H. Spurgeon claimed that 98 percent of the people he met, including the criminals he visited in England’s prisons, told him that they believed the Bible to be true but the vast majority had never made a personal, life-changing commitment to Jesus Christ. Spurgeon stated that for them “believe” was not an active verb. 

There are examples throughout Scripture of men and women who were willing to face death because of their convictions. One great example of this is the lives of the three men whose faith is recorded in Daniel 1-3.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego determined to only worship the one true God and refused to worship the golden image. As a result, their punishment was that they would be thrown into a furnace that would be heated seven times hotter than normal. 

What was their response?  These Hebrew slaves living as a very small spiritual minority in the pagan land of Babylon declared that, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). After the sentence was executed and they were cast into the furnace, a miraculous event occurred.  The fire didn’t affect their bodies, not a hair on their heads was singed, and they didn’t even smell like smoke!

Similarly, Daniel, who was the companion of these three godly young men, had the strong conviction to communicate with God several times a day.  His commitment was so strong that he continued his practice of prayer in spite of an edict declared throughout the kingdom to only worship King Darius. As a result of his refusal to compromise, Daniel was thrown into a den full of lions.  However, he emerged the next morning without a scratch on him. The Bible shares that the reason for this outcome was that Daniel had “believed in his God” (Daniel 6:23). 

This dynamic characteristic of Biblical conviction continues in the life of the early church.  Acts 4 shares details about the persecution that the young church faced.  When two apostles, Peter and John, were arrested, interrogated, and subsequently released, they left their interrogators dumbfounded.  How could these two men who appeared to have little formal training or cultural savvy handle such an intense situation with tremendous poise and eloquence?  Acts 4:13 reveals the answer – “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled.  And they realized that they had been with Jesus.”  

Later in the same story recorded in Acts 4 these two apostles, along with the Jerusalem church, prayed with fervent conviction their desires to God – “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word.” (Acts 4:29)
How did God respond to their prayerful conviction? Acts 4:31 records, “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”  Acts 4:33 further illustrates, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And great grace was upon them all.”  God honors those who seek to honor Him through their heartfelt, Biblical conviction!  This is but one of many Biblical illustrations of this fact.

The great Christian scholar G. Campbell Morgan shares in his book on preaching the story of the great English actor Macready.  An eminent preacher once said to him: “I wish you would explain to me something.” “Well, what is it? I don’t know that I can explain anything to a preacher.”  “What is the reason for the difference between you and me?  You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go.  I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all.” Macready’s answer was this: “This is quite simple.  I can tell you the difference between us.  I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.” 

When Christians are spiritually convicted it will be evidenced by belief that becomes behavior, doctrine that determines duty, faith which is followed by function, and truth that is translated into a godly testimony.  Indeed, the proof of godly conviction will not be demonstrated solely through what comes out from our lips, but what strides forth from our lives.

As the Apostle James wrote in his challenge to the early first century church – “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works … Know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:18, 20)  

You have His Word on it! (KEF)

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