Many years ago when I was a teenager listening to contemporary Christian music, there was a popular singer named Carmen. Hidden among his mega-hits like “Radically Saved”, “Lazarus Come Forth” and of course, “The Champion” (literally performed by every youth group that had a human-video team in the ‘90s), there was a less popular song called, “A Little Bit More Conviction”. It heralded the truth that as Christians we need the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives so that we can live for Christ and accurately represent Him to the world. I was thinking about this song the other day as I had a conversation with a fellow believer. The conversation started out innocently enough—“Hey, how are you doing? What’s new?” (You know, casual polite conversation.). She started to tell me that she was excited about her upcoming vacation to the Dominican Republic. Then, because of current events surrounding the D.R. she felt the need to explain why she wasn’t worried because all of the alcohol she’d be drinking would be in sealed bottles. I have to be honest, the rest of the conversation was lost on me because I was struggling with the fact that she not only intended to be intoxicated for most of her vacation, but she had no problem admitting it. It reminded me of a recent post I saw on social media where a person that I know signed papers saying they would not drink alcohol, proudly posted and commented on pictures of themselves drinking alcohol. Forget the matter of integrity, but it made me start wondering, “When did Christians become so bold that they not only feel free to participate in sin, but they now boast about it on social media?” Of course, it isn’t just alcohol. There are a lot of posts like this on social media. There are Christians online bragging about how much they gamble. Others going to movies that are either highly occultic or completely pornographic. Others clearly have no problem promoting their promiscuous lifestyle. But it’s all the same thing: Christians doing things they should not be doing in places that they shouldn’t even be, and posting it for the whole world to see. Sorry, but every time I see it, I agree with Carmen’s assessment that we “Need a little bit more conviction.” “C’mon ‘Des, aren’t you being a little legalistic?” My answer to that is a big, fat, loud, “No!!!” You see, in my teen years, I had a very up close and personal look at legalism in the church when I spent the last few years of my high school experience at a Pentecostal Holiness school. There I learned the pain of being shamed and ostracized, called out and embarrassed when they called me a “Jezebel” because my hair wasn’t down to my knees and I had pierced ears. I saw first hand the pain and confusion caused when man-made rules were placed above a personal relationship with Jesus. And no, I absolutely do not want to return to that. What I do want to return to is Biblical morality. I want to see the Church become strong and great again as Christians commit to reading their Bible, and living by what it says.
“But doesn’t the Bible say I have freedom in Christ and that I’m saved by grace?” Absolutely!!! And yet, it is also a fact that every time the Bible teaches about grace and being set free from Old Testament Laws, it is also followed by a list of specific sins that Christians need to avoid and a plea to live holy lives dedicated to Jesus.
You can’t separate the two—-they go hand in hand. It is only when we grab hold of one without the other that we see excesses and pain on either side. Yet, true Holy Spirit conviction occurs when we are so grateful for the grace and freedom we are given in Jesus, that we agree to obey the NEW TESTAMENT commands taught in the Bible.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV) So what is the solution to this problem? First, as Christians, we need to make a commitment to reading and understanding the Bible. Each of us needs to find a translation of the Bible that we can understand and commit to reading it on a daily basis. This is where we learn what God expects of us and how we are to live our lives. It isn’t enough to just listen to someone preach or teach—that gives us a partial perspective. The only way to really understand God’s Laws is to read the entire Bible—at least the entire New Testament— for ourselves. Then, we need to commit to living by Biblical standards. It doesn’t matter what society says is acceptable or even what the church says is a “gray area”. What does the Bible say? If you aren’t sure what the Bible says in a particular area, then study it. Research it. When you discover God’s way, choose to obey it. Anything else is sin. Finally, be open to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. As believers, one of the chief works of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to convict us of sin. (John 16:8-11) The problem arises when we feel the Holy Spirit’s conviction and choose to do what we want anyway. This is disobedience and it hardens our hearts. If we ignore the Holy Spirit’s conviction long enough it could seriously damage our relationship with God. That’s why it’s so important that we are constantly open to the Holy Spirit’s voice saying: “Don’t do that.” “Don’t go there.” “This isn’t right, stay away from it. Do this instead.” Understand that when He speaks to us, the Holy Spirit isn’t trying to ruin our fun. Instead, He is trying to protect us, to help us, and to make us into holy people who can completely fulfill the purpose that God has designed for our lives. That’s the beauty of conviction—-it’s for our good and the advancement of God’s kingdom. Like all of God’s gifts, it is perfect, leading us on God’s path and away from evil. (James 1:17) That’s why we all need to say as Carmen did, “In my life, I want a little bit more conviction.” Can we all agree it’s time?