The Price and Power of Convictions: Paul in Acts 14

Posted: August 25, 2008 in Conviction
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I couldn’t preach a normal sermon on Acts 14. This one little chapter had weighed on my soul since my early days after I had given my life to Jesus Christ in 1974. I could not grasp the depth of the drive that possessed the Apostle Paul in his service of Jesus. While preparing to preach on this chapter last week, I once again asked God for insight into how Paul was able to be stoned nearly to death one day, and then get up and walk 60 or so miles the next just so he could preach. I thought that perhaps it had been a miracle healing (even though Luke, a Doctor, does not describe it as such), or maybe they used little rocks. But this was a real stoning, and they thought he was really dead. How do I Know?….Years later Paul writes to the Lystrans who were in the area of Galatia, “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”. Galatians 6:17 Paul had REAL scars from a REAL stoning. Then Paul wrote the Corinthians, and referred to being stoned and “exposed to death again and again” (2 Corinthians 11:23, 25). Even near the end of his life, Paul would recall the abuse he suffered in these Galatian towns. In writing to Timothy, Paul wanted Timothy to remember the “persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them”

He told Timothy to continue in those things which you have learned, knowing from whom you learned them. (2 Timothy 3:11,14).

What could possibly have kept DRIVING Paul ON?

Paul kept following Jesus even when he faced such hardships and physical pain and suffering. What was his power, his drive?

  • Was it his stubborn persistence in preaching the gospel?
  • Was it his guilt over the persecution of Christians?
  • Was it his natural “never say die” attitude that kept him going.
  • Was it a secret supply of energizer batteries?

None of these could have got Paul up that next morning and head off to preach in Derbe. What could possibly keep you and me following Jesus even when we are faced with hardships and pain and physical suffering. God told me that His Servant Paul was possessed of something that both cost Him dearly but at the same time provided that Power he needed to KEEP on Pressing toward the Mark. Paul was a Man of Convictions!

When the editors of Biography Magazine asked Caroline Rhea, “What historical figure would you like to be?” She replied, “I’ve always admired Joan of Arc, so I’d say her—but without the burning at the stake thing.” —Biography, October 2001, p. 30

When I read her statement, I immediately understood what she meant, I mean, who wouldn’t like to be a person of conviction characterized by strength and determination like Joan of Arc, and conversely, who wants to be burned at the stake? The only problem with that thinking is that it ignores the fact that people of conviction often have to pay the ultimate price. Paul was beaten, stoned and left for dead. Daniel had to spend the night with the lions. Church history says that 10 of the 11 remaining apostles died martyr’s deaths and everyone knows that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Convictions often lead to sufferings. And great people are often called upon to make the ultimate price.

Paul was a man of unshakeable Convictions in the Reality of Jesus Christ, that He was Risen and Alive, that He is Lord of the Universe and that Paul’s life now belonged to Him! That Conviction framed and directed everything Paul did. Tribulation, Torture, Stoning, Beatings did nothing to take that conviction away. Paul was DRIVEN by His Convictions.

Paul Gives Testimony to His Convictions

In Acts 22 Paul addressed an assembly of Jews in Jerusalem; “At once I regained my sight and looked up to him. ‘The God of our fathers,’ he went on, ‘has chosen you to know his will, to see the righteous one, to hear words from his own lips, so that you may become his witness before all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up and be baptised! Be clean from your sins as you call on his name.’” Acts 22: (Phillips NT)

When Paul spoke before King Agrippa, he said the following in Acts 26:11: “the Lord said to me, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Now get up and stand on your feet for I have shown myself to you for a reason – you are chosen to be my servant and a witness to what you have seen of me today, and of other visions of myself which I will give you. I will keep you safe from both your own people and from the Gentiles to whom I now send you. I send you to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God himself, so that they may know forgiveness of their sins and take their place with all those who are made holy by their faith in me.’ After that, King Agrippa, I could not disobey the heavenly vision. “

Paul’s belief’s in Jesus Christ were non-negotiable, non-shakable, non-stoppable. He would never stop believing that Jesus was His Lord, and that Jesus required His service, no matter how many times you beat him, stoned him, or tortured him.

