By Pr Ay Nee Ng
Have you had letters directed to you with lots of questions? Well, someone wrote to Dr Roger Barrier 20th Nov 2014 the following letter.
My Christian friends hold a very different set of values than I do. They permit their kids to celebrate Halloween; they engage in social drinking and hold dances at their church. I can’t imagine how we can have fellowship with each other when our convictions are so different. What do you think?
These are questions that we want to ask but have not or do not bother to ask saying, “It’s not my business”. What do we hold true that can motivate us or drive us on? Why do personal preferences of some differ from our convictions? Do our personal convictions comprise biblical understanding? Do we know our church’s convictions? Let us find out.
What Are Convictions?
Dictionaries usually define conviction as a fixed, firm or strong belief. Its synonyms are: belief, opinion, view, thought, persuasion, idea, position, and stance. Convictions are really much more than that; they include our values, commitments, and motivations. I like what Rick Warren has to say on convictions: “A belief is something you will argue about. A conviction is something you will die for!”
What motivates us so much as to bring changes in our behaviour, our thinking, our perception, our lifestyle, and our ideology? Church, our convictions determine our conduct. They motivate us to act in certain ways. Well, this week I want to talk about our personal convictions vs. our biblical convictions and how they both affect us as a child of God. Next time, I will continue on biblical convictions, and for the next month, we will be doing a series on our faith journey, which is practical to our everyday life. It will be about answering questions like, “Why we do what we do?”
We Christians probably have a lot of convictions. Convictions can take the shape of a political stance, a social view, a cultural opinion, a personal conviction, or a biblical conviction. Many of our convictions bring us into a close relationship with one another depending if we share the same opinions or stances. Other convictions tend to separate us from one another like what “L” wrote to Roger. Understanding why we have the convictions that we have can do a lot in removing walls of separation and allowing us to live a fuller and richer life physically and spiritually as we reap God’s blessings.
Why do you believe the things that you believe? Why are you so convinced that Jesus Christ died for you and why so convinced that as a Christians we are called to share the Gospel, preach, and teach the Word? Many times we hear someone say, “Just because this person said so”. Well, it is not good enough. Just because your pastor said so is not good enough. Just because your good Christian friends tell you to do something is not good enough.
What Are Then the Convictions that Will Allow My Faith to Grow and Bring Unity Among God’s People?
These convictions are clearly taught in the Word of God and include some of the following.
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (Jas. 2:19).
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
Now listen to what The Message Bible has to say about salvation from Ephesians 2:7-10.
Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
Biblical convictions, like the aforementioned, are well founded in the Scripture and are without question in God’s Church. On the other hand, personal convictions are one’s preferences; they are different because they are probably not always well grounded in the Scriptures. Our choices, views, opinions, and convictions have been touched and they left a mark in our emotions, etched in our mind, and influenced how we interpret the Word of God. They are what is nearest and dearest to our heart.
These convictions may be alluded to in Scriptures, and somehow we may be convinced, but the scriptural evidence is circumstantial. There is no, “Thus says the Lord”. We may be convinced that wearing certain jewellery or certain clothes is forbidden or that wearing head covering is proper. We may have Scriptures that allude to, but we don’t have a, “Thus says the Lord.” We may be convinced and that’s our personal conviction, and we may or may not change our opinion as time goes by. Remember “L” had a personal preference to how he interpreted the Bible and stood by it. Yet, our personal convictions can pose a problem.
Problems Caused by Our Personal Convictions
Personal convictions are what characterise our degree of spiritual maturity. We are all at differing levels of maturity; therefore, we all have differing personal convictions. It is great when we are mature enough to share and discuss our personal convictions with each other without becoming judgmental or feeling condemned. As we share our insights in the Scripture, we may open a new perspective to one another–a perspective that may cause us to be convinced as well.
• Our personal convictions can separate us from other believers. This is what “L” felt to his Christian neighbours. In Romans 14 and Romans 5:5, the Apostle Paul clearly teaches what our response should be in such situations. In particular, in Romans 14, Paul teaches how to settle disagreements among God-loving Christians who are trying to live out the Christian life in grey areas.
Let us read Romans 14:1-13; 19-21.
1-4 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5-9 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10-12 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
19-21 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
Unfortunately, disputable issues still divide and hurt Christians today: drinking alcohol, dancing, clothing, movies, music, video games, holidays, tattoos, body piercings, bodily augmentations or “upgrades,” worshipping with uplifted hands in prayer, home-schooling, and so on.
From Dr Roger Barrier’s perspective, the indisputable truths are:
1. The Bible is the Word of God.
2. Jesus is 100% God and 100% man (the hypostatic union).
3. Jesus was virgin born.
4. Jesus died a substitutionary death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.
5. The bodily resurrection guaranteed that Christ’s mission was fulfilled.
6. Forgiveness of sin and salvation come solely by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
7. God establishes an eternal relationship with those who personally receive Him as Saviour and Lord.
The rest I would say as Paul said in Romans 14:19, “Live peaceably”; whatever you believe about these things, keep it between God and yourself. When we get these indisputable truths right, our priorities and choices will fall into place. We will live in deeper fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus focused on the essentials as a powerful way to bring in the kingdom, and so may we! As Paul wrote in Romans 15:5-6: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the end, love your fellow Christian–more than your personal conviction–and without being judgmental. Concerning convictions, Paul further said: “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5).
• Our personal convictions can often hinder us in growing spiritually. When the Scripture plainly teaches us a truth, but we don’t accept it because it doesn’t fit in with our personal convictions, we have made a grave mistake. The Bible clearly teaches that lying, drunkenness, gluttony, fornication and other things are sin. We should be convinced of the sinful nature of such acts by the clarity of the Scripture. But if we justify our lying, drunkenness, gluttony or fornication, calling it a “personal conviction”, we sin. Wilful sin–sin with knowledge of its wrongness – carries with it grave consequences.
Personal convictions are a part of the growth process of all of us. But we must remember that they are written in pencil, not ink. As we grow in knowledge, many of them will be challenged. Know when to let go and when to hold on. Yet, in the end, our personal preferences/convictions should not pose a problem to our biblical convictions.
Sydney Gateway Church’s Convictions
Know your church convictions—leave the disputes, know the indisputable truths, and we are to grow spiritually and help others grow too.
1. We are Bible-based and the Bible is the Word of God.
2. We are Christ-centred. We believe that Jesus was virgin born and is 100% God and 100% man (the hypostatic union). He died a substitutionary death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and the bodily resurrection guaranteed that Christ’s mission was fulfilled. We have forgiveness of sin and salvation solely through God’s grace by faith in Jesus Christ.
3. We are Spirit-empowered. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:10-11).
4. The blood of the Lamb brings a value-added change in our lives. Church, let us have the full conviction that Jesus Christ is our loving Saviour, that we have a life in Him, and that He has given us a plan and a purpose—that His will be done on earth and His Kingdom come. We are not to stay stagnant but to share, preach, and teach God’s Word. It is about mentorship (1 Tim. 2:2).
Are we willing to put our differences aside and say to each other: “Let us build strong what God has for each of us in this church for our Lord Jesus Christ”? We do not live for ourselves but for God. Remember, Paul said in Romans 14:7-9: “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living”.
Church, let us put our differences aside and be convicted that we live for Christ. Will you now pray with me to give the Lord sovereignty over our lives once again? Let us pray.