November 7, 2011

Conviction Confusion

My last 2 posts have dealt with our convictions and how we express them. I feel I need to clarify that this is NOT commentary on whether or not we should preach the Gospel &/or speak words of truth to others. That is our calling as Christians. But it is also our calling to "speak the truth in love" and to trust that it is the Holy Spirit that actually does the work. Sharing our faith and imposing our convictions are 2 completely different subjects. In this post, I'm focusing on the latter.

We could grab one of a hundred different issues: gambling, what movies or TV shows we watch, the music we listen to, dancing, and on and on and on.... These issues (and countless others like them) are what we can label GRAY areas of scripture. The reason for this is because there is no "Black & White" rule in the Bible that says you can or cannot participate in these things. What scripture does teach is that we have been given the Holy Spirit to discern what God desires of us in these matters. And because I believe it is probably the most sensitive subject in this area, let's taking drinking as an example. 

There are 2 major Biblical principles regarding drinking:
1. Drinking is NOT a sin.
2. Drunkenness IS a sin.

That's it. That's what we have to go on. And as Christians, we are to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in knowing whether or not we have been given the freedom to participate or the conviction to abstain and refrain. But because this is not a post on Drinking, I'm not going to go much deeper into that subject. What I do want to look at is Paul's directive to us about our convictions and how we live by and share those convictions with others. 

There are 2 people in this world that will be subjected to your life and convictions: Christians and others (or "the lost", as we all them). It's important to understand that the idea of imposing our "convictions" - Spirit-led beliefs - on someone who isn't even filled with the Spirit is ridiculous. If someone is not even aware of their sinfulness, they're not going to see it as sin. And your convictions aren't going to get them there either. The message of Jesus Christ and the power of the Word and Spirit of God - the Gospel - are the ONLY thing that bring "many sons to glory"! But back to those 2 types of people, the others are Christians. And in Romans 14, Paul puts it this way: "As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand." To further expound, the NLT translates that last verse as, "The Lord's power will help them do as they should." Think about this for a moment: Often, when we impose our convictions on other Christians, it's because we don't trust them to make the right decision. If we're being honest, we think, "There's no way they've prayed about this!" And we might be right. But if Paul's statement is true - that the Lord is able to make each of His followers stand - that it's the Lord's power that causes us to do as we should - isn't it in all actuality that our imposition is exposing that we don't fully trust God? Isn't it that we really, in this person's case, just don't think He can handle bringing conviction into their life as He's done in ours? 

So again, let me make sure a few things aren't misconstrued:
  • If you're under 21 years old and drinking, you're in sin. (See Romans 13)
  • If you're providing someone under 21 with the opportunity/ability to drink, you're in sin. (Read Romans 13 with group 1)
  • If you're using your so-called "freedom to drink" to get drunk, I will go out on a limb and tell you that I don't believe for a second you've prayed about this conviction. You're just living how you choose to live. There are consequences! (See the whole Bible)
But, if you and I wind up at the place where we believe that everyone should hold the same convictions about every issue that we do...the bottom line is...we aren't trusting God. His Kingdom doesn't look like this.

Agree? Disagree?
Would love to hear your thoughts.


sue mccoy said...

Just spoke about convictions yesterday to a school mate (not drinking, but just in general) He is a non believer but grew up in a quote "Christian Home", I think that is why he is a non believer. anyways, thanks for sharing, I am going to share this with him.

Brian Mayfield said...

Praying for your conversation, Sue Ann.

Keena said...

Great post. Nice reminder that God works differently in each of us and we should not force,only express, our convictions.

Ploner said...

Brian, it is refreshing to hear someone openly take an honest position about what scripture has to say about this issue instead of inserting the "importance" of traditions, appearances, stumblingblocks, etc., whether the conviction has to do with adult beverages, food (pork, shellfish, rare meat, beef on Fridays during Lent, or whatever!!), dress, hair length, recreational activities, cars, houses, boats, other possessions, etc. I believe we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and He will guide us as to how to live within the liberty we have in Christ while still honoring His Name and Mission.