Are you a person of conviction? Is conviction a good thing or a bad thing? Well, it all depends. You know that the Muslim who flies our airplane into the twin towers does so because of conviction. That’s exactly what happened. The Terrorist bomber that straps these bombs on his body and goes down into the subway and sets it off, does so because of a conviction. So is conviction a good thing or a bad thing? As long as your conviction is the same as my conviction, we’re both going to be happy. Conviction will be good.
It seems like in these modern days, that most of the good, noble people in the United States that I see don’t really have strong convictions, while at the same time the worst people here in the United States are full of passionate intensity. The drug lords, the gangs paint their symbols on our buildings, and our buses, and our train railroad cars and our bridges while the good people sit idly by and say, “What is happening to the world? This is so bad.” I think we need more conviction as Christians. I think it may be time for the silent majority to stand up and be counted before we become the defeated minority.
In World War two, Winston Churchill said: “Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never give in. Whether it’s great or small, large or petty - never give in except to the convictions of honor and good sense.”
A conviction is more than just a belief. What is a conviction? Let me define that. A belief that doesn’t come from a conviction in the heart is not a real belief. It needs to have conviction with it. And a conviction that does not become an action is not really a conviction at all. A conviction is something you believe in to the core of your very being. Probably there are ten church members in most churches that are there just because of inheritance, compared to every one that is there because of conviction. We need to have convictions about the truth and about what we believe.
Martin Luther, risking his life, took his hammer and some nails and nailed on to the door of the church his theses, his convictions about the truth that he learned from the Bible. I admire that. He was not afraid to stand up and be counted. Over here in First Thessalonians, chapter one and verse five Paul makes another statement. Paul says, “Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, and with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” Paul was successful as an evangelist because he had deep convictions about the truth.
Conviction is good, and it’s bad. When you and I are convicted of the same thing, life is peaceful. But when you are convicted of something that is definitely wrong in my opinion, then we have a problem. We’re going to be at loggerheads with each other. The sparks are going to fly. So we need to make sure that our convictions are based on the Bible. The foundations of your convictions needs to be based on God and eternal truth. Here’s a text in Isaiah. Come back here to Isaiah in your Bible. Isaiah, chapter eight, and I want you to notice verse 20. It says, “To the Law and to the testimony, If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” So if your convictions don’t line up with the Bible, your convictions aren’t right. They’re not truthful.
The basis of your belief is critical. I believe with every ounce of my being that God’s Bible is THE one and THE only standard of right and wrong. Do you believe that? This is our handbook. This is our source of truth. The word of God. It is the oldest book in the world. Every time the archeologists dig up something, it confirms the Bible. Live by this Bible. You can’t find truth by majority vote. Suppose we all vote down the law of Gravity. How many would be in favor of that? Would that make it OK to jump from a high cliff? You can’t determine truth by voting on it. You can only determine truth by God. God is the source of truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He is the truth. So that’s how we determine what truth is.
As you establish life long convictions, please make sure they are in the center of God’s path. I was hiking on a 31 mile section of the Appalachian trail in the Smoky Mountains this Sept 15. At one point I looked down to the left side of the trail and the sharp drop off seemed to go straight down over a hundred feet. I can tell you that I stayed in the center of that path.
Stay in the middle of God’s known truth. If you get to the far side of any belief you can become fanatical. Eccentric oddballs seem to gravitate into our church. I don’t want to be a Weirdo. I want to be square in the midst of God’s will. Look at a text here in Proverbs. Proverbs four, 26 and 27. “Carefully walk a straight path, and all your ways will be secure. Do not lean to the right or to the left.” Our upward path to Heaven is straight and narrow. But It is paved with hope and shaded with grace. Stay in the middle of the path of life. Establish right convictions that will lead you to eternal life and not into becoming a sidetracked religious Wacko from Waco or somewhere.
Second Corinthians four, verse 13. “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.” The apostles spoke out of the beliefs of their heart. One of the greatest needs in these perilous last days is for men and women and boys and girls and youth who are willing to live what they believe.
