Christianity 201

September 2, 2019

Changing Your Convictions: The Positive Side

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Today we’re back with Stephen and Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement. Their online ministry reaches around the world (probably several times around!) and they do this full time along with being workplace chaplains in Pennsylvania. I want to start with a few lines from the devotional which appeared the day before the one we’re featuring.

“Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. The Lord said to me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ And I said, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Behold I am about to put a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel'” (Amos 7:7,8).

…The plumb line is an ancient tool dating back to biblical times used to determine vertical accuracy. Several Bible texts refer to the plumb line and Jesus very likely used a plumb line when he worked as a carpenter.

Everyone needs a standard that will keep them on the right track in life. Everyone needs a plumb line. The Word of God is a timeless plumb line for determining a center line in life…

…Indeed, for so many, truth is like an ocean wave. Paul used the wave as an illustration in Ephesians 4 writing of those who are tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine

From there, let’s jump into today’s reading.

Changed Convictions

Listen to our message on your audio player.

I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Galatians 1:14).

Earlier this summer a prominent writer and one time pastor announced that he had switched sides, abandoning his faith in Christ and joining the forces of the world. This made the news due to his prominence. This causes distress to some and it’s always sad to see this happen. But people have been abandoning the faith ever since Jesus walked on this earth (John 6:66) and the time of the apostles (2 Timothy 4:10).

That’s why there are so many calls to faithfulness in the Bible such as an early message from the apostolic church planters summed up as “strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22). Hebrews 10:23 states, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering“.

In yesterday’s message we shared concerning convictions and the need to hold firmly to what we believe. Our convictions are our deeply held beliefs. But is changing our convictions ever virtuous?

Certainly! After all, when we are converted we change our convictions!

Saul, in his former way of life, had a deep conviction that he was serving God. In his testimony to the Galatian believers he speaks of his zeal, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:13,14). At that time Saul surely was absolutely convinced he was on the right side.

But at his conversion to Christ on the Damascus Road Saul became a changed man. His convictions had a radical overhaul and even his name changed. We know him not as Saul but as the Apostle Paul. I find it interesting that a possible basis for this name change goes back to the Greek word “pauo”, a verb meaning to stop, restrain, quit, desist, come to an end. (We get the English word “pause” from this word.) The one who had been extremely zealous for the traditions of his fathers had a transformation in his convictions.

Yes, our deepest convictions can change both for good and bad. The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson was co-founder of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, one of the most ardent pro-abortion organizations in the country. For many years he was both an abortionist and a national spokesman for the pro-abortion cause, convinced that he was on the right side.

However in a widely reported 1974 article in The New England Journal of Medicine, “Deeper into Abortion,” Dr. Nathanson described his growing moral and medical qualms about abortion. “I am deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths.”

He eventually made an about face and shared of his change of viewpoint in his book “Aborting America”. He became an articulate voice for the pro-life cause and went on to produce a video titled “The Silent Scream”, which powerfully demonstrates the horror of an early abortion. He states, “the other side, those who advocate abortion, have never successfully challenged the validity of the film”. Dr. Nathanson could clearly explain what led to the change in his convictions!

More recently Abby Johnson, the main character behind the movie “Unplanned”, made a similar change. She was the youngest clinic director in the history of Planned Parenthood, then a life-changing experience turned her into a pro-life activist. She eventually came to see the utter evil of abortion during her time at Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas where 22,000 murders took place over her eight year involvement with that clinic.

People’s convictions can change, both from the wrong side to the right such as Paul, Dr Nathanson and Abby Johnson, but also from the right side to the wrong such as the man mentioned in our lead paragraph. I consider politicians who once expressed a very strong pro-life stand but who have changed to the opposite side primarily due to political expediency. The same is true for other moral issues such as the constitution of marriage. Many of us can remember not that long ago when many politicians expressed their “deep personal conviction” that marriage was between a man and a woman only to make an about face.