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. 1If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:10-13

The Conviction of Richard Wurmbrand:

Tortured for His Convictions in Christ

Tortured for His Convictions in Christ

Over 4,000 priests, pastors, and ministers from all denominations gathered in the Soviet Union and elected Joseph Stalin as their honorary president. One by one the Conferees went to the podium and declared that Christianity and communism were fundamentally the same. They could “get along.” One young woman could not bear what she was hearing and begged her husband to go forward and “wash the shame off” the face of Jesus. Her husband, Richard Wurmbrand protested, “If I speak against the communists, you will no longer have a husband.” His wife replied, “I do not wish to have a coward for a husband.” Pastor Wurmbrand went to the podium and spoke of loyalty only to Jesus Christ. He said Christianity could not “co-exist” with any entity that opposed the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus. Wurmbrand paid dearly for his stand. He spent years in Communist jails, being beaten and abused. Wurmbrand went on to write books about his experience, and to found the organization Voice of the Martyrs. His message encourages many today. Christians are not to hate those who oppose them. We are to stand against deception, and advocate love and truth. Believers in Jesus need to seek peace, but never trade it for compromise.—Have we shamed the face of Jesus? Voice of the Martyrs, December 2001. Submitted by Jim Sandell

They Said “Yes!” To God

  • What if Martin Luther ignored his soul’s conviction that there was something radically wrong with the sale of indulgences? Would there have been a Reformation? Thankfully, Luther said “yes” to God and fought until he had a church doctrine he could make peace with. It was then that he could preach salvation by grace and by grace alone in Christ Jesus. And it was then that he could write down all the inspiration that was within him—400 books and pamphlets and 125 hymns worth.
  • What if John Wesley had not said “yes” to God on the night of May 24, 1738, when his heart was strangely warmed in a meeting on Aldersgate Street? What if he gave up when the churches closed their doors to him and what if he wasn’t inspired to preach to thousands outside those churches in open-air meeting after meeting—40,000 sermons in all? The Methodist societies he formed grew into the churches throughout America and England that many worship in today.
  • What if William Ashley (“Billy”) Sunday had told God he could make more money playing professional baseball? Instead he said “yes” and five years later went to work with the YMCA in Chicago and from there launched out on his own as a full-time Presbyterian evangelist. From city to city he preached with passion and an unforgettable style—his love for God and his conviction for eternal life with Christ inspired an estimated 300,000 sinners to say…”yes”…to Jesus Christ.

Pastors and Preachers of the 21st Century no longer speak of Convictions. We have a new generation of believer’s who will fall away from Christ when they are truly tested.

Jonas Yoder versus the State of Wisconsin

Jonas Yoder versus the State of Wisconsin

In the late 1960s, there was a landmark case which shook the entire United States. The story was about the man by the name of “Jonas Yoder” an Amish farmer who defied the State and refused to send his daughter to school (beyond the eighth grade) based on his religious convictions. The case eventually went up to the Supreme court in 1972. As a last resort, Yoder appealed using the First Amendment to protect his religious convictions. As such, the State had to determine if Yoder really believed in what he believed in.[ref: Yoder vs Wisconsin]

The Supreme Court ruled that only a person’s convictions are protected by the First Amendment while one’s religious preference are not. A conviction is rooted in the conscience and cannot be changed without changing that which essentially defines the person.

For those who claim to hold religious beliefs, the Court laid down two fundamental principles:

  1. One cannot hold a belief unless one can somehow describe that belief
  2. Beliefs must be individually and personally held.

From these two general principles, the Court then established that beliefs can only fall into one of two categories – either a preference or conviction. A preference can be a strong belief, even one you hold with great intensity and strength. There are FOUR characteristics: (1)You can even go into full time service in the name of that belief. (2) You can give all your wealth to it. (3) You can even be energetic in proselytizing other people to that belief.(4) You even want to teach it to your children. The court said that it is still only a preference, and is not protected under the first amendment. The reason it may only be a preference, is that under certain pressures and circumstances, they will change.

The court applied the following tests:

  1. Peer Pressure
  2. Family Pressure
  3. Fear of Lawsuit
  4. Jail
  5. Pressure of Death

What then creates a conviction?

Preference vs Conviction defined by the Supreme Court

Preference vs Conviction defined by the Supreme Court

The court said only one thing. A Conviction is a belief that will never change, because a man believes that his God requires it of him. A belief that is God ordered is a CONVICTION. It is a matter of believing with all of your heart that God requires something of you. The court said “When you believed that your God has required something of you, you will withstand all of the tests they have spoken about.” The court said the first thing would be for you to decide, is your belief a CONVICTION or is it a PREFERENCE? Is it belief that you hold that is God ordered because PREFERENCES are simply not protected by the constitution.

Convictions Defined by Supreme Court

Convictions Defined by Supreme Court

A Conviction:

  • Must not Change
  • Must be Purposed (even if you are the only one)
  • Must be Consistent and Must be seen in your daily living

It is not something you accidentally come across, but something you purpose in your heart as a fabric of your belief system.

Dr. Bob Jones used to say I have never seen a man made by a crisis, the crisis just exposes the man for what he already is and that is exactly what the court is looking at. The court said your CONVICTIONS will be `purposed.’

If is required of you that people stand with you before you will stand your beliefs are PREFERENCES and not CONVICTIONS.

Our lives can only be built on convictions and not preferences. God is more interested in your character than your comfort. A person of character and principles does not buckle under pressure or crisis. Instead the crisis exposes his inner self and reveal who he actually is.

