One of the first laws of leadership success says that a person must be a convert before he can be a leader. That is also one of the first laws of religious success. The most serious blasphemy is not profanity but lip-service. God has heaped his greatest condemnation upon those who draw near unto him with their lips while their hearts are far from him. The Lord once said to his chief apostle, “Simon … when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31–32.)
Simon Peter may have been a little bit offended as he probably felt that he was already converted, but what happened that night at the trial when he denied the Lord three times may have indicated that even Peter was not fully converted. And someone has described our most serious religious problem as that of being mere “Bible Christians.” That is where Christianity is primarily in the Bible, and not very much of it is in us. It has been pointed out that it is not very important how many times we go through college unless the college somehow goes through us. Certainly great benefits accrue when a man gets into the Church, but the really great things begin to happen only when the Church gets into the man.
A survey made some time ago indicated that over 95 percent of all of the people questioned said that they believed in God. But there would be far less than that number who could be counted his real disciples or genuine converts to his doctrines. It was Mohandas K. Gandhi who once said that there were 999 people who believed in honesty for every honest man. Everyone believes in honesty, but then we remember poor old Diogenes who went around Athens with a lighted lantern in the middle of the daytime trying to find just one honest man. If you were to ask me if I believed in honesty, I would be a little bit offended. I would feel that you ought to know I believed in honesty. But let me tell you what I did a little while ago.
As our family was driving from Arizona, we stopped at a service station, and while the car was being serviced one of the children said, “Could we have some soda pop?” So, I went over to the vending machine. I put in one dime and I got out one bottle. I put in another dime and I got out another bottle. I put in a third dime and I got a third bottle. But then the gadget didn’t lock, and I got the fourth bottle out free. In all, I got four bottles for thirty cents. And as I was going over to the car to make the delivery, I thought, “They charge too much for this stuff anyway.” However, I have a little mental night watchman on duty up here in my brain someplace who started to make a fuss, and he said, “Look, Sterling, if you’re going to be a crook, you had better get more than ten cents out of it.”
I don’t know just what I would have done if soda water had cost a quarter, but I went back and put the other dime into the machine. Now, how can anyone tell whether or not I believe in honesty? By what I say about it, or by what I do while I am over at the vending machine where no one can see me except myself? Or, how are you going to tell whether or not I believe the gospel is true? By what I say in testimony meeting, or by the way I carry out my church assignments?