The Conviction of Belief

John 16:8 “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment

I was listening to a sermon the other day by Chuck Swindoll, one of my all time favorite teachers. He was speaking on the difference between conviction and belief. The subject is one that I hadn’t seriously considered and so it lead me to into questioning my own responses and what motivates me toward righteousness.

“A belief is something you will argue about, a conviction is something you will die for.”

Howard G. Hendricks

What does it mean to hold a belief?

Belief Systems

A belief system is a set of principles or tenets which together form the basis of a religion, philosophy, or moral code. These systems can take on all kinds of descriptives such as:

  • Agnosticism.
  • Animism.
  • Atheism.
  • Deism.
  • Determinism.
  • Esotericism.

Venture into ancient Chinese systems and you’ll find Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism. There are so many systems of belief that for the wondering seeker of Truth, the opportunities present themselves like going to the market and choosing what fits your whim.

Today, the majority of beliefs can be relegated to a list that includes Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Christianity, Taoism, and Judaism. A majority of the world can be fit into one of these categories, with atheism making a strong resurgence.

A belief isn’t true unless it is backed up with proof.

Romans 10:9-10 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

A belief in Jesus is proven, Jesus proved Himself as Lord and Savior.

Confucius believed in ancestor worship, Muhammad claimed Allah was true, Buddha claimed enlightenment, these and any other path that leads to some form of man made morality and self realization have never been proven.

I can say I believe in Jesus but not live like I believe in Jesus. Belief has never saved an individual, belief is only a stated position waiting to be acted upon.

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

Moving from belief into conviction is where true belief takes form.


The conviction of belief does not originate in mankind but is initiated by God Himself.

John 16:8 “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”

When Jesus came in the form of incarnate man He lead with the conviction of God’s moral law. The 10 commandments were the standard by which Jesus conducted Himself, how He maintained His innocence, and was the means by which He established righteousness before the world.

Faith in Christ is initiated by the Father’s call to repentance.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

We may not be able to tangibly see the work of God in our lives but as we live out our faith, the world sees God’s work and this brings Him glory.

Conviction of the law of God can lead to a couple different conclusions:

  1. The law can lead us toward righteousness. The power of the law is made clear through conviction. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 “Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”
  2. The law can bring condemnation. For those who choose to live by their own belief system or an old one that is corrupt, the law of the Lord brings judgement against such disregard for God’s Holiness. Romans 2:15 “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.”

A key component of understanding God’s convicting Spirit and our appropriate response is found in our belief in God’s Word. Unless we believe God’s Word to be true, we cannot respond according to His call.

A Right Belief

Unless our belief aligns with God’s Word, how can we respond to anything of God’s doing?

1 Corinthians 1:30 “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption”

The sinner who is separated from God must believe in faith that God’s Word is true. This belief is inherent to man for God placed His laws on man’s heart so they would resonate within him. How mankind responds to God’s call is what determines the eternal destiny of their life.

The people of God continue to walk in this conviction. The Lord brings us into alignment with His Word by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

We’ve got to move from belief into conviction.

We have to learn to submit to God’s leading toward Holiness if we are to be found mature and complete in Him. It’s not pleasant being chastised by God for disobedience, it hurts our pride and causes shame. Though He punishes us, it is by His love that He does so.

John 3:19-21 “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

It is by this conviction we know we are sons and daughters of God. He wouldn’t correct us if He didn’t love us. It is through obedience to God’s leading that His people bring light to the world.

We can be thankful the Creator of this Universe takes our lives into consideration and values our position in Him.

The belief that we have received by faith, coupled with the conviction of the Spirit leads us to become more like Christ….this leads to honor.

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