This post is one that I have never wanted to write. But I'm going to do it anyway.
And this is definitely a "joint" post, meaning that Derrick is in on it 100% and may perhaps be writing some of it himself. At the very least, he will be carefully editing my words, for which I am so grateful.
Conviction. I used to think of that as an ugly word. Something I feared. Oh no...I'm convicted. Great. That means I need to either stop doing something I like doing or start doing something I don't want to do. Fun fun. Probably because it wasn't true conviction, but rather it was a sense of guilt and obligation, which is never very motivating.
It doesn't feel that way anymore, though. I find myself longing for conviction, change, and growth. Since truly surrendering my life to Christ about 6 years ago, I have begun to delight in God's Law like David so often talks about in the Psalms. Here is just one of the many examples:
Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes;
and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
Confirm to your servant your promise,
that you may be feared.
Turn away the reproach that I dread,
for your rules are good.
Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your righteousness give me life!
(Psalm 119:33-40 ESV)
I used to think that life could be "in-between". I could have my comforts, my enjoyment, my fun, and also live for Christ. I thought that American culture and all of the material wealth and status that comes with it was some sort of special blessing from God. The whole "American Dream", was good, wholesome, Christian, and worth striving for.
I hope this isn't too shocking to the Christians reading this but....that couldn't be more wrong. Look what Jesus said the life of a believer will look like:
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
(Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)
I know it's not an easy pill to swallow...but Jesus is pretty clear about the cost of discipleship. Basically, everything this world tells us that matters, doesn't. And everything that God tells us in His Word that matters, does. The reason I long for conviction is because I desperately want more of Him and less of the empty, vain, temporary pleasures surrounding me.
Before I go any further, I want you to know I speak from a place of love, not judgment. The word "judgmental" gets misused more than any other word in Christianity, in my opinion. I hear it thrown out there just about anytime a person stands for the truth of God's Word. "What? You're saying we need to submit every area of our lives to God? How can you be so judgmental?" Let's take a step back and ask ourselves, "Is it really?" If a person is speaking from a heart that is soft towards His leading and truly desires to grow and possibly help others grow in the process, wouldn't that be a positive thing? Truly sinful "judgment" is when you are holding yourself up with pride while putting others down. If I come right out and tell you that you are a "bad Christian" because you don't do things the way I do, then that is wrong. But if a believer is just telling it like it is, sharing their convictions, and showing that his heart is to bring glory to Christ, there is no need for fear when others make such false accusations. Because God is the true Judge, and His opinion is all that matters.
I think it's important to clarify this before I go any further. Because a lot of what I want to share quite possibly could sound like it's coming from a place of pride. It is my hope and prayer that you will see my heart and know that it is in a place of humility that I bring this to you all. God has done so much in me. I am not the "me" I was, and it is all because of Him. I used to love the world more than Him, but He has done this in me:
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)
So, I don't speak for myself, as if I were someone special. I speak for HIM, who has given me a heart of flesh. I desperately long for His ways and it is my prayer that all believers will have that same longing.
I'm going to split this up into a few posts. Please, if you choose to read them, all that I ask is for you to open your heart and mind. I do not expect agreement, understanding, or approval. But, as this post is so fittingly titled, I am convicted that I should not keep quiet about some things that are so heavy on my heart. I plan to use a lot of Scripture, so it is more His words than mine. So, take or leave what I say, because I am just an imperfect human being. But, fellow believer, I pray that you will hang on His every word. Because it is His truth that truly sets us free.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
(Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
Installment #2 of this "Conviction" series will be published tomorrow. Stay tuned! :)