Then the Court said how do we know whether you have those conviction or not?

And then they came up with a test. This CONVICTION, they say, will always show up in a person’s lifestyle. They said “What is on the inside of a man is always going to show on the outside of a man.” And if that is true, and we teach that it is true, they say “What we need to do is look at what is on the outside and recognize that it is there because of what is on the inside.”

And the court said you do not have the right to say you have a CONVICTION unless we can somehow see you live that CONVICTION with some element of consistency.

The court says the opposite of CONVICTION is SIN. And you must stand for that or else it is not a conviction. We really have nothing to take exception to because that is consistent with our beliefs.

Convictions are Non-Negotiable

Convictions are Non-Negotiable

Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego set the example of living by your convictions.They stood alone against a King and an entire nation, because their CONVICTIONS were non-negotiable.

What the three Hebrew children were telling the king is “This matter of our faith is non-negotiable.” The court said if you can discuss the negotiation of your faith, your faith is a matter of PREFERENCE and not CONVICTION.

Which are Convictions and which are preferences:

  1. I have a conviction that I should try to overcome a drinking problem (Preference-a conviction must be seen in your daily living)
  2. I have a conviction that a man should lead his family, but in some situations this may change. (A preference, a conviction must not change.)
  3. I have a conviction that some of the television programs I watch are harmful for my children. A preference. A conviction must be consistent. If the programs are harmful for children, they are harmful for adults)
  4. I have a conviction that I should not pay taxes to programs which violate God’s Word. (An unscriptural conviction. Jesus paid taxes to the very government that put Him to death. God commands us to pay our taxes)

Ten Modern Day Convictions the Church Should embrace.

  1. The Bible is the inspired Word of God and is the final authority for my life.
  2. My purpose in life is to seek God with my whole heart and to build my goals around His priorities.
  3. My body is the living temple of God and must not be defiled by the lusts of the world.
  4. My church must teach the foundational truths of the Bible and reinforce my basic convictions.
  5. My children and grandchildren belong to God, and it is my responsibility to teach them Scriptural principles, Godly character, and basic convictions.
  6. My activities must never weaken the Scriptural convictions of another Christian.
  7. My marriage is a life-long commitment to God and to my marriage partner.
  8. My money is a trust from God and must be earned and managed according to Scriptural principles.
  9. My words must be in harmony with God’s Word, especially when reproving and restoring a Christian brother.
  10. My affections must be set on things above, not on things in the earth.

Convictions Cost but Look at the Power They Produce:

Rev Dr John Scudder

Rev Dr John Scudder

Perhaps the most famous missionary family to India is the Scudder family, of whom Dr. John Scudder was the first (progenitor.) Dr. John Scudder’s missionary call came in the following way: He was a successful physician in New York. One night he was watching beside the bed of a dying child. He sat there until the child was dead and, as he rose from his seat, his eyes were attracted to a little chart which had dots on it, each dot representing a doctor in India. The chart revealed in a ghastly way how few physicians there were among the three hundred and fifty millions in India, and how many thousands were dying in that land of poverty and ignorance. Beneath the chart was the question, “Who will go to help?” The question formed in his mind, “Why shouldn’t I respond?”

Dr. Scudder went home and spoke to his wife about it. Since she was a lovely Christian woman, she responded in the words of Ruth, “Where thou goest I will go and where thou lodgest I will lodge, and thy God shall be my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Next he spoke to his father about it. His father flew into a rage and said, “Why, John, have you lost your senses? Where did you get this nonsense?” The upshot of the angry interview was the statement of the son, “Well, father, I’m sorry to have offended you. Let’s drop the subject.” But a week later the conviction was so strong within him that he ought to go to India to help the poor in the name of Jesus that he spoke to his father again and said, “Father, I’m going to India.” His father replied, “Never mention that subject to me again,” and that ended the interview. Possibly a month had passed, and this time the son was obliged to announce to his father his decision to go to India. Then the unexpected blow fell. The father sternly declared, “The day you go to India I disown you as my son.” It was a heavy cross to carry, but the son went to India and faithfully wrote a letter every month to his father in New York. Every letter, when it came, went into the wastebasket unopened. The father remained unreconciled. As might be expected, the mother rescued the letters from the wastebasket, sometimes reading them aloud. It is not recorded that the father stopped his ears. Dr. Scudder did such a great work in India and was so much sought after on his furloughs in America, that at long last his father awakened to the discovery that his son was living a great life and was reconciled. But think what finally happened from this Christlike consecration. Nine children of that first Dr. John Scudder gave their lives to missionary service in India, and grandchildren still are giving. The Scudders who came from that one young man’s consecration have given more than 1,000 years of missionary service.

Preachers we need to preach the Power of Convictions, regardless of the Cost!

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