Do you know the difference between real Christian conviction and mere belief? Whether you stay in God’s True Church may depend upon what your answer is!
Several years ago a college student was baptized into God’s Church and said he would always keep close to God and walk with Him, no matter what happens. Eight years after his baptism, the young man was no longer with God’s Church. Why? What caused him to turn away from the truth? What made him become an unbeliever? And how can you be sure that you won’t follow his bad example?
One day the father of a sick boy came to Christ and said, “Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And where-soever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out: and they could not” (Mark 9:17-18). “And he (Christ) asked his father, how long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us”.
The father was asking Christ’s help for his son. This man wasn’t sure whether Christ would, or could, do anything, but when he heard that “all things are possible to him that believeth.” “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (vs. 23-24).
Do you understand the true meaning of that request? The father wanted to believe, but needed help to dissipate his doubts. He needed help to overcome his unbelief.
Every one of us at times has some doubts. We want to believe, we think we believe, but we are not totally convinced. If, for instance, you were asked, “Do you believe this is God’s Church?” your answer would certainly be, “Yes, I do.” But you would probably give the same positive answer if you were asked, “Are you totally convinced?” If those who have left the Church had been totally convinced that this is God’s Church, they would have never left it.
The young man who left God’s Church eight years after he was baptized only believed. He was not totally convinced. That is why he is no longer with us. There is a big difference between believing and being convinced. Once you are convinced, you have reached a point of no return. You can never go back. You have overcome all your arguments and doubts.
All of us in God’s Church need more conviction, not just simple belief. The difference between one who stays in the Church and one who leaves is the difference between believing and conviction.
The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). A major part of faith is conviction, a quality some in God’s Church lack today. Did you know that the words convicted and convinced are derived from the same root?
In Acts 18 we learn that Apollos, a Jew, used the Old Testament to prove to his own people that Christ was the Messiah. Eloquent in speech and well versed in the Scriptures, “This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John” (v. 25).
Why was Apollos able to convince the people? The fact that he himself was totally convinced of his beliefs helped considerably. “For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (v. 28).
Can you do that? Can you confute someone with the Scriptures, as Apollos did, showing that Christ is Jesus? You should be able to if you are totally convinced of this truth, and if you are conquered by the Spirit of God.
Notice the Bible’s simple, beautiful description of Abraham’s conviction, “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:20-21). This is faith with conviction. It opens all doors and helps you resist all temptations. It overcomes all feelings of discouragement or defeat. If you have this sort of conviction, you can be sure you will always remain in God’s Church.
Do you sometimes take the truth for granted? Don’t! Make the effort to check up on things, to prove and understand them.
Conviction requires actions. It requires effort. Deepening your convictions requires greater effort. You have to work harder, push harder, study and pray more. Unfortunately some in God’s Church are not doing that. And their belief has no conviction.
One day four men brought a paralytic to Christ. But they could not get near Jesus because of the crowd around Him. The men knew, they were convinced that if Christ saw the paralytic He would heal him. Consequently, their task was to find a way to get near Him. They were determined to do their part. “And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay” (Mark 2:4).
Imagine! They came right through the roof. Their faith stirred them to action. Removing the roof was not an easy task. It took effort, but they succeeded. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” (v.5). And the man was healed.
Can you neglect your responsibilities and honestly expect God to do everything for you?
The Bible also relates the story of a woman who had suffered from a Hemorrhage for 12 years. She “came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matt. 9:20-21). The woman was convinced in her mind that if she touched Christ’s garment she would be made well. She found her way through the crowd to Christ and touched Him.
Is your faith without conviction, without action? God’s Church today is on the right track. But each one of us needs convictions to be able to remain on the right track. It is high time we all realize this! Faith requires conviction and action!
Jesus gave us an example in everything, in attitude, convictions and love. He knew why He was on earth. He was totally convinced of His ministry and what His Father expected of Him. We, too, must be convinced of our calling and of our mission. The conviction of Christ must be in us through God’s Holy Spirit.
