Staying True to Your Convictions

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Intro

Have you heard the story of Brother Andrew? Not me. The missionary of the past few decades. Brother Andrew was a pretty fascinating guy. But he was pretty simple. Brother Andrew’s mission and ministry was simple: to distribute Bibles and share the Gospel. If I tell you just that, you think, “Oh, how simple. How quaint. What, did he start the Gideons?” Not quite. Not to demean what the Gideons do, by the way…
But when I tell you WHERE Brother Andrew did ministry, it may change the way you think about him. You see, Brother Andrew worked amongst the people behind the Iron Curtain. Communist Soviet Russia did not allow Bibles, tracts, or the evangelical church to exist, as best they could. Brother Andrew was Dutch, and had the miraculous ability to cross over into the Soviet bloc with smuggled bibles and tracts and literature to strengthen the church there that had to meet underground, and was kept isolated from the rest of the world.
If Brother Andrew was caught, there’s no doubt he could have been sent to some Siberian prison to rot for the rest of his days.
But he was never caught. Speaking of his own ministry, here’s what he had to say:
“The real calling,” he has said, “is not a certain place or career but to everyday obedience. And that call is extended to every Christian, not just a select few.”
“The Bible is full of ordinary people who went to impossible places and did wondrous things simply because they decided to follow Jesus.”
I would add one more factor into the equation of Brother Andrew’s ministry: Boldness. And specifically, bold convictions. Brother Andrew was convicted that the people behind the Iron Curtain needed Jesus, the True Jesus. See, the Russian Orthodox church was allowed to meet and served as the State Church. BUT, this state church did not and still does not, to this day, preach the true Gospel. In Orthodoxy, works, church membership, and sacraments are the key to Heaven… Not Christ’s completed work. Brother Andrew was convicted that these false converts of the Russian Orthodox church were going to hell with a false assurance in Christ. Further, he was convicted that if no one took them bibles and tracts, they would suffer the fate of Romans 10:14-17
Romans 10:14–17 ESV
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
So out of conviction, Brother Andrew displayed an ordinary, everyday boldness that led him to great places to do great things. He was 27 when he said, “yes” to the Lord. And God tends to do great things with people who are not saddled down by a family, debt, a job… the people who are just crazy and convicted enough to say, “here am I, Lord, send me.”
So let’s talk about conviction and boldness. There’s a lot in this subject!
But I want to begin with an exercise.
I want two sides of the room:
Conviction is more about saying “no.”
Conviction is more about saying “yes.”
Yeses over here… Nos over here…
Now, take a few moments, and come up with 5 reasons why your side is right. Appoint the person in your group with the strongest convictions to present.
Allow five minutes. Upbeat music.
Obviously, you know both sides are correct in their own way.
GIVE EXAMPLES OF BOTH
Our culture presents conviction as something to be avoided, because it makes you close-minded about somethings. But you know, there are some things worth being close-minded about!
No one would say being close-minded about a horrendous crime is a bad thing. Is it right or wrong to murder? It’s wrong! Anyone who would try to convince you that murder is okay is obviously a sociopath, right?
In a society that prizes open-mindedness, we have to take care to cultivate the right convictions so as to be able to be a people of love and truth, holding fast to our convictions in a way that allows us to lovingly, yet firmly disagree with the pressures of the culture.
I believe this to be an important subject to tackle because the mood of our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to Christian thought and ethics. If we are to not only reach the world, we must stand firm in our Christian convictions. We must also stand firm in the faith until the very end. Remember the words of Jesus:
Matthew 24:9–13 ESV
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Lawlessness leads to love growing cold. What do you think that means?
Man, why do I care about the conviction of Christians? Because Jesus said this right here, and He wasn’t joking. He wasn’t being flippant. He meant it.
And here’s the stats on where Christians 18-34 are at with their beliefs today… study
Almost three out of four (73 percent) agree with the claim that Jesus is the “first and greatest being created by God.”
64 percent believe that God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
More than half (66 percent) agree that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church.
More than half (55 percent) believe the Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.
More than half (59 percent) agree that “everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature.”
More than half (53 percent) disagree with the claim that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.
57 percent disagree that every Christian has an obligation to join a local church.
50 percent say that Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.
49 percent say Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.
39 percent say that gender is a matter of choice
36 percent say the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior no longer applies today.
BUT
84% agree that the Bible has the authority to tell us what we must do!!!
That’s something we can work with.
So let’s start there. Let’s start with the conviction that the Bible holds the authority in our lives.
If we can stand by that conviction right there… that the Bible holds authority because it is itself written by God, and therefore is the Word of God.
In other words, conviction starts with God’s Character. And we find God’s Character in God’s Word. And we trust that God’s Word is always true to God’s Character. So if we find something in the Scriptures that gives us pause we say, “now, wait a minute. Either something’s wrong with God’s Word or something’s wrong with me.”
