Embracing Spiritual Conviction, Part Two

Sending Church Element 02:   Embracing Spiritual Conviction

The church is convinced of their need to personally engage this lostness through the truth of the Scriptures and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

The Sending Church Elements are a framework for growing as a sending church. They point out the strengths and weaknesses of churches in missions. Embracing Spiritual Conviction describes a transformation of the sending church, in which a theology of mission flows from the peoples' minds into their hearts. This series will address why spiritual conviction is important and explain the means God gives us to grow in conviction.

It’s easy to approve the idea of sending. It's easy to affirm that we should send our closest friends and family in order to win faraway peoples for God’s Kingdom... easy, that is, as long as it remains in the future—we’ll get there eventually. How about going across the street to share the gospel? How about making space for unbelievers in our busy schedules? Well, we figure, I would invite my neighbors over to watch the game, but I already invited my community group. Conviction for God's mission can wait until tomorrow. Today we'll take it easy.

We are strongly driven toward what is convenient and comfortable, and for the most part, good gifts should be received from God with thankfulness. Because we are a family, however, we are tempted to keep all our good gifts within the family. It's not a natural family that takes the children's bread and throws it to dogs, yet Jesus exhibited astonishing compassion toward those outside the family (Matthew 15:24-28). How, as a church, can we become as compassionate and self-sacrificing as our Lord?

Since we are God’s adopted children, then we are expected to be about the family business. Our eldest brother is in the business of making disciples and told us to do the same. This is why God gave his church teachers and shepherds, so that every member would be equipped to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Becoming equipped theologically is half the story, yet our hearts must also be moved to joyfully obey. Embracing Spiritual Conviction is first a matter of understanding the teaching of Scripture, and secondly it’s a matter of loving Christ by treasuring the Word in our hearts.

The Holy Spirit Convicts through Scripture

Conviction for God’s mission, an earnestness that is embraced in the heart, is supplied by the reforming power of the Spirit. The Spirit works according to Christ’s mission, according to the Word. Conviction for mission does not arise from another source other than Scripture. The Spirit’s mission and Christ’s mission are one and the same, and if we want to see what the Spirit is doing in the world, we must look back and see what is revealed he is doing in the Word. Todd Miles describes the Spirit’s ministry this way: “The Spirit does not operate in the world as an independent source of truth. He teaches truth in that He testifies about Jesus (John 15:26). The words the Spirit would speak are the words of Christ” (316).

The lost are not are not convicted by the Spirit to believe unless they hear the message (Romans 10:14-17). Similarly, believers are not consistently moved to obedience unless we build each other up by speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15-16).

If we want to store away the Word in our hearts, we must have a right understanding of it. There is no other spiritual act by which we transform our understanding and draw close to God in worship. Rather our spiritual act of worship is offering our lives as a sacrifice according to God’s self-revealed truths, and this is how we know what pleases God (Romans 12:1-2). This is how the Spirit reforms our thinking and redirects our desires.

It is not true then, that a church can foster true conviction for mission through any mysticism or piety divorced from what Scripture says. Likewise, our conviction will fizzle in the face of hardship if conviction is primarily founded on a humanitarian sense of justice stirred up by numbers and statistics. We need the substantial, timeless truths of Scripture to hold our hearts firmly in place when the storms of life and the fiery darts of the enemy barrage us.

The Spirit uses us to pull each other Along

Paul warned against those who would desire preaching that never challenged them but only scratched their itches (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Scratching itches is too tame for addressing our remaining sin that clings so closely and threatens to cut us off from life. The Bible's picture for brotherly love is iron sharpening ironing (Proverbs 27:17). Sometimes pressing into holiness is downright grating and causes sparks to fly. Sometimes love looks like getting under each other's skin, painfully goading each other into action (Hebrews 10:24). It takes a good friend to speak hard truths and build one another up in love.

If we say that the Great Commission is the task of the local church and that it ought to be the conviction of the local church, we must understand how we come to that conviction as a church. Even if the church is made up of individuals, the Great Commission is not a task given to individuals only. How does the whole church embrace spiritual conviction for mission? It starts with individuals who lead others by speaking truth and leading in prayer. Consider the story of Travis McGowen: one man’s faithfulness in prayer for God’s glory among the nations spread to those whom he discipled.

The Spirit moves us to depend on Christ

If we desire to do something bigger than ourselves, we won't be lacking in opportunity. We have been given a task that is outrageously bigger than ourselves. Making disciples of all nations is not merely beyond the scope of the individual; it is outrageously beyond the scope of local churches. Yet the local church is the primary tool God is using to accomplish his mission in this age, just as the Great Commission began with one gathering of believers. The enormity of the mission causes us to call out to God and depend less on ourselves. When we are struck with a need to obey God without the apparent ability to do so, we must depend on Christ, knowing that we can accomplish nothing otherwise (John 15:4-5).

We often know what pleases God. We often know all the correct Bible answers. We just find the right answers annoying, inconvenient, or even dangerous. Our natural inclination is not to be good Samaritans, so we must seek a power outside ourselves to fight what feels natural. If we depend on God—if we ask the Spirit to change our desires according to God's self-revelation, God will surely grant our request.

THIS ARTICLE IS BY ANDY JANSEN, AN UPSTREAM INTERN FOCUSING ON CONTENT MANAGEMENT