Here’s the point. What is the underlying basis for a change in a conviction? Is there a principled basis for this change? Are you holding true to your convictions? If you do at some point change your view on a deep personal conviction can you provide a sound, principled, Bible-based defense on why you changed?

Be encouraged today.

September 28, 2018

“That Convicts Me” vs. “That Offends Me”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is another post from Daily Encouragement by Stephen and Brooksyne Weber. Their online ministry reaches around the world (probably several times around!) and for local ministry they are workplace chaplains in central Pennsylvania.

The Blessing Of Conviction Of Sin

“When He [the Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8).

About ten years ago I served as an interim pastor of a small country church. One Sunday I preached a sermon and the next week was informed that a college student who had come with a friend was very upset with me and would not be returning to the church. She told her mom, a regular attendee, that my subject matter had offended her and a friend she had brought, both of whom attended a “Christian” college in our area that is severely compromised.

The offensive point was on marriage and sexual morality and both had bought in to Satan’s lies regarding the subject. A message proclaiming Biblical truth was offensive to them. Amazingly, illustrating the hastening departure from a Biblical worldview and standards that follow, this message would not have even been controversial ten years earlier!*

I just read an interesting quote that describes this well: “One of the greatest downfalls of the Modern Church is we’ve replaced ‘that convicts me’ with ‘that offends me’.”

We tend to use the word conviction in a theological context in two ways:

  1. Your convictions are your core set of beliefs; that which you will not compromise. Sadly there are many who at one time spoke of having a conviction on a black and white matter dealt with in Scripture but, due to the trends of the world and political correctness, forsook their conviction.
  2. The other sense is the work of the Holy Spirit in convicting us of sin; He makes us aware, remorseful, and leads us to repentance. In this sense we use the phrase, “being under conviction”. This is the type of conviction we are using in this message.
When confronted with sin we have two choices:
  1. Being Convicted: When David was boldly approached by the prophet, Nathan, concerning his adulterous sin with Bathsheba he said, “I have sinned against the Lord”. He was convicted of his sin and repented, though he still faced serious consequences the rest of his life.
  2. Being offended: Herod, on the other hand, when approached by John the Baptist concerning his sin, was offended and had him beheaded. Herod attempted to silence the voice of the prophet whom God was using as a conviction from the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, in His final teaching before He went to the cross, spoke of the coming Holy Spirit. “When He comes, He will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8).

Conviction of sin is a blessing. It may be uncomfortable, it may be politically incorrect, it may cost us, and it will humble us. But when we acknowledge sin we place ourselves on a path of blessing.

Daily prayer: Father, in the Scriptures we know that obedience brings blessing and disobedience bring discipline and eventual judgment. The writer of Hebrews tells us that You are treating us as Your children when we undergo discipline, that You are showing Your love to us. You want to bless us and make us a blessing as we live out our lives here on earth. Therefore You convict us of that which dishonors You and the kingdom of God. Your desire is that we enter the eternal dwelling place You are preparing for those who walk in Your ways. With the help of the Holy Spirit we will not turn away from conviction of sin, but instead we will turn away from that which is sin. Enable us to do so in the powerful name of Jesus we pray. Amen.


* It occurs to me that sadly, now some ten years later after I preached that message, that it would be rare to hear this type of message in many churches since so many preachers have been muzzled in fear of offending someone. Furthermore at the direction we’re heading in ten more years (or likely sooner) such a message will be “hate speech” and will subject the preacher to a different type of conviction. (See 2 Timothy 3)


The Webers recommend this article for additional reading on this topic:

September 16, 2011

Standing Up For Your Faith

I Kings 18:21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Sometimes the process by which an item appears here is amazing, especially when you’re the one composing the daily study/devotional!  Derrick Boyd left a comment at T.O.L. this morning and included a link to his blog, Encouraging Thoughts For Life, where this item appeared a few weeks ago under the title Stand for What Is Right.

