When you were first baptized into God’s true Church, did you every say to yourself, I will never leave God’s Church? Thousands of people may have said just that, but where are they today, what caused these people to give up and leave the Church of God?
What caused many to turn from the truth and become an unbeliever? What is the difference between real Christian conviction and mere belief? Not knowing the difference, not knowing this may determined whether you stay in God’s Church or leave!
One day the father of a sick boy came to Jesus Christ and said: “Master, I brought my son to you because he has a dumb spirit. Wherever he is, it gets hold of him, throws him down to the ground and there he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth. It’s simply wearing him out. I did speak to your disciples to get them to drive it out, but they hadn’t the power to do it.
“Jesus answered them: Oh what a faithless people you are! How long must I be with you, how long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me. How long has he been like this? Ever since he was a child, he replied, again and again it has thrown him into the fire or into water to finish him off. But if you can do anything please take pity on us and help us. If I can do anything retorted Jesus, everything is possible to the man who believes. I do believe, the boy’s father burst out, help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:17-18).
How many of us understand the true meaning of that request? This man wanted to believe, but he needed help to dissipate his doubts. In other words, he needed help to overcome his unbelief.
Every one of us at times has some doubts, we really want to believe, we think we really believe, but we are not totally convinced. Does that sound about right? Does that sound like you?
Now, take for example, if someone asked you: Do you believe that this is God’s True Church? And of course your answer would be yes. But what kind of answer would you give if you were asked: Are you totally convinced of it?
Now if you were totally convinced of it you have overcome all doubts, once and for all. If all those people that have left the Church of God had been totally convinced that this is God’s Church, they would never have left it.
So all those people that have left God’s Church only merely believe, they were not totally convinced, that is why they are no longer with us. There is a big difference between believing and being convinced. Once you have been convinced, you have passed the point of no return. You can never go back; you can overcome all your arguments and doubts.
All of us in God’s Church need more conviction, not just simple belief. (When we say God’s Church we are referring to the Church Christ founded in 31 AD, not the churches of this world that are absorbed in the traditions of this world and worship on the first day of the week). So the difference between one who stays in the Church and one who leaves is the difference between believing with conviction and believing without conviction.
In the book of Hebrews we find the definition of faith: It is the substances of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). So a major part of our faith is conviction, maybe this is a quality that some in God’s Church really lacks.
How many of us know that the words convicted, convinced and even confute are derived from the same root? Notice the account of Apollos in Acts the 18th chapter, now Apollos was a Jew; he used the Old Testament to prove to his own people that Jesus Christ was the Messiah.
“Now a Jew called Apollos, a native of Alexandria and a gifted speaker, well-versed in the scriptures (Old Testament), arrived at Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with burning zeal, teaching the facts about Jesus faithfully even though he only knew the baptism of John” (Acts 18:24-25).
Why was Apollos able to convince the people? Because he himself was totally convinced of his beliefs did help greatly. “For he powerfully confuted (or convinced) the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (v. 28).
Can we in God’s Church today, do that? Can we confute or convince someone with the Scriptures as Apollos did? If we are totally convinced of this truth, we should be and if you are totally conquered by the Holy Spirit of God.
Let’s look at another man of God, Abraham, and the conviction of Abraham: “Abraham, when hope was dead within him, went on hoping in faith, believing that he would become the father of many nations. He relied on the word of God which definitely referred to thy seed. With undaunted faith he looked at the facts, his own impotence and his wife Sarah’s apparent barrenness. Yet he refused to allow any distrust of a definite pronouncement of God to make him waver. He drew strength from his faith, and, while giving the glory to God remained absolutely convinced that God was able to implement his own promises. This was the faith which was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:18-21).
Abraham’s faith had conviction, does yours? This type of faith with conviction opens all doors and helps 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 we in God’s Church take the truth for granted? Don’t do that! We need to make effort to check up on things, to prove and understand them. Did you know that conviction requires action, it requires effort? And depending on your conviction, it requires greater effort.
You have to work harder, push harder study and pray more. How many in God’s Church are willing to do that, if not, then our belief has no conviction.
One day four men brought a paralytic to Christ, but they couldn’t get near Christ, they knew, they were convinced, that if Jesus saw this man He would heal him:
“When He re-entered Capernaum some days later, a rumor spread that he was in somebody’s house. Such a large crowd collected that while he was giving them his message, it was impossible even to get near the doorway. Meanwhile a group of people arrived to see him, bringing with them a paralytic whom four of them were carrying. And when they found it was impossible to get near him because of the crowd, they removed the titles from the roof over Jesus’ head and let down the paralytic’s bed through the opening” (Mark 2:1-4).
Now think about what you just read: These men came right through the roof, their faith stirred them to action, removing the titles from the roof was no easy task. It took effort and ingenuity and it paid off for the man with paralytic. Even Jesus Christ Himself marveled and said: “My son, your sins are forgiven and the man was healed” (v. 5).
The point is this: Can you and I neglect our responsibilities and honestly expect God to do everything for us? Conviction requires much more than just folding our arms and passively waiting for something to happen.
The Bible gives us another story of conviction: This story relates to a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for 12 years. “Then from behind him came a woman, who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years, and she touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, if I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again, Jesus turned around and saw her and he Said to her; courage my daughter, your faith has restored you to health. And from that moment the woman was well again” (Matt. 9:20-22).
