The power of conviction

Image: Luther posting his 95 theses in 1517, by Ferdinand Pauwels.

There’s a big difference between an opinion and a conviction.

And the difference is this. A conviction is an opinion acted on, regardless of the cost.

Plenty of people have opinions. Opinions are cheap. They don’t cost you anything. But it’s another story with convictions. Having a conviction may cost you everything. Maybe that’s why it sometimes seems very few people actually have many. Some people appear to have none at all!

Martin Luther nailed his convictions to the church door five hundred years ago. It cost him dearly. He suffered untold attack and persecution and was fortunate to have escaped with his life. But Luther and his convictions changed the course of history.

While it’s important to have convictions, the fact is that not all convictions are correct. Islamic terrorists, for instance, have convictions.

But here’s the problem.

Much of western society seems to think that the most effective way to oppose wrong convictions is to have no convictions. The only conviction we are allowed to have in a politically-correct world is the conviction that we can’t have convictions, and certainly not convictions we try to persuade others to adopt. That won’t do much to stop other people with very wrong convictions and who are prepared to act on them.

So how do you get beyond opinion to conviction?

You cannot have convictions without a belief in the reality of truth, a truth greater than you or I. Jesus said the truth would set us free — but only if we follow it. Christians have a ready-made source of eternal truth in the Bible, if only they would read and obey it.

Obedience shouldn’t really be a problem. Truth, properly grasped, compels us into action. Or reaction! The proper teaching of the Word of God results in one of two things. Either people put their beliefs into action, or they become angry with what they hear. Neutrality goes out the window when the Bible is preached faithfully. You can’t hear it and do nothing. Truth provokes you into one of these two responses.

One more thing needs to be said. Convictions are not just mental or intellectual certainties. They are not just a set of doctrines we sign our agreement to.

Convictions represent truth planted in our spirit and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Convictions propel us into action. They destroy all traces of apathy. They make compromise with the world impossible.

Once you have seen the kingdom, it ruins you for everything else.

That’s exactly what happened to Luther. And through the exercise of his convictions, history was radically changed. You and I are the beneficiaries of his actions today.

People with opinions are often loud but quickly forgotten. People with convictions are often quiet but have eternal impact.

The lie of the enemy to you is that your convictions do not matter. The opposite is true. They mean everything.

Obey the Word. Do what you know God is calling you to do. And have the satisfaction that you will leave behind a world changed for the better.