IN OUR PREVIOUS studies (Part 1 and Part 2) we saw that religious people are sometimes
brought into court and tried because they have disobeyed the law. If
they claim that their faith will not allow them to obey a particular
law, this faith must then be examined. The Court classifies every faith
into one of two classes, what they call a "Preference" or a
"Conviction." Now, the Court must determine whether the faith of the
person before them is either a Preference or a Conviction.
The Court has said that only a faith that is determined to be a
Conviction will be protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution
of the United States of America. A faith that is a Preference will not
be protected. We saw that the difference between them is that a person
whose faith is a Preference will change it, while the person whose faith
is a Conviction will not change.
The Court says, now let's look at some things that will change a
person's faith. They found that there are several things that can be
rapidly named which will cause people to prove that their faith is a
The community around a man can change him. A man gets sued, and rapidly
his friends come to him and say, "Now look, boy, you may be right, I
don't know; but don't get yourself sued! You've got to think of the
rest of us. You've got to think of our reputation. What's everybody
gonna' think of us. We've got to live with these people, ya' know." And
you know what happens... Little by little the people around that man
back him down. And he proves that his faith is a Preference, because he
changes it. He says, "I think I ought to do that but out of deference
to my friends, or the pressure of church members I'm simply not going to
do it... Yes, I prefer to do it, but I'm not goin' to." THAT'S A
The Second thing the Court finds will change a man is his wife or his
family. A man says I know that I ought to do this thing but when I do it
I'm going to run head-on into opposition from my family. And the man's
family goes to him and says, "Now look, we don't want you to do this...
We don't want pay that price. You know what will happen to us if you
do, and we just don't want you to do it."
In these circumstances we can understand the words of Jesus more fully
when He says, "For I am come to set a man at variance against his
father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law
against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own
household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy
of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of
me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not
worthy of me" (Matthew 10:35-38).
And because a man loves his wife, or his family is too dear, what does
he do? He backs down. And when he backs down, he proves that he really
preferred it but that he changed it. It was a Preference.
A LAW SUIT
The third thing that the Court has seen can force a man to abandon
something pretty quickly is the threat of a law suit. You know, that's
a good potent threat! Now, you may not think so but that's probably
because you haven't gotten sued. But the day they hand you a paper that
says, The United States of America VERSUS YOU, brother, your stomach
will go "kurchunk" and your throat will go dry, because suddenly you
realize it's all on the line. And a guy says, "Now wait a minute,
brother, look, I believe I ought to do this, but, brother, I'm not
gonna' to get sued over it; I'm just not going to do it. Brother, it's
just not worth it to me."
That man just proved that his faith was a Preference. What he was
saying way, "I prefer it... believe I ought to... " But the threat of a
law suit--what did it do to him? It turned him around and he abandoned
it. And he showed that it was a Preference.
GOING TO JAIL
Now, the next thing that the Court found will turn a man around is going
to jail. Some have seen stuff on TV that makes them say that the jails
are like Holiday Inns. But they haven't been to the jails that we've
seen, none that we 've visited.
Jails are nightmares! A good man that goes to jail is isolated from his
family and the church members who have backed and encouraged him, and
put in there with a group of men who are brutal. Suddenly he is thrust
into a society of vicious criminals that he can't imagine in his wildest
moment of nightmare even exists. And that man is then kept there under
continual threat of physical assault... it's a nightmare!
If you don't think that jail is something... let's go visit one some
time... and walk away thinking of leaving a Christian behind in there.
And you'll understand how devastating jail is. A man would be crazy not
to fear that. At the same time, the question is, "will that cause you
to change your faith?" The Court says, "If going to jail will change
you, your faith is a Preference.
We have had a hand full of Christian friends who were put in jail for
the stand they took. You may have known someone too. Understand where
they went; they went to a nightmare!
AND UNDERSTAND TOO, BROTHER, SISTER, IF THAT WILL TURN US AROUND, THE
COURT SAYS OUR FAITH IS A PREFERENCE-- YOU PREFER IT BUT, GOING TO JAIL
WILL CAUSE YOU TO TURN AWAY FROM IT.
The last thing the Court found that will cause a person to change his
faith is DEATH. You know, we need to realize that there are some things
worse than dying. This country has honored life until we've come to the
point that people don't think there's any cause worth dying for! But
the Scriptures do not teach that.
Jesus said, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but
whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel's the same
shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the
whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange
for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words
in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of
man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with his holy
angels" (Mark 8:35-38).