Would it not be fair to say that this woman was convinced in her mind that if she just touched Jesus Christ’s garment she would be made well? This woman found her way through the crowd to Christ and touched Him.
What about us today in God’s Church, is our faith without conviction, without action? This Church is on the right track for the Kingdom of God, but each of us needs conviction to be able to remain on the right track. And we really need to understand and realize this. Faith requires conviction and action!
Jesus Christ the Son of God and our Saviour, our soon-coming King and Ruler, has given us an example in everything, in attitude, in conviction and love. He knew why He was on this earth, Christ was totally convinced of His mission, and what His Father expected of Him.
Are we really convinced of our calling and our mission? The conviction of Jesus Christ must be in us through God’s Holy Spirit.
Notice how Christ prayed before Lazarus was brought back to life. “So they took away the stone, then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer” (John 11:41). Christ had not even asked for anything as of yet, but He started out in a positive way, Christ was totally convicted that His prayer would be answered before He even said anything.
How did Christ know that God heard him? Because of His conviction: “I knew indeed that you always hear me, but I speak for the sake of all these who stand around so that they may believe it was you who sent me” (v. 42).
Brethren, do we get it? Jesus said this prayer was for their sake and ours that we might believe that God the Father had sent Jesus Christ. Now the only thing to do was to order Lazarus to come forth. And Lazarus came forth.
Do we boldly come before the Throne of Grace, do we boldly hold God to his promises to heal us, if we repent of our sins and come to him in faith? Do we have that type of conviction in our prayers?
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.
King Agrippa was in that last group, he didn’t want to be convinced, he felt he had no need of conversion: “Festus shouted out, Paul you are out of your mind, all that learning of yours is driving you mad” (Acts 26:24).
“I am not mad, I am speaking nothing but the sober truth. The king understands these matters, and to him I now speak with assurance, confident that nothing of all this is lost on him; after all, these things were not done in a corner (v. 26).
“King Agrippa do you believe in the prophets”? I know you do. At this Agrippa said to Paul. A little more of your arguments would make a Christian out of me” (vs. 27-28).
The point is; King Agrippa believed, but was not willing to be convinced. He was just happy to be a king. No need for him to change anything, and certainly not to become a Christian. To do so, meant giving up many things in his life, turning away from lust and observing the teaching of the Bible. That was just too much for him.
Could this be your attitude? Do you sometimes deceive yourself, hoping that God will understand when you know that you are neglecting your part? Do you sometimes 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 said “That faith by itself, if it has no works is dead” (James 2:17). In other words, the works here refer to changing your habits, your way of thinking and living. It may mean for you, praying more, studying more or being a better example. If we are not fulfilling our part, we cannot be convinced that God will answer our prayers. “You believe that God is one; you do well, even the demons believe and they shudder.”
Even the demons believe but they are not convinced to obey God. The disciples of Jesus Christ before their conversion were not really convinced. They only believed in Jesus Christ. They were with Him for 3 1/2 years: they heard him teach day and night and still had doubts in their minds. They simply were not convinced of the truth. They lacked God’s Spirit. They could go no farther than the limits imposed by their human minds. They became upset when Christ told them that they would all fall away because of Him, but Peter objected to what Christ had just said:
“Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended” (Matt. 26:33). Peter was sure of himself, but he was not convinced, even though he thought he was. The problem was, he believed with his carnal mind, but he didn’t’ have the spiritual strength to back his belief.
“Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times” (v. 34). And of course, Peter didn’t agree with that statement. He was going to prove His Master wrong. “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you” (v. 35).
Nevertheless when the Roman soldiers came to arrest Jesus “they all forsook him and fled” (v. 56). Of course, after they were converted, they became men of courage, faith, and conviction after receiving God’s Holy Spirit.
Do we not, in God’s Church today, have this Spirit of faith, and courage and conviction? We must allow God’s Spirit to convict us, maybe this is why the Church is so weak today, we simply are not allowing or using God’s Spirit to help us grow in conviction. Maybe we are thinking, if only I could witness some great miracle, then I would be convinced..
What about Lazarus and the rich man? When the rich man saw what was happening to him he cried out for help for the other members of his family:
“I beg you , father Abraham, to send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28).
Abraham said: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (v. 29). This rich man wanted a miracle, hoping it would help his brothers to be convinced. “No, father Abraham, but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (v. 30).
That is human reasoning, which is what the world wants to believe. Christians today think they would repent and believe if they saw Jesus Christ coming with power and great glory. Miracles by themselves can’t convince anyone permanently.
“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead” (V. 31).
If you and I can’t be convinced with what is already revealed in the Bible, no miracle can ever convince you! As John wrote: “Remember therefore how thou has received and heard, and hold fast and repent” (Rev. 3:3).
Remember the way you were called, how it all happened, the miracle of being among the very few chosen ones. Learn how the men of God fought, how they endeavored to overcome their doubts and difficulties. It was always God that led them to victory. They didn’t win their battles, God did. You will not have any doubt that you are in God’s Church and that Christ is the Head of the Church.
As the apostle Paul wrote: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angles, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Rom. 8:35-39). This is full conviction, it is living faith!