Guarding The City with Faith & Convictions
The Value of Convictions
Unless the Lord … guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain… Ps 127:1
By David Crank
We are surrounded by tragedies. In many Christian families we see youth rebel, get into drugs or alcohol or immorality, adopt humanistic philosophies, and bring shame upon the cause of Christ. Still others just silently drift further and further from the Lord, choosing to live for themselves only and conforming themselves to the godless world around them. And what of the Christian couples who drift further and further apart from each other until one becomes involved in adultery or one decides to leave and seek a better life elsewhere and the marriage ends in divorce. What a tragedy for these families and for the church as a whole !
As Christians we live in a foreign country that is NOT our home. This world is not our friend. We are surrounded by people who do not honor God, who do not know the truth, and who are under the dominion of the evil one. We are the outsiders here, the ones who don't "fit in". Thus our families are always in danger from the ungodliness that is all around us. We are warned to not love the world nor the things of the world (1 Jn 2:15). We are exhorted to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed (Rom 12:2). We are told that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (Jn 10:10). Yet are we watchful? Are we guarding our marriages and our families as we should? And are we doing so in dependence and reliance on God and not on ourselves?
What can we do? We can heed the Scriptures that warn us of these dangers. We can search the Word and pray for wisdom. We need wisdom to raise godly children and to protect our families from the dangers of the world. We can follow the Biblical admonitions to teach our children God's Word when we sit in our house and when we walk by the way and when we lie down and when we rise up (Deut 6:7). We can study God's Word and evaluate the world around us, developing convictions for how we should live to best please God and reduce the dangers to our families. And we can come to God in faith, trusting and depending on Him to open our eyes to the serious dangers and to protect us where we inevitably fall short in our vigilance. Without Him, we truly can do nothing.
What are convictions? Convictions are defined as strong beliefs, things you have become fully convinced of, having been persuaded by evidence or argument. It is on the basis of convictions that important decisions should be made about how you will live. Too often we make decisions based on our prejudices instead. Prejudices can also be very strong beliefs, but are the result of opinions we have adopted from others, our culture, or our background. Prejudices are preconceived judgments or opinions, opinions formed without just grounds or sufficient knowledge. Convictions, unlike prejudices, should be founded upon facts and a thorough examination or investigation.
Christian convictions, based on the Word of God, are of varying types. We may become convinced concerning a given interpretation, a specific application, a generalized principle, and an application of a principle. As we move from direct interpretation to application to principle to application of principle, there is more danger of error, thus we should be more thoroughly convinced of some things than others.
Some Christians argue against holding convictions that go beyond direct commands of Scripture. It is true that as we develop convictions in the areas of applications and principles, we are more likely to disagree. But does this mean we should not make applications and not generalize Biblical principles to help guide our decisions? Of course not! Is not the Bible to be applied to our lives? Does not God, through the Bible, mean to teach us principles of wisdom? Or would the critics merely desire us to never be convinced enough of anything to take decisive action? No, I believe God does desire us to apply His Word to our lives and to learn principles of wisdom and to apply these to the many situations we face that are not precisely addressed by Biblical commands. And yes, I believe we should become thoroughly convinced, where the evidence warrants it, and act decisively.
Convictions acted upon, can be a means for guarding and protecting our families. Specifically I am referring to convictions concerning separation from the world that impact our lifestyle. Some of these may arise from direct applications of Scriptural commands, others from applications of Biblical principles. Many of the tragedies occurring within Christian families can be partly attributed to a lack of lived out convictions concerning separation from the world. Now we cannot totally remove ourselves from this world, nor is this God's will for our lives. We are to serve Him in this world and all are not called to serve Him in the same way. So neither should we expect that we would all make identical decisions concerning separation from worldliness. But is it not foolishness to simply ignore the pressures of the world upon your family and make no serious effort to break with the culture?
Standing Alone - Even Among Christians
Peer pressure effects all of us to some degree. It comes in many forms. Co-workers, neighbors, school mates, friends, church members, TV, radio, movies, books, magazines, music, all exert influence upon us. Some exert direct pressure and persecution, other influences are very subtle. Some influences may be very good (the Bible, good Christian examples, etc.), but many are bad or at least mixed good and bad. The easy thing to do is to adopt the views and beliefs of our peers and live our lives as they do. This spares us persecution and makes us well accepted by men.
God desires us to follow Him, not our neighbors or friends. We are responsible to God to pray and search the Scriptures for how we should live. To be able to follow where He leads, we must be able to stand alone and not just follow the crowd or yield to the pressures of others. We need to develop convictions for ourselves that we will stand for, whether or not family, friends, or fellow church members agree. Some of our convictions may need to address separateness from the world. We may need to reduce the contrary pressures and influences in order to live more godly lives.
Differences in Christian Convictions
It is inevitable that we will have some differences in convictions. We will not perfectly agree on the exact interpretation of every verse in the Bible. Different ones will see different applications for some commands and principles. None of us has perfect wisdom or understanding. Over time we hope to grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. So also we should expect to develop new convictions and to revise some we had before.
Do not assume God desires others to hold to the exact same convictions as you. Some convictions may be from God for our family, but not for all others. God will sometimes call believers to different paths. There are a number of examples in the Scriptures of this. Samson was to be a Nazirite and never cut his hair. John the Baptist was called to live in the desert, eating locusts and honey and drinking no wine. Yet Jesus and the disciples were not called to a similar lifestyle. The Rechabite family (Jeremiah 35) was called to live only in tents, to not plant seed and to drink no wine. God honored them for this, but did not command all Jews to do the same. God called Abraham to leave his extended family and live as a nomad in the land of Canaan. Joseph and Daniel were each called to the city life, serving God by serving unbelieving kings.