The greatest want of the world is the want of men (and women), men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. [Education 57.3] That’s the type of people we need today.
Most of the great stories in the Bible are of those stalwart men and women who stood up and were counted for the right. That’s why they’re great heroes. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. They were friends of God. Today we need men on boards and committees who stand up and say, “I will not vote for this investment. The interest rate is way too high and we need to adhere to our church policies.” We need people who are willing to speak up at committees or Constituencies and stand for principle. Romans chapter 14, verse five says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” We nee people who will speak up for the truth. Who will stand for the right. Who are willing to be counted. In these last days we need courageous Christians. Strong backed people who are willing to buck the trend and stand for the truth that has been proven right.
God give us men that these times demand.
Men whom the lust of office does not kill.
Men who have honor and will not lie.
Men who will spurn flatteries and sin.
Men who stand tall and live above the fog.
Men who stand for the right though the heavens fall.
That’s what we need today. First Corinthians, chapter 16, verse 13 says, “Be on guard. Stand firm for what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong.”
Thankfully, in every age someone has had the courage enough to stand by God given convictions. Look at some Bible examples.
Come back to Genesis 39, the story of Joseph. If there was ever a young man who stood for what was right, it was Joseph. He refused the advances of Potiphar's wife. She was a wild woman. Joseph had been entrusted with all that his master owned. In fact what did the master say? Verse 6 says, “He did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.” Joseph was well-built and handsome. He would have been selected to appear on the Egyptian Bachelor program. Young, single & successful. She “cast” her eyes upon him. Be careful what you cast your eyes upon, because what we look at long enough we want. But Joseph stood strong. Why? His family would never find out. No one would know. But Joseph knew that God would know. God was the master of his life. Joseph loved God and would rather die than hurt God. Joseph stood true to his convictions. We need modern Josephs who are willing to stand for the right regardless of the Devil’s temptations.
God wants you to live for the right. To be ruled by your convictions and not your hormones. Most people say, “well if it feels good, do it.” That’s not the criteria. Be bold in what you stand for otherwise you will fail and fall. God is looking for a people who will stand for what is right. God wants overcomers, not to save ourselves, but to honor Him. God is looking for a last day remnant people who will consider sin as the most expensive thing in the world. Sin will puncture your cup of joy. Sin is too costly. Joseph could not make it with Potiphar's wife anyway. Why is that? A relationship that is cemented together with sin will eventually come unglued.
Let’s go to another man. Second Samuel 11. This is the story of Uriah the Hittite. He was a man of conviction. David fell into sin with Bathsheba. David finally figured out a way to cover it up. David should have been out fighting with the troops, but he was home alone. He invited her husband Uriah to come home from the battle. Look at verse eight. “And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king.”
So you get the picture here? The king says to one of his soldiers, and what does the soldier do? What is the king? The king is the commander-in-chief, right? The commander-in-chief of the United States army is Barack Obama. The president. So when the king says to one of the troops, “You come home.” “Yes, Sir.” “You go to your house.” “Yes, Sir.” “And here’s a big banquet.” Probably with wine and everything else. “You go in there and do whatever you want to do.”
And so what happened? Verse 9. “But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his own house.” He didn’t go home. Uriah had eaten army rations for many weeks. So, David sent a sumptuous banquet with Uriah but the man would not enter his own house or eat the kings food. Uriah was convicted in his heart that it was not right to party while his fellow troops were out there risking their life. He placed duty before pleasure.
Do you place duty before pleasure? “Oh, no. I never do. I always do my duties first. Then I have my pleasure.” On Sabbath our duty is to worship God. Is that true or false. That’s what we are expected to do by the Creator of the universe. So how dare any of us skip our duty to go off and have fun. I am sure Uriah badly wanted to be in his own home with his own wife in his own bed. But He had convictions about what was right and wrong. He stood by his convictions. Uriah’s loyalty was with the King of Heaven, not the King of the land.
