Ray Johnson was not what you’d call a lukewarm Christian. If anything, he was a man of deep conviction. Each Sunday Ray, his wife, and their five kids would pile into the family wagon and drive several hours just to get to church. He wore a cap which read, “God said it; I believe it; That settles it.” So strong were his convictions, in fact, that he died because of them.
Mr. Johnson wrongly believed that he could handle venomous snakes without harm as a sign of the Spirit’s presence in his heart. Hours after he was bitten by a three-foot rattlesnake in church, he was taken to his home where fellow members prayed for his recovery. Thirteen hours later he was dead.
Ray’s problem was not that he lacked conviction. His problem was that his convictions were wrong.
How can we be sure that the things we believe actually come from God and are not tricks of the devil? There is a way. Jesus described three specific convictions which the Holy Spirit produces in the hearts of His people. “When He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Jn. 16:8ff).
” . . . of sin, because they do not believe in Me.”
In many ways the world has its own convictions about sin, doesn’t it? In a society where 2.9 million cases of child abuse are reported each year, most want stricter sentencing for child abusers. When acts of violence cost American lives, Americans want new laws and appropriate punishment. Who would deny that murder and stealing and arson are sinful? But there is one sin that the world is always willing to overlook: the sin of rejecting Christ.
In a society where all religions are equally tolerated, it is considered presumptuous, even sinful, to say that only one religion is correct and all others are worthless. Yet the Spirit teaches: “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Sounds unAmerican, but it is a conviction that God produces.
” . . . of righteousness, because I go to the Father.”
Ask yourself: “Who is responsible for my salvation?” The question is trickier than it sounds. Each of us is born with the idea that we can save ourselves or at least contribute something by how we live or what we do. The Spirit convinces us otherwise: true righteousness is a gift of God’s grace in Christ. My salvation depends 0% on me; 100% on Christ.
Why did Jesus return to the Father? Because Jesus had completed the work He came here to do. When He ascended to heaven, He left no loose ends for us to tie up; no “to do” lists for us to fulfill. The Spirit makes us certain that while salvation is only in Christ, salvation is also all Christ.
Christ Over All
” . . . of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
As godlessness escalates, count on trouble ahead for all who wish to remain faithful to God. Yet, the Spirit convinces us that there is really nothing to fear. No matter what happens to us in this life, the devil is judged, eternal victory is ours. Though it often seems that we’re fighting a losing battle, we have the God-given assurance that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Mt. 16:18) against His Church.
These are convictions that only God can produce. To have them we need to be a the place where God produces them. . . His Word. “Sanctify them through Thy truth,” Jesus prayed, “Thy Word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).
–Pastor James Albrecht