Look how Jesus Christ prayed before Lazarus was brought back to life. He “lifted up his eyes, and said, Father I thank thee that thou hast heard me” (John 11:41). What a positive way to start a prayer! That is total conviction. Before asking anything of God, Christ stated “I thank thee that thou hast heard me.”
How did Christ know God heard Him? Because of His convictions. “I knew that thou hearest me always” (v. 42). Then Christ added, “but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me” (v. 42).
That was Christ’s whole prayer. The only thing left for Him to do was to order Lazarus to come forth. And Lazarus came forth.
Is it possible that some people don’t want to be convicted? Yes! Some people pass by the truth without noticing it. Others stumble on it. Still others learn something about the truth but are not willing to be convinced by it, for fear of having to change their way of life.
When Festus asserted that the Apostle Paul’s great learning had driven him mad, Paul answered: “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely, for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:25-26).
Then Paul added: “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest” (v. 27). Yes, indeed King Agrippa believed, but was not willing to be convinced. “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuades me to be a Christian” (v. 28).
He was happy to be a King, happy to live the way he did. No need for him to change anything, certainly not to become a Christian, which would mean giving up certain things in his life, turning away from lust and observing the teachings of the Bible. All that was too much to ask of King Agrippa.
Could this be your attitude? Do you sometimes deceive yourself, hoping God will “UNDERSTAND” when you know you are neglecting your part? Do you close your mind to certain aspects of the truth that would require changing things in your life that you don’t want to change? James wrote, “Faith by itself if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17).
The “WORKS” mentioned in this verse refer to your part in faith. These “WORKS” may require changing your habits, your ways of thinking and living. It may mean, for you, praying more, studying more or being a better example.
If you’re not fulfilling your part, you can’t be convinced that God will answer your prayers. “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). Yes, even demons believe, but they are not convinced to obey God.
The Disciples of Christ, before their conversion, were not really convinced. They only believed in Christ. Think of it! After spending three and a half years with Him, after hearing Him teach day and night, they still had doubts in their minds. They were not totally convinced of the truth. They lacked God’s Holy Spirit. They could go no farther than the limits imposed by their human minds.
The disciples were indignant when Christ told them that soon they would all fall away because of Him, and that “the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Matt. 26:31). Peter objected vehemently to this pronouncement. “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (v.33). Peter was sure of himself, wasn’t he! Yes, but not fully convinced, even though he thought he was! He believed with his carnal mind, without having the spiritual strength to back his belief.
Christ told him, “Truly, I say to you this night, before the cock crows you will deny me three times” (v. 34). Once again, Peter didn’t agree with that statement. “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you” (v. 35). Nevertheless, when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Christ, “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (v. 56).
However the disciples’ attitudes totally changed after their conversion. They became men of courage, faith and conviction after receiving God’s Spirit.
Today in the Church of God we too have received this Spirit of faith and courage and conviction. We must allow it to convince us. Unfortunately some just aren’t using God’s Spirit to help them grow in conviction.
You have read many times the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. When the rich man saw what was happening to him, he cried out for help for the other members of his family. “I pray thee therefore, father that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brothers; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28). Abraham answered, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (v.29).
The rich man wanted a miracle, hoping it would help his five bothers to be convinced. “No, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent” (v. 30).
That’s human reasoning! That’s what the world wants to believe. Christians, today, think they would repent and believe if they saw Christ return with power and glory! But they are mistaken. Miracles by themselves can’t convince anyone permanently.
As Abraham said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (v.31). Likewise, if you cannot be convinced with what is already revealed in the Bible, no miracle can ever convince you!
The greatest miracle in your life took place when God called you and gave you His Spirit after your baptism. As John wrote, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and repent” (Rev. 3:3). Yes, indeed, remember the way you were called, how it all happened, the miracle of being among the very few chosen ones.
If you are completely convinced and convicted of God’s truth, nothing can make you turn away from God. You won’t have any doubt that you are in God’s Church and that Christ is the Head of the Church. You can trust Him implicitly! Read Romans 8:35-39. This is true conviction. It is living faith! Believe the truth and be convicted in it.