Let’s go to another individual. John the Baptist. He spoke against sin. He preached repentance. Herod married Herodias, his brothers wife. It was sinful. Leviticus 20:21. Jeff Foxworthy said, “You know you are a redneck if you go to a family reunion to look for a date.” John the Baptist said to Herod, “This is wrong. You’re not doing right.” He stood tall for his conviction against sin. He lost his life, but that didn’t bother John the Baptist. He preached God’s truth despite the consequences. Never backpedal when you’re standing against sin. Call homosexuality and drunkenness and adultery and abortion by their right name. Stand for the right regardless of the cost. Isaiah 7:9 “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
Now let’s look at just one more story. Daniel and his three friends. Would you bow down to an idol to save your life? In many Muslim lands today you risk your life if you convert to Christianity. You will be killed or imprisoned or tortured. You will be placed in a work camp where you will be re-educated or you will be denied the right to buy or sell. They will cut your hands off. They will decapitate you. Over there, few people stand publicly for their convictions.
In Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood up for what is right. Everybody was standing. They were told to bow down or they would burn up. The furnace was heated as hot as it could be heated. The strongest Monarch in the world, Nebuchadnezzar, said, “When you hear the music, bow down to my golden image. If not you will be thrown into the burning furnace.” Come over here to Daniel, chapter three in your Bible. And Nebuchadnezzar said, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Look at Daniel three and verse 17. Notice what these three men of conviction said to this world ruler. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.” Now look at verse 18. “ BUT IF NOT, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” What conviction! When did they come up with that kind of courage? Long before the fire was even built they drew a line in the sand. You, yourself must draw your line in the sand, before you find yourself in a car on a lonely dark lane with your date. There are just some things you will never ever do. You men will never be unfaithful to your spouse. Under no circumstance will you ever cheat or gossip or lie. Some things are always wrong, and we can’t do them.
We need men and women of courage today. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow, budge, bend or even burn. Jesus was with them. They knew what was right and had the courage to stand by their convictions. And they did not stand alone. Jesus was with them.
Never attack Hell with a squirt gun...Not when you have unlimited access to the abundant water of life. Take Jesus with you. He can douse your fires of lust. When you see MTV or a movie or see a women’s magazine at the check-out line of the grocery store you see the pressure to conform to worldly ways. The world gives Emmy awards to the HBO show “Sex in the City” or ABC’s “Desperate Housewives”. We give Emmy awards to the type of thing. The world is sliding deep into immorality. True Christians must stand apart from the world.
We need youth today who will come out of the world and stand for God. Youth who will say NO to drugs, smoking, attending a party where there will be drinking. Youth who will not be defiled. Youth who are like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Youth who have the courage to live their convictions regardless of what the crowd might want to do. Second Thessalonians 2:15. “Stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you.” Romans 12:2. “Be ye not conformed to this world.”
Modern culture is almost valueless. There are no rights or wrongs. Anything goes. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego stood alone. Noah voyaged alone. Daniel prayed alone. Joseph stood alone. It’s not what the crowd does. The Sodomites stood in a crowd following Satan’s lustful cravings and they fed the flames that fell on their day of judgement.
Revelation 18:4 says: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, My people.’” God’s people should come out of the world. We don’t want to be a part of the world because we want to put Jesus Christ first in our lives. We want Jesus to be honored by our thoughts and our actions. We want to be different. A cut above. We don’t want to be worldly. We want to be heavenly. We want to get ready to live on those streets of gold because that’s where we’re going to be.
So now is the training ground. I urge you young people, I urge you older people, let’s stand for what is right. Let’s have godly convictions and be willing to stand for our convictions. Not fanatical convictions, Not way off on one side or the other, but in the heart of the will of God.
Let’s sing our closing hymn. Stand Like The Brave. That’s what Christ would have us to do. You may have to stand alone in your family. You may be the only one in your family, but have the courage to stand like the brave.
Dear Father. Help us each to stand with Jesus Christ. To be brave. To not conform to the world’s mould, but to be transformed by Thy power. Empower us. Go with us. Dismiss us with Your presence, Your love and Your courage. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Hymn of Praise: #34, Wake the Song Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:58 Hymn of Response: #610, Stand Like the Brave
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 10/24/09