Deep Conviction

  • Steve Hatter
Tree with large roots sticking in the ground

With the arrival and departure of another Memorial Day Weekend, and the mark of one more year of time to be added to now seven decades since the D-Day landing of allied troops on the shore of France on June 6th, 1944, I’ve been thinking about the idea of dying for a cause.

In my musing, I went back to a blog that I wrote early in 2021. I thought I might resubmit that blog this week because, at the time of the original posting, I was really thinking that circumstances in our nation just could not get any worse. I was wrong. A year later as I write today, things are worse and not trending to get any better any time soon. So, what follows is perhaps more germane to today’s circumstances that when I wrote a year ago. With that in mind, here it is:

What inspires a soldier in wartime to run toward the gunfire instead of hiding or running away? What stirs someone to enter a burning building in the hope of saving another instead of standing safely away? What drives a person to dive into a horrendous and life-threatening undertow to save a drowning person with little regard for his own safety? What motivates someone to throw themselves on a live grenade? Why did Jesus go voluntarily to the cross at Calvary?

We have definitions in all human languages for such seemingly illogical behavior—that of risking one’s very life for a higher purpose. In English, valor means “great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.” Bravery can be defined as: “courageous behavior or character.” Selflessness is somewhat self-explanatory, but its dictionary definition is this: “concern more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own.” Noble means “having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.” Heroism is perhaps the sum of valor, bravery, selflessness, and nobility added together.

These concepts regarding choices of behavior in the context of personal threat are unique to human beings—they do not easily translate into behaviors found in the animal kingdom. This is because heroism involves a moral choice. Freely choosing self-sacrifice over self-preservation is not instinctive but of the mind. Therefore, such a choice must emanate from something deeper, which is a human being’s ability to discern moral choices, to divine right from wrong.

The Bible, of course, explains how and why people can both understand, and choose right behavior from wrong. Scripture explains that God made man in His image (Genesis 1:26) and that He has written His law upon every deity-imaged heart. The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 2:12-16:

“ For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

As image-bearers of the Creator, we know of righteousness because He, God, is by nature, righteous. God, as revealed to us in the special revelation of Scripture, is transcendent. His purity is described by the prophet Habakkuk in this way: “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong”

So, we know to choose as God would choose. The question is will we choose as He would? The Genesis narration of the fall of creation, of course, gives the answer. As we ponder tomorrow in 21st century America, we know that we may choose as He would, or we may not. This is true of both believers and unbelievers.

As believers, however, we have been saved by grace, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Therefore, under the New Covenant of Grace, we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit—with the third member of the Trinity who is God—which is both a convicting reality and a strength-giving certainty. Being Spirit-filled is the empowering agent to both choosing and doing what is right when tough choices come to us. As believers, we really know what to do, you might say. And, we have a source of clarity and power that unbelievers lack.

Believers, by faith, can demonstrate transcendent conviction, which is Christlike conviction. Conviction is faith acted upon. It is the quality of showing that one is firmly convinced of what one believes or says. For the Spirit-filled Christian, seemingly non-sensible actions demonstrated before an unbelieving world audience make perfect sense because we believe Him. We can, out of love rooted in faith, lay down our lives for our friends. (John 15:13)

We who are in Christ have a life and death mission that may require “a last full measure of devotion,” as President Abraham Lincoln phrased the sacrifice of one’s very life. In the troubling days ahead, we must have the conviction to advance the truth of the gospel so that people can be saved! Our focus is to be one soul at a time.

But rest assured. God will be with us in our moment of truth. He will never leave us or forsake us. (Deuteronomy 31:8) We will know what to do and we will do it! He will reward our conviction.