Friday, May 6, 2016

Christian Conviction

            A while back I overheard a conversation that a small group of people were having about church.  Like most church conversations each person was saying what they liked about their church sprinkled in with their experiences from other churches.  Since I was occupied with my book at the time I really didn’t catch most of the conversation until one of the ladies made a statement that perplexed me to the point that I could no longer concentrate on my reading.  She said rather casually, “my husband was Catholic and I was Baptist so when we got married we started attending a Methodist church.”  While I was still staring at the pages in front of me, my mind was overwhelmed with the poignancy of the statement.
            Now there are a couple of ways that this statement could be interpreted.  The first is that both the woman and her husband had profound spiritual experiences in which the Spirit of God revealed to them the error of their ways and showed them the truth of a new doctrine.  She no longer believed Baptist distinctives like, autonomy of the local church, the inerrancy of Scripture and the eternal security of the saints.  He abandoned his belief in the divine inspiration of the apocryphal books, the veneration of Mary and the primacy of the pope.  I have to believe that it would take an incredibly profound, life changing moment to create such a radical redirection of the fundamental principles of their faith and lives.

            The other alternative is that their faith was really not that important in how they lived their lives, nor was it fundamental to their identities.  The truth is, for many people Christ is not foundation to their lives, He is a component of their lives.  Therefore what they believe about Him is not as critical, and the decision to join a fellowship is based more on style, friendliness and programs than doctrine, conviction and obedience.  Of course this is nothing new or even unusual today.  Over the years I have met more than a few people who have repeatedly switched between different religions with very little effort.  I know a woman who was once a Mormon, converted to Islam and today professes to be Catholic. 

            Modern Americans (even in the church) have embraced the belief that life directing, foundational truth does not exist.  The only truth seems to be that there is no real truth.  I believe that all of this is a result of decades of us trying to “sell church.”  How often have we tried to entice others to attend church by emphasizing what’s in it for them?  We talk about or close-knit fellowship and sense of community; we sing the praises of our wonderful music and present an impressive list of programs for the whole family.  Who wouldn’t want to join us?  This is not to say that these things are not dear to us, but they are characteristics of the church-not the foundation on which it is built.  What has gotten lost is the fact that the only way any church can have a close-knit fellowship is if they are united in Christ; what makes the music joyful is the forgiveness found in the cross and apart from the true identity of Jesus our programs are meaningless.

            What we truly seem to be missing today, particularly in the church, is the idea of conviction.  Not in the sense of a guilty verdict but in the sense of certainty of belief; conviction that serves as the foundation on which life decisions are made.  Just imagine what the church would look like if we began making decisions and acting as if we were certain of the truths taught in Scripture.  Imagine the strength and integrity that the church would display if we were unwilling to compromise on the eternal truths revealed in God’s Word.  Jesus called us to be lights in the world.  We know He is the source of the light, but it is our conviction, our devotion to that truth that determines how brightly His light shines through us.

In His Service,