Each of us is different in both our experiences and our weaknesses. One who has observed a serious weakness in himself or within his family, may adopt convictions keeping his family more insulated from this area of sin. To others, this conviction may seem extreme and not worth the added measure of safety it is meant to provide.
For example, I may decide not to engage in a certain practice, not because I believe it is inherently sinful, but because it appears unwise, subjecting me to temptations to sin. Yet at the same time, I may approve of other practices, which also carry risks of temptation. Why is it I avoid the one but not the other? Because the one seems a more significant risk to me and well worth giving up any benefits in order to reduce the risk. But the other seems a risk more worth taking. I am more confident of my ability to protect against its dangers and I see good benefits from its proper use.
Warnings on Misuse of Convictions
Beware Judging Your Brother
Let us not be quick to judge one another for differences in lifestyle and convictions. We may both be seeking to live for God and not ourselves, to not love the world or follow its lusts, to do all things to the glory of God. As Paul says , "The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Rom 14:3-4 NAS). Jesus also warned us, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned" (Lk 6:37 NAS).
There is also the danger of becoming proud of our convictions and lifestyle. Such pride is sin. Holding to certain convictions does not make you holier or of greater worth in God's eyes, or even more mature in Christ. Your convictions are not proof of greater wisdom than others. One may hold to very fine convictions in some areas and yet be a terrible fool in others. Our convictions are mostly tools used by God in our lives and families to assist us on the path to godliness. Others may not need the same tools to be led to the same or better result. As we are seeking not to be conformed to this world, we must also remember Paul's warning in the following verse, to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Rom 12:3).
Pride (or perhaps prejudice instead of conviction) may be evidenced in an assurance that refuses to consider the differing convictions of others. If our conviction is sound, it can withstand reexamination and considering the different views of other brethren. We should be open to new light and correction from God.
Also beware the pride that manifests itself in being "weirder than thou". Convictions are not more godly for being more strange and different from the practices of other Christians. Admittedly, God's ways are very different from our ways, so God may lead us to convictions that seem very strange by the world's standards. Just be sure your conviction is in accordance with God's wisdom and is from God, and not just a creation of your own pride and desire to be more radical than your brethren.
Should we share and teach our personal convictions?
When you have come to convictions through prayer and study of the Word, be willing to share them with others. But share them in humility and without condemning others. When shared in this way, others are more likely to study and consider these things as well. God may use you to open their eyes to serious dangers they had not seen. What you have to share may be the solution they have been seeking to a problem already recognized. Sharing what wisdom and insight we have received from the Lord is all part of edifying one another. However, it is not edifying to argue or accuse or condemn.
Grant some grace to your brothers and sisters to differ from you. Other families must consider and decide for themselves as to what is wise and where God would lead their family. Be fully convinced in your own mind, but be humble enough to admit that you will be wrong on some issues.
Beware Out of Balance Convictions
You may have adopted a conviction, which you believe would be good for all or nearly all Christians. Truly God may be leading you to share this widely with other believers. But be careful to keep things in balance. How important is this conviction truly when compared to salvation and key doctrines of the faith? Beware being more interested in converting others to your particular conviction than converting unbelievers to Christ.
Be Fully Convinced in Your Own Mind
When an issue arises that causes us to question our prior practices, convictions or prejudices, we need to examine the matter thoroughly and objectively. If we wish to know the truth and hear from God, we need to come willing to do his will (Jn 7:17), not with resistance or determination to justify ourselves. We must be prepared to consider not just what is lawful, but also what is profitable and what edifies (1 Cor 10:23). It is too easy for us to use our freedom in Christ as an excuse to live for ourselves rather than for Him.
Paul exhorts us to be fully convinced in our own minds (Rom 14:5). If we are able, we should seek to resolve the matter so that we can act upon it. We will not be able to resolve every matter that comes before us with certainty. But once we reach the point of conviction in a matter, we are obligated to live accordingly. As Paul also reminds us, whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom 14:22-23).
To Sum Up
I exhort each of you, and myself as well, to:
Be careful to keep yourself unstained by the world and to not love the world;
Be open to being called to live differently from your brethren;
Be prepared to stand alone for your convictions, even among Christians;
Be fully convinced in your own mind, but remain teachable and open to correction;
Have the courage to live your convictions and to share them humbly with others;
Refrain from judging your brethren for their differing convictions;
Beware of pride and imbalance.
THIS MAGAZINE & PERSONAL CONVICTIONS
In this magazine we share a lot of personal life style convictions - where we believe God has led our family. These include convictions in the areas of home schooling, courtship, letting God plan your family, home births, living in the country, and home business. These are things we believe God has led us to (and also many others), for the purpose of raising a godly family. But these are not requirements for others to follow!
Our purpose is to encourage others who are being led in similar paths and to cause others to consider these issues for themselves, to see where God would lead their family. For example, though we believe there are many wonderful benefits to raising a family in the country, it is clearly not God's will for everyone to move to the country. And though we believe there are many benefits in the father working from home, we also know that all are not called to this and for most men today, this would seem impossible or at least impractical. Of course if God is calling you to this, He can also either show you a way to do your job mostly from home or He can lead you to a very different job or business.
The convictions we share are not meant to be "requirements" or "laws" to be placed upon others. We live by grace, not by works of the law. Each of us is responsible before God for the choices he or she makes. Who are we to judge the servant of another? It is God who will judge us all. To our own master we will stand or fall.
Volume 1 Issue 4: Nov / dec 2000, © Unless The Lord ... Magazine