Conviction tells us, “of course it’s something wrong with me.” Like, where does our conviction stand, right? In our own ability to tell right and wrong? That’s called self-righteousness, and it’s tempting, but for the Christian, we ought to have no air of self-righteousness. The scriptures say let God be true and every man a liar.
The world will go on about the self-righteousness of Christians, but we have to understand a few things.
One, we don’t answer to the world.
Two, the world lies about us and our intentions, and God Himself.
So the moment we start answering to the world for our convictions, our truth, our way of life, the way we define love… we begin to give all of that up. We allow the world to hold authority in our lives. And when we do that, we begin to serve two masters. Can’t do that. For Jesus, the issue was money and God. For some of us, the issue is serving God and money… For others, it’s a different kind of capital, isn’t it? We try to serve social media and God. Or our friendships and God. Or…
You know one thing I struggle with is thinking that I’m supposed to go through life without cringe. It’s a recurring theme throughout my life. If I can just reduce cringe and stay cool, that’s a recipe for happiness. Well, that’s a lie! But the way that creeps up in my life is it keeps me quiet about my Lord when I should be bold. That’s me treasuring my own reputation more than Christ. I find myself repenting often on that. But not often enough. It’s pride.
Holy spirit conviction is more powerful than my pride if I feed it. But we’ve gotta feed it, right? Like, are we going to feed our souls with comfort and entertainment and social media, or are we going to feed our souls with the Word of God?
These are the kinds of things that give us great conviction.
So we talked earlier about conviction working in two directions:
Guarding us from partaking in negative, sinful things.
Empowering us to do positive, Godly things.
We’ll start with how conviction guards against the negative.
Ephesians 4:11–14 ESV
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Conviction is the shield we carry against false doctrine, social pressure, sin & temptation, and unbelief.
Conviction gives us the courage to stand against that which God is against. When we have a positive view of Who God is, and who He is not, it makes things a lot easier to determine between right and wrong.
I used to be in college ministry, and a few of my students who have graduated have chosen alternative lifestyles. Lives that don’t honor God. Some have gone on to serve their churches. But I have seen people fall away from the faith they once proclaimed, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.
One former student posted a long instagram post coming out as gay. That was bad enough. But as I scrolled through the comments and likes, I saw a disappointing amount of other former students celebrating and encouraging this. And I see how it happens. This guy was seen as a leader in the ministry. He spoke often about loving the Lord, incredibly intelligent, and just a very charismatic guy.
When he comes out, all of a sudden, everyone is left to feel like they have to choose between him, who they know and love, and their convictions, which, where did they come from? How were they influenced and developed? Were their convictions based on the scriptures or in people? God or culture? What seems right or what is right?
Some even credited God for this… What fellowship does God have with sin?
Our culture wants us to tolerate, accept, and even embrace.
“Tolerance is the value of a man without convictions.” - G.K. Chesterton
Now Chesterton’s use of the word tolerance may be a little different from how we’d use it today. But I’ll go ahead and say that I cannot tolerate the idea of a Gay Christian. Not because I’m full of hatred for gay people, but because I hate sin. God hates sin, why would He identify His children by their sin? But this is a growing movement amidst evangelicals: that people can succumb to these alternative identities and retain their identification as Christians, too.
Remember, lawlessness is what leads to love growing cold… Tolerance of lawlessness. Tolerance of evil. When you embrace someone’s sin, your love is no longer warm… It’s cold!
By the way, any questions on this? I think it’s important that we understand how we can hold these convictions and be loving. In fact, I think it’s important to distinguish the fact that it is *most* loving to hold convictions that stay true to God’s Word, rather than being tolerant of a lie.
But conviction doesn’t just have to do with bad or negative things. Conviction is also a *positive* motivator. I mean that conviction doesn’t just say, “no.” Conviction says, “yes” to the right things. And being able to say no to things that are okay allows you to say yes to things that are great.
In fact, studies show that those who have strong convictions and live according to them have greater self esteem, lower stress, less anxiety, and an easier time with decision-making.
It also enables a guy like Brother Andrew to do what he did. Even the Communist Soviet government couldn’t stop him from following his conviction to take the Gospel to an oppressed people.
After all, if Jesus were not convinced and convicted of His mission to save the world from sin and death, would He have been able to overcome His doubts in the Garden? It was Christ’s conviction that made Him brave in the face of death and suffering itself.
And in a world where we could very well be facing larger scrutiny, difficulty, and falling out of favor with the world for our beliefs, it is all that much more important that we stay true to the convictions the Scriptures give us.
Let’s go back to the words of Jesus we looked at earlier…
Matthew 24:9–13 ESV
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Will you be hated or celebrated?
Will your love grow cold?
Or will you endure to the end, holding fast to the truths of God’s Word?
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