I know what it is like to be on trial and hear the words no defendant desires to hear – “We find him guilty!” I know what it is like to be bound in chains, and discarded from those you hold dear and love to enter a life of uncertainty, of fear, of knowing you are where you are because of your own decisions and actions, torturing yourself knowing the time you spend incarcerated could have been better spent, could have been spent in joy and happiness and love with a future to look forward to.
Yes I know what that feels like. Not because I was a criminal and actually sent to prison, but because I was a child of God and turned my back on God and the church purposely. When I left the church in 2009, I didn’t leave it suddenly, it happened over a period of weeks. At a time of weakness, at a time when I was not a mature Christian, I let evil into my life. Not once, but several times. Not in a huge ugly heap but with small little things that chipped away at my soul. I knew I was sliding downward even as I sporadically went to worship services.
It was in those worship services I attended though that I learned and felt the anguish of being convicted. Convicted as I listened to the words of the songs being sung. Convicted when I partook of the Lord’s Supper when I knew in my heart I was lost. Convicted when the heat of the words the preacher spoke singed my heart. Convicted at the invitation because I knew I was headed for death for not surrendering to Jesus.
But especially the songs. The songs haunt me even today. For now my soul and spirit has clawed from the mire of a sinful world, I have been released from my prison, I have returned to the fold. I sing with joy and love the words of the hymns. And now I am revived, reborn, renewed and redeemed. Some songs are almost impossible for me to sing now, not because they convict me but because of the joy and love that wraps and protects my heart and knowing how close I came to eternal death.
I was always told of how easy it is to fall away simply by missing a worship service. How easy it is to miss a second service after missing the first one, easier still a third service, then a fourth and on an on until one day you just stop coming to join the family and worship God altogether. Don’t think “that’s not me,” or “I’m not worried about that,” or “It’s just one time.” Falling away always starts with “just one time.”
If I had an absolutely, positively, can’t miss, sure-fire way to make a million dollars with virtually no effort you’d probably listen up and follow my instructions wouldn’t you? Well, I have an absolutely, positively, can’t miss, sure-fire way for you to live a joyous life both here and now and in eternal life. You see, there is another type of conviction. One that pierces your heart and soul. One that makes you fall to your knees and cry in joy and happiness. Will you listen? Will you follow my instructions? See me at worship services this Sunday and I’ll tell you how. Hope I see you there.