FAITH, BEHAVIOR, AND CONVICTION
Years ago I met a person who asked me for help. He began by saying, "I am an
agnostic." This was his request. "I really do not know if God exists. But, I read and
study the Bible. It is clear that God expects people to be baptized. I do not know if
God exists. If He does, He expects me to be baptized. If I die, and God exists, I dare
not face God without being baptized. Will you baptize me?"
Here was a person who had no faith in God, but who was convinced if he did the
right act, that act would content God, if God existed.
I refused to baptize him. If a person is baptized without faith in God and Jesus,
and without personal repentance, his or her baptism is without spiritual meaning.
His request illustrates a religious problem that grows worse and worse in the
church and in our society. Too often people do religious acts in wrong convictions.
Too often people believe religious acts without faith have the power to make God
happy. Too many people never understand religious acts lose their power and
meaning if there is no faith.
- To me, the agnostic's request for baptism powerfully illustrates a major
problem in our society.
- When a person misses the point of an act, the act itself can become
As a driver, do you understand the point of a 4-way stop?
- Let me illustrate my point.
- Illustration #1: abuse misses the point of discipline.
- Abuse believes the point of discipline is control.
- The true point of discipline is loving guidance.
- Illustration # 2: anorexia misses the point of self-control.
- Anorexia believes the point of self-control is to destroy the body.
- The true point of self-control is to increase health.
- Illustration # 3: drug abusers miss the point of life.
- Many drug abusers think the point of life is evasion of responsibility.
- Life's true point is to find highest level of responsibility and live there.
- 4-way stops illustrate freedom and responsibility working together.
- When drivers understand the point of a 4-way stop, that intersection can
move a lot of traffic quickly and smoothly.
- But when drivers do not understand the point of 4-way stops, the same
intersection becomes a disaster waiting to happen.
- At a 4-way stop, you are free to drive any way you choose to drive.
- You are free to be totally selfish and inconsiderate.
- You are free to ignore the law.
- You are free to cause accidents.
- You are free to wreck your own car.
- You are also free to stop and wait your turn.
- If you use your freedom irresponsibly, a 4-way stop quickly becomes a
nerve-racking, disaster area.
- 4-way stops will not work when drivers use their freedom irresponsibly.
- If drivers at 4-way stops are irresponsible, they soon create gridlock, and
no one goes anywhere.
- However, if all four lanes of drivers at the intersection choose to use their
freedom responsibly, it is amazing how smoothly and quickly lots of traffic
flows through the intersection.
If I asked, "What is the point of being a Christian?" what would you say?
- Let me give you three words: faith, behavior, conviction.
"Well, David, which word would you select?"
- If I asked you to explain the point of being a Christian by using those words,
which word or words would you choose?
- Some of us would choose the word "faith."
- Many of us would use "faith" to emphasize the importance of trusting God.
- However, we might struggle to share how that trust expresses itself.
- Some of us would choose the word "behavior."
- Many of us would use "behavior" to emphasize the importance of doing
the right things the right way.
- However, when we make our lists of godly behavior, our lists might be
based on "don't dos" or "church things."
- I would predict that the majority of us would choose the word "conviction."
- To most of us the word "conviction" is the unshakable dedication to what
we are convinced is true.
- However, it is common for Christians to place their faith in their
convictions, and to regard convictions as more important than behavior.
Too often we create the impression that all that matters is convictions.
- I would select all three.
- We need to firmly trust God and Jesus by trusting what God does in
- We need convictions that are founded in the Bible's teachings, God's
priorities, and Jesus' values.
- We need godly behavior that demonstrates the blessing and value of our
faith and convictions.
- Would you notice something in your daily association with other people?
- When others are impressed and challenged by someone's Christianity,
what do they admire?
- Do they admire the fact the person has faith? Sometimes.
- Do they admire the fact the person has convictions? Sometimes.
- Do they admire the person's behavior? Often.
- The value of our faith and convictions must be obvious in our every day
- It is our behavior that attracts people to our faith and convictions, or our
behavior that repels people from our faith and convictions.
Too many Christians think "if my convictions are right," I do not need to
understand the point.
- "I abuse my wife, but I have the right convictions."
- "I cheat on my husband, but I have the right convictions."
- "I neglect my children, but I have the right convictions."
- "I indulge in destructive pleasures, but I have the right convictions."
- "I am miserable to deal with, but I have the right convictions."
- "I have horrible attitudes that cause other Christians problems, but I have the
- "I take advantage of people in business, but I have the right convictions."
- "Miss worship on Sunday morning? My convictions will not allow that!" Why
are you so committed to attending? "I know I am supposed to come, but I
cannot explain to you why."
- "Miss communion on Sunday? My convictions will not allow that!" Why do
you take communion every week? "I am supposed to, but I could not explain
to you why."
To me, the agnostic's request to be baptized illustrates a major abuse of
- "Why does that request illustrate an abuse of Christianity?"
"What is the wrong impression?"
- Some have forgotten the point of Christian existence, and through their
forgetfulness they create the wrong impression.
- Some have never known the point of Christian existence, and through their
ignorance they create the wrong impression.
"What is the correct impression?"
- Wrong impression # 1: the point of Christianity is procedure.
- "The whole point of Christianity is doing the right things the right way."
- "As long as the right things are done the right way, God is happy."
- Wrong impression # 2: the point of Christianity is current security.
- "The whole point of Christianity is obtaining spiritual insurance."
- "If you do what God says, nothing bad can happen."
- Wrong impression # 3: the point of Christianity is performing proper rituals.
- "The whole point of Christianity is practicing spiritual magic: if you perform
the right rituals, God will do what you want Him to do."
- "If you want God to do what you want, you have to learn the right rituals."
Paul's challenge to the Christians in Ephesus in Ephesians 4 is powerful
- God knows what evil does to us; God knows the trouble that evil produces in
our lives; and God loves us.
- God wants to use Jesus to change us inside out so we are free from the
control of evil to live in the freedom of godliness.
- Does God want us to believe in Him, in Jesus, and in His Spirit? Absolutely!
If we do not have faith, He cannot change us.
- Does God want us to build convictions that are based on His will?
Absolutely! If we do not let Him teach us what is important, He cannot
- Does God want our behavior to reflect our faith and convictions? Absolutely!
If our faith and convictions are real, our everyday behavior is based on God's
values and priorities.
- He challenged them to understand God's purpose among them collectively.
- He challenged them to understand God's purpose in the church was the
spiritual maturing of every Christian as they serve Christ as Christ's body.
- He said that if they understood God's message in the Christ, they understand
that people who belong to God do not live and act like godless people.
- He said that if they understood the meaning of being a new person in Christ,
they wanted God to spiritually recreate them in righteousness and holiness of
For the sake of emphasis, for the sake of focusing on meaning, I want to read
Ephesians 4:25-32 from a translation called The Message. Listen, think, and read
What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your
neighbor the truth. In Christ's body we're all connected to each other, after all.
When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry--but don't use your anger as fuel
for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the Devil
that kind of foothold in your life. Did you used to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job
so that you can help others who can't work. Watch out the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.
Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don't grieve God. Don't break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in
you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don't take
such a gift for granted. Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one
another, sensitive. Forgive one another quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ
[Prayer: God increase our faith. Deepen the convictions You want in our hearts and
minds. And teach us how to live. Teach us how to behave every day. Teach us how
to treat each other. Teach us how to treat all people.]
The agnostic who asked me to baptize him came to see me many months later. He
returned as one who believed. He asked me to baptize him because he believed, and
with joy I did.
Do you believe? Was your baptism a declaration of faith? Is your faith obvious in your
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 22 April 2001
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