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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Conviction

10"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.  11-12"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable."
(Matthew 5:10-12)

You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
(James 2:18)

It is our action, not so much our words, that reveal the real conviction of our heart.  We always hear that we "cannot judge a book by its cover" and this is very true.  What is hidden in the heart is what is manifest in the actions.  We have a huge opportunity to affect how the world sees Jesus based on what actions we reveal to the world.  James put it this way - you cannot separate "faith" from "works" because our faith is revealed in our works.

Conviction is defined in several ways.  Personally, conviction is being fully convinced by the evidence so as to be stand firmly on the facts presented.  We become a dynamic evidence of God's grace when we model that grace to others.  We are "evidence" that helps to convince others of the unmerited favor of a holy God.  Conviction is also the state of standing "confident".  There is nothing that conveys living a really "solid" life than being able to speak and act with assurance - knowing what we believe and in whom our trust is fully placed.

Conviction also carries the idea of being convinced.  This word comes from a Latin word "convictus" - meaning to convince.  When we are "convinced" of something, we move from a place of just being acquainted with the evidence at hand into a place of belief, agreement, and consent.  The evidence results in a transition - we have a solid footing upon which to stand.  

Jesus challenged the disciples with the idea of persecution - telling them that it would actually cause them to be drawn closer to the Kingdom of God.  What he is implying here is that it drives us closer to the heart of God.  The outcome of that closeness to God's heart is that we have a testimony that presents the evidence of God's grace, justice, and love.  This kind of "evidence" makes people who don't know God in the same way do just a little uncomfortable - it affects the status quo.

Jesus was not giving his disciples (and us) the marching order to "mess with people's minds" or become "rabble-rousers" in society.  He simply is telling us to live in such a way that we are totally convinced of what it is we believe and allow that "firmness of faith" to become that which brings the conviction to the hearts of others.  We are simply presenting the evidence - the conviction is delivered by the evidence!

We cannot judge a book by its cover, but we can learn much about the "author" by exploring the pages.  Our depth of conviction is revealed in what the "author" of our lives has written on the pages of our heart.  The best thing we can do is live our lives as open books!