In this day and time it seems harder and harder to find people that are truly devoted to God. Now many people will jump on the bandwagon of saying that they believe in God, but there is nothing in their life to give supporting evidence.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” James 2:26 “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

Some of the people you ask will say that it does not matter if you believe or not. It just matters that you are a good person. Some that we come in to contact with have a hatred for anything to do with God. It seems like they are always willing to pick a fight. Then, you have the many different religions in the world that all teach different things. So, which is right? Are we willing to stand up for what we believe against all odds? How strong is our faith in the fact that God is there and that He will do all that He has promised us? We need to be willing to stand alone on what we believe. No matter what people may say to us, do to us, or think of us.

A perfect example of this is Elijah of the old testament. In 1 Kings chapter 18 we see that Elijah was willing to stand alone on the promises of God against 450 other men who believed in Baal. He offered a test to prove who the real God was. Many of us have heard the story, and I encourage you all to go and read it again. Because the message is so clear. Elijah did not go to prove who he was, but who God was. He was willing to stand alone on what he believed. And God answered his prayer. Are we standing in the face of adversity?

Are we prepared to defend the Gospel, even if no one else is there to support us? Or do we tuck it in and wait for someone to go with us?

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

If we are truly His, we will witness. We will defend the Gospel. We will stand up for what is right, whether we are with others who share our belief, or we are alone.

~Derrick Boyd

February 4, 2011

Salad Bar Theology

Today, I want to continue the discussion I alluded to yesterday, which centers around the much longer item I blogged at Thinking Out Loud today, in reference to high profile ministers and musicians who don’t subscribe to key doctrines, and as to the question of whether or not they can be considered “Christian” in the sense the rest of us use that word.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  (Acts 17:11 NIV)

There is a general agreement today that younger generations of Christ-followers are not as attached to the name on the front door of the place they happen to worship.  Many churches have themselves gone out of their way to lose the denominational tag and have adopted generic names like “Community Church” or “Neighborhood Church” instead of wearing their affiliation more proudly.

Don’t get me wrong; there are things about this I like.  I also like the fact that many of our churches are singing out of the same songbook; there are common worship anthems and choruses with which we can all join together in one powerful voice.  Of course, there are also distinctives that each group has that we can learn from, just as there are some hymns and modern worship songs that remain somewhat unique to each group.

But in the process, we’ve become like consumers at the proverbial salad bar.   We take a bit of this and a bit of that, and we pass on chick peas because we don’t like the texture, but load up on the bacon bits because we love the flavor.   So we love grace and forgiveness, but we’re not so passionate about judgment or the wrath of God.   We’re quick to tell our relatives and c0-workers that we’re living in the end times, but don’t believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still operative in the 21st century.  There are over 100 references to gluttony in scripture, but we ignore the chronic obesity that dogs many believers but are quick to give our views on the question of homosexuality.

We pick and choose.

Many of us make the choices based on careful study of the scriptures, such as the above-mentioned Bereans in Acts 17.   Some choose on the basis of preferences; rejecting certain doctrinal elements that might actually affect the way we live, not unlike atheists who reject the stories of Noah or Jonah because if they are true, so are other parts of the Bible and that would having to engage and respond.

But many of us make our decisions based entirely on what (a) our friends, (b) a TV preacher, (c) a favorite author, or (d) our church or pastor tells us.  But what if a Berean study of scripture led you to a different conclusion?

So here’s the question:  Would you be willing to confront your friends or church and/or change churches if your study of scripture led you to something different from what you’ve heretofore believed.

Many of the people in the current crisis in Egypt have been heard to say, “For the first time ever, I am starting to think for myself.”  This is a breakthrough moment for them.

The problem in some churches is not strictly salad bar theology, but the numbers of people who have been eating a prepared salad.

It’s time to take your church’s statement of faith and examine it, and make sure that you have a personal statement of faith; time to take ownership of a personal theology.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… (I Peter 3:15 NIV)