For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (sinful fear lacking conviction), but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God… for this reason I suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.
2 Timothy 1:7-8,12
Consider the martyrs of old. How is it that they were willing to die – often horrifically painful and shameful deaths – for points of doctrine many who call themselves Christians today are unable to articulate? Were they just made of different stuff?
No. The difference is, they were men of profound conviction. And we are called to the same.
Conviction doesn’t happen automatically. It is cultivated. It is then tested in the crucible of trials and temptations. It is reinforced by brotherhood. It is lived in private long before it is tested in public.
We must be men of conviction, who stand on those conviction in our most private moments – and if the time comes, in the face of public opposition. Yes, we need conviction for times of persecution. But it is also conviction that preserves us through trials and makes us stand against temptation. Discipleship is where we cultivate conviction in one another.
Conviction as the Drive behind Ministry
Paul speaks of his conviction (2 Timothy 2:5-12). “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced…”
- Conviction is that for which you are willing to live and die
- Conviction is rooted in the character of God
- Conviction is revealed & proven in suffering
- Ultimately, we always live by our deepest convictions
Why was Paul enduring endless suffering? What was his drive?
“…for this reason I endure all things for the sake of the elect, so that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it, eternal glory.” 2 Timothy 2:10
That is the drive of ministry. What has God given you to do for the saving and sanctifying of His chosen people? Evaluate your life. How do you spend your time? How do you pray? How do you spend your resources? How do you organize your life?
The Apostle’s prayer in 1 Corinthians 15:58 “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” Note the enduring, steady discipline, the unshakable and undeterred conviction with consistency.
This is what we do in discipleship – we help one another come to grips with the call of God on our lives, helping one another establish convictions, strengthen convictions and stand sure on convictions.
If we are to work on conviction, we must be sure that we don’t default to an external program or method. This must be deep and internal change. While habits can be adjusted, conviction is all about our heart. Our thinking.
- Convictions must be rooted in and driven by doctrine
- The truth of Scripture (doctrine) confronts the inner man
- Before you jump to application, first consider implication
- Truth must implicate you (your thoughts, motives, affections, will)
- To be convicted is to be convinced
Allow Scripture to be the finger of Nathan pointed at David’s face saying “you are the man!” Allow Scripture to implicate you, convict you and convince you. Then the externals of your life are forced to match your new internal convictions.
Drawing out Implications from Scripture
When working out the implications of a truth Scripture teaches (for example, the Sovereignty of God), there are some large over-arching categories:
- Error in our thinking
- What unbiblical teaching have you held on to?
- Rooted in ignorance, poor instruction, or false teaching
- You have to change what you believe to conform to Scripture
- Unholy motivations
- What fleshly cravings must you uproot? (James 1:14-15)
- Every motivation since the fall – apart from God’s grace – is tainted by selfishness and our corruption
- Idols of the heart (Ezekiel 14)
- What are you willing to sin to get or hold on to?
The Sword of the Spirit exposes our motives, our intentions, our idolatries and our error. When you finally get to the propositional truth of a text, how do you work through its various implications in your personal life (or the life of someone you’re discipling)?
- Eternal vs Temporal
- Colossians 3:1 “Keep seeking the things above, not the things on the earth”
- If you are not considering eternity, but are locked in the temporal, you will have false doctrine, unholy cravings and idolatries driving your life
- God-centered vs Man-centered
- Ask: how does this truth implicate my humanistic world-view?
- Do you ever think that you deserve better than your current circumstance? Do you evaluate your trials from a man-centered, rather than God-centered perspective?
- Evaluate at these things in your thinking, your motivations, your cravings
- Deep vs Shallow
- Am I spending considerable time thinking through this issue?
- Or do I just not want to put in the time?
- Am I uncomfortable what this may implicate in my life?
- Make sure you allow the truth to go all the way
- Inner Man vs Outer Man
- Every thought must be captive (not merely our behavior)
- True Worship vs False Worship
- What am I worshipping? (addressing idols & cravings of the heart)
- How am I worshipping? (addressing true/false doctrine)
Going through these categories, it will be no problem to begin applying truth towards genuine internal convictions as the Scripture implicates your inner man. Press in to the truths of Scripture, until they are unshakable convictions that will not only prepare you for coming persecution, but will drive deep into your soul to face our most private temptations.
Consider trials you may face. Are you prepared? You should be building your ship to weather the storm.