Reflection from July 23, 2023

Life of Conviction

Last year I gave a short message at a church in downtown Barrie that I called “what if I stumble?” Originally I had wanted to speak on the subject of living a life of conviction and intentionality, because that had become my focus over the last year and a half. But something didn’t feel right. Every time I started thinking about living a life of conviction, and by that I mean living with a clear conscience, I could only think about all of the ways that I have failed to do this in the past. And so it became apparent that rather than speak on the subject of succeeding at the Christian walk, I should first address what happens all too often when I fail to do so.

The words of an old(er) song came to mind (DC Talk):

What if I stumble, what if I fall?

What if I lose my step and I make fools of us all.

                        Will the love continue,

                        When my walk becomes a crawl.

                        What if I stumble, what if I fall?

I took two approaches to discussing this topic. First was an assessment of what does NOT happen when a Christian stumbles. It can be a daunting thought that as Christians we must make ourselves to be more Christ-like everyday. But that is not what Scripture tells us is happening as part of our sanctification process. Paul writes in Thessalonians, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” So it ought to be said that you did not start your christian faith with a righteousness of your own, and we won’t end it that way either. Your righteousness before God is not based on what you do (Amen?). When a Christian stumbles, they do not fall back down towards the pit of Hell, having to start their sanctification process over (Amen?). Psalm 40 tells us what happened upon our conversion, and where we stand at any given point once our faith is in Christ.

Psalm 40

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

and put their trust in him.

So a Christian who falters may stumble and fall, but they do not tumble back into the pit where Christ once pulled them from. Instead, they fall down on the rock they have been placed on, the firm foundation. Now there are consequences that come when we disregard our conscience, and fail to act according to our convictions. Our eyes are diverted from the eternal to the temporary. Hebrews tells us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” We fall out of step with the Spirit of God. Galatians reminds us of this, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”. And, ultimately, we must repent. Acts 3:19 “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Since that message I have come to see how far away I was from living that life of conviction that I wanted to. And I pray that I will be saying the same thing a year from today. Given the nature of my procrastination, I have taken ¾ of a year to only start scratching the surface of this second message. What I want to share today is the breakthrough I received in understanding what it meant to be a slave of righteousness (obeying your God given conscience).

SCRIPTURE Romans 6:15-23

These verses used to cause me no small amount of anxiety when I read them in the past. “You are slaves of the one you obey” was a haunting thought for me; I knew what it felt like to be a ‘slave’ to sin, to be under compulsion to act according to my flesh and what it desired. But a slave of obedience? Under compulsion to follow through with what I knew to be right? That was the very thing I struggled with most! It left me feeling like a yo-yo bouncing back and forth between masters. That was until I had the opportunity to dive into these verses at a small group and unpack a deeper meaning

  • Verses 15-18; Who do I serve?
    • I knew what it was to be a slave to sin, but not to obedience, to be under compulsion to do what I desired
    • Small group helped dig into this verse, and are a vital part for all of us
    • Paul’s words from 6:5-7 shows us that this is not a back and forth issue, our faith in Christ has sealed our fate
    • Paul’s words from 7:21-23 shows us that Paul recognized there is still a battle raging within each of us. We shouldn’t be surprised that we feel conflicted at times.
    • To be a slave, then, must mean something other than what I feel ‘drawn’ to in the moment
    • 16 gives us this answer, “when you offer yourselves”. So slavery here is in the context of bond-servant, of choosing which master you will obey. It is no longer about how I feel in the moment, but in which direction I am pointing myself. Am I headed towards obedience and righteousness, or am I pointed towards sin and death.
    • This has always been the case
      • Joshua 24:14 – as for me and my house
      • Matthew 4:18 – come follow me
  • Verse 19
    • Being a slave to obedience, and now righteousness, is not just about a moment of decision.
    • Here we see that our lives are actually on a trajectory, in a process, leading women and men to become more holy, OR more wicked.
    • God always wants to change something in you.
    • S. Lewis compared God to a dentist; they are never satisfied with just looking at the one painful tooth!
    • We only have one life to become who we will be for eternity – don’t settle!
  • Verses 20-22
    • Unfortunately, as Paul was well aware, there are still people who flirt with the idea that sin has some benefit. The flesh will conjure up all kinds of excuses and lies to prolong its life and influence over us. It is only seeking the delay of its inevitable death as long as possible.
    • But what benefit comes from these ways?
    • Whereas the ultimate benefit of becoming slaves to God: life
  • Verse 23
    • Wages of sin are death
    • Gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
    • What the works of the flesh will pay out at the end of your life are pitiful wages, giving you what you are due. But the GIFT of God that comes from living a life obedient to righteousness, that surpasses any riches we could fathom; it is not what we are owed, it is what we are gifted by the creator of life.
    • John 3:16-21
    • Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Jeff Lebeck

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