Tuesday Testimonies: Don’t Be Afraid of Conviction
The word conviction came up many times throughout Jason Gregory’s life and in my conversation with him.
The first time was when he was 10 years old, on a Sunday night in January. After much debate, Jason’s dad, the youth pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Lynchburg, made him tag along to a baptism service. As a kid who spent at least four days a week at church, Jason was not necessarily excited to sit through the extra service.
As people came forward to share their testimonies and get baptized, Jason noticed a trend. Many of them were college students who grew up in the faith but never made it their own until they left home.
“That felt weird inside when they said that, like I was convicted or something like that,” Jason said. “I didn’t know what convicted meant but just inside I was like, that felt weird.”
Growing up in the church and as a pastor’s son, he was active in youth group, memorized Bible verses starting in preschool and always knew the answers, but he did not have much of a relationship with Jesus.
On the way home from the baptisms, Jason asked his father about this feeling and, after a conversation, decided to begin a personal relationship with Jesus. However, his father’s role in the church was still a shadow over his growth.
“I already had this façade at the church, so I just kept it up,” Jason said. “I didn’t want to tell anybody I just got saved a month ago because people have seen me doing this for so long. So, I just stayed at the same spot spiritually.”
Throughout middle and high school, Jason maintained this outward show of Christianity without growing within.
During his junior year of high school, life at school took a steep decline. Because of close friendships he developed in his class of almost all girls, other boys started bullying him. The attacks came to the point where, midway through the year, Jason wrote a note, took one of his father’s guns, and planned to commit suicide.
Then he heard his family come in the door downstairs, hid the gun and put it back the next day.
“That was the lowest point in my life I can remember,” Jason said.
That summer, he left Lynchburg to go to Word of Life Bible camp in Florida. There, Jason rededicated his life to Christ.
“I have the belief. I have the foundation. This is when I need to start growing and building my faith so that I don’t fall into this again,” Jason said.
The bullying continued through his senior year of high school, but he began to look at it in a different light.
“People are not going to like you. I have come to accept that,” Jason said. “So, there’s nothing I can do but show the love of Christ to them when they express that.”
After graduating high school, Jason spent a year studying at Word of Life Bible Institute in Florida. There, he began feeling a new conviction — a call to ministry. However, he pushed away this feeling, knowing the painful impact ministry can have on a family. During his Christmas break, he returned home and went to a youth group worship night.
“I was worshiping, and I open my eyes and every single teen was standing there just waiting for the songs to be over and I was like, someone’s got to fix this,” Jason said. “And then God said, ‘You’ve got to fix it.’ And I said, ‘No, no.’ I was angry. I got up and I walked out of the room. I was so mad. I felt the call to ministry right then and there. And it was not what I wanted.”
But God had changed his heart. The next day, he declared a youth ministry major at Liberty. After he graduates this spring, Jason hopes to work with inner-city teenagers to help them fully embrace a relationship with Christ.
In court, a conviction means a defendant is guilty. It means a punishment, time in chains and a loss of freedom.
In the Christian walk, conviction may initially feel like a guilty verdict. But when God convicts us, he is not trying to put us in chains but set us free. God gave Jason those convictions because he has a calling on his life to be a son of God and to lead others to become sons of God — to accept freedom and point others towards it.
So, for a Christian, the word conviction has a different meaning. Freedom. It means recognizing where we have been in chains and allowing God to break them.
Conviction has another meaning: being convinced. You may have grown up always knowing God, but Jason’s story demands the question: What does that faith really mean to you?
“Evaluate,” Jason said. “Evaluate your life and what you are striving for. Why you are here? Why you are proclaiming to be a Christian? Don’t fake it. If you don’t want anything to do with Jesus, then talk to someone but don’t fake it.”
Do not be afraid of the feeling of conviction. It might be God wanting to set you free.
Jacqueline Hale is the Feature Editor. Follow her on Twitter at @HaleJacquelineR.