Also He said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will
I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall
deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in
heaven" (Matthew 10:32,33). The Scriptures encourage saying, "Yet if
any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him
glorify God on this behalf" (1 Peter 4:16); " Do not be afraid of what
you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in
prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution... Be faithful,
even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev.
The person who denies his faith in Christ has died a death that is far
worse than physical dying. He who turns his back on the only Lord and
Savior Jesus Christ dies a spiritual death. Don't the Scriptures say
that when an person like this crucifies to themselves the Son of God
afresh putting him to an open shame, he cannot be renewed even by loving
brethren (Hebrews 6:4-6)?
BUT IF DEATH WILL CAUSE YOU TO TURN AWAY FROM YOUR FAITH, YOUR FAITH IS
A PREFERENCE. NOW THE COURT SAYS THAT IF ANY OF THOSE THINGS WILL WORK
TO TURN YOU AROUND YOUR FAITH IS A PREFERENCE. YOU PREFER IT, MAYBE
STRONGLY, BUT YOU WILL CHANGE IT.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Now most of you in your lifetime, probably won't have to face DEATH
because of your faith. Maybe, maybe not. But an awful lot of you who
are going to have to face -- The PRESSURES OF PEERS -- The PRESSURES OF
FAMILY -- The THREAT OF A LAW SUIT -- maybe, A LAW SUIT -- And there are
probably some of you who are going to face JAIL.
WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN THAT HAPPENS? WHAT YOU DO DETERMINES WHETHER YOUR
FAITH IS MERELY A PREFERENCE. A CONVICTION IS IDENTICAL TO A PREFERENCE
WITH ONE EXCEPTION... YOU WILL NOT CHANGE A CONVICTION! YOU JUST WON'T
CHANGE IT! Why won't you change it? Because you're bull-headed? It
doesn't matter how bull-headed you are, the day you walk into a
courtroom you'll be led around like a little lamb. The day you go to
jail, stubbornness and manly strength are going to leave you. There's
only one thing that gives a man conviction, that is the absolute
knowledge in his heart that God requires this thing of him. It must be
done to please God. That's what gives a man conviction. NOTHING LESS!
And you need to recognize that, if God doesn't require this of us we are
ridiculous buffoons. BUT if God does require it of us we dare not do
anything else! That's where faith that is called Conviction is molded.
Now when this writer first looked at how the Court determined how a
person's faith would be classified by them I said to myself, "This is a
good test." I went home, sat down, and began to think about it and I
asked myself, "Now, what do I have as convictions?" And at first I
said, "Why sure, all of it -- the life, the church, the worship, the
doctrine, all of it!" And you know what I came up with?
What would you come up with? Why don't you try that. Just sit down in
the quiet of your own home, maybe with your Christian companion and say,
"Let's just write down on a piece of paper everything in our faith that
can be said is a Conviction -- what we believe so strongly we won't
You know, one of our problems is that we love to talk big in front our
friends and brethren. It's amazing how much we can claim in the
presence of others. But, without all that, just sit down and write the
things you believe in so strongly that, if necessary, you would leave
your family for... the association with the church and encouragement of
your friends, for this belief, right here. You would go to the
penitentiary, maybe to never see them again.
It's like this... You could honestly say, "I would leave my wife at
home, and my kids could get along without me, and I would go to jail for
these beliefs. Let me write all of them down here..." Oh, yeah, say to
your wife or your mother, "I believe these so strongly that I would be
willing to watch them take you to jail." Say, it's one thing for a man
to suffer something himself, but it's another thing for him to watch it
happen to his mother or his wife or his children.
Talk is cheap, but it's different when it's just you and God. You have
no one to prove something to. You know; God knows.
Several years ago, Levi Weisner, a religious man in one of the Northern
states, took his children out of the public schools and began teaching
them at home. The Courts fought him over it. The book Trojan Horse was
written about his battles. Listen, Levi, in the height of the battle
made preparations for someone keep their children because he knew that
he and his wife would probably go to prison.
Levi said something like, "It's one thing to talk about going to prison
yourself... I'm scared out of my mind, for me... But when you start
talking about their taking your wife... And saying I'll see her go...
That's when you go to your knees, and you begin to look at that belief
with a new intensity that you can't imagine, because... You've just got
to be sure, because the price is too dear to pay, if you are not
Brother, sister, YOU need to sit down and examine your faith. Just
check the things that you believe the Lord demands of you. Look at it
sincerely. See if your faiths are Preferences or Convictions.
[More next time, Lord willing].