Convictions are getting more and more difficult to maintain. Convictions are more and more difficult to practice. Convictions are more and more difficult to remember. Look first at conviction in the broadest possible sense. Conviction, broadly speaking, is a determined, tightly held judgment on a matter or subject. Conviction is rooted in the heart and declared with strong emotion. Conviction is opinion cherished and deeply valued. People of conviction are willing to devote themselves to their stand, even at great cost.
In days past, you did not need to look far to find people of conviction. They had definite, sharp, clearly laid out opinions. They held steadfastly to those opinions. They were always ready vigorously to argue their opinions. Even if you disagreed with them, you could respect them for their mastery of the subject discussed and the strength of their opinion.
There were three important areas of life where you would always expect to run into men and women of conviction. Morality and ethics, politics, and religion. Presently, of these three, only one area survives: politics. Even with respect to politics, most will go out of their way to avoid debate. In the spheres of morality and religion, argument is banned.
That is not to say, however, that you will not find an argument at all in the areas of morality and religion. You will. But more and more you will find only one argument, an argument that you find most difficult to answer. That argument is against conviction, and for tolerance. That argument is not based on reason, fact, or any kind of authority. In fact, it is meant to banish all reason, fact, and authority. Its only ground is niceness and civility. To have an argument is said to be mean-spirited and harsh. To argue about ethics becomes unethical. To argue about truth becomes pointless.
This one argument, a plea for tolerance based on civility, is meant to push every kind of conviction back to the individual himself. It recedes into a form of individualism, where convictions may be held, but they must be held privately and never expressed outwardly. Such individualism is extreme. These convictions are not to be expressed in the domain of the church or even of the individual family. They are not to be shared. Husbands and wives are expected to disagree and not try to influence one another’s convictions. Parents are not expected to pass on their convictions to their children, but to help them to have an open mind about everything.
You must see behind this change the strategy of the devil.
On the one hand, Satan attacks the Word of God. His method is to make that Word wholly irrelevant to the church of Jesus Christ. So he works to create a breach between the church and the Word of God. Where there is love, he seeks to bring hate. He works to drive the church from its foundation of the truth of God’s Word. He labors to keep the church from being the pillar and ground of the truth, pushing the truth away and letting it fall to the ground. His goal is to make the church so tolerant and so broad-minded that it cannot tolerate the Book that is filled with judgments and that was given to be the ground of its conviction. Having gained the world to his scheme along the way of toleration (political correctness), he works on the church through society. The church hastens to make itself relevant to the world (via common grace as one of the ways), and hides its convictions behind its back. With those convictions in back, and not in front, the church forgets about them and lets them fall from her hand.
That attack on the Word of God is Satan’s strategy. But the goal of that strategy, driving conviction out of the church, is separation between the heart and the truth. The church no longer teaches any conviction, but only tolerance. The teaching and preaching of tolerance seems at first to leave individual conviction alone. But where individual conviction is not permitted any practice or expression, it cannot long survive in the heart either. The devil will make use of the church to dry up and kill every conviction in the heart of God’s people.
How do you deal with these attacks?
Remember that your convictions stem simply from the antithesis and your place in that antithesis. The antithesis involves a contrast between right and wrong, between the truth and the lie. The antithesis means that you must expect disagreement with your convictions. If there is no disagreement, then something is wrong. Perhaps you ought to check to see whether your convictions have not been already swept away by the flood of toleration. Remember, God’s grace has separated you from the lie in your mind and heart. By faith, the gift of God to you, you believe the truth and reject the lie.
These convictions are precious to you. By His precious blood, Christ has purchased your place in this antithesis. He has bought for you a place in His kingdom, to stand for the cause of God and His truth over against the lies of the devil and the world. Your convictions are an important part of that antithesis, born in your mind and heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit’s work, those convictions really are not your own, to deny or discard at your pleasure.
But how can you keep your convictions?
First, know what they are. Your convictions must have their source in God’s Word. They must not come merely from the way that you have been brought up, or what you have been taught by your parents. According to God’s covenant, He has used your parents to give you the right convictions, the very same that are found in His Word. But in the process of your education (by parents, by the church, by your Christian school), you have come by God’s covenant grace to see the truth that these convictions are rooted in God’s Word. Through the knowledge of God’s Word, they becomeproper convictions.
To keep your convictions requires a continuous practice. Attacks will tend to weaken them. Required is a constant exposure to the source of your true convictions. Read and study the Word of God. Find its truth precious to you. Remember that the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). Remember that Christ, your precious Savior, is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Make that truth of God’s Word your joy and happiness. Devote yourself to the Word. Turn your affections toward it (Ps. 119:35, 47, 48). Required also are diligent and frequent attendance at and attention to the preaching of God’s Word. The importance of attendance on the preaching should go without saying. It is not only your opportunity to hear the Word of God explained and applied to you, but it is also your opportunity to gather with your fellow-saints before that Word to strengthen one another in your convictions. Confession of faith is also an important means. By it you take a conscious, deliberate stand with God’s people for the Word of God and its truth.
In that strength, rooted in God’s Word, your convictions concerning that Word and its truth will be completely different from other convictions of a political or practical nature. It is fine to hold convictions in these areas, but they must not carry in your heart and soul the same weight. You may hold the tenets of capitalism and free enterprise ever so strongly. You may be able to argue many of their finer points. But you must not be expected to die for those convictions. On the other hand, you will be convinced more and more that the truth of God’s Word is not only worth promoting, but also worth your very life. You will be willing to stand alone, bearing all kinds of ridicule and shame for the sake of your convictions.
You must realize that your convictions are under increasing attack. Therefore you need to know how to maintain them and even strengthen them. We draw your attention to two convictions of the most practical nature, two that are coming more and more under attack. The first is your conviction of God’s everlasting covenant of grace, that it is without any conditions and therefore altogether gracious. The second is your conviction on divorce and remarriage, namely that divorce is forbidden except in cases of fornication and that remarriage of divorced persons is forbidden in all cases.
Your conviction on divorce and remarriage of divorced persons is of a practical nature. Your conviction is contrary to the standards both of the world and nearly all of the church world. Because of that stand, you will have something to say about the remarriage of divorced persons. In some instances you will simply confess that stand. In other instances you will admonish and rebuke. In still other instances you will not attend certain weddings at which your presence is expected. You explain your convictions behind your actions, but those convictions are not honored. You are admonished and you are shunned, not on the basis of Scripture, but often on the basis of mere emotion. Men may say, “Fine! You may have your convictions, but do not allow them to shape your behavior! Keep them to yourself!”
Next look at your conviction that God’s covenant is sovereign and unconditional. You know that your conviction of this truth causes you to be separate from others that are considered near you. You can think of the churches that confess, preach, and teach a conditional covenant. Some minimize that difference in doctrine. They will even classify it among things indifferent. “We have so much in common,” it is said, “why must we quibble over such minor differences?” Or a sharper attack is made through accusation. “Are you saying nobody in those churches is saved?!”
How must you answer these accusations? Keeping your convictions, are you able to speak them?
First, know your obligation to speak up for what you believe. Do you believe it? Then you must speak! Speak clearly of your convictions. After all, they areyour convictions. Popular opinion notwithstanding, convictions are meant to be held, to be spoken, and to have an influence on actions and behavior. By their very nature, convictions meet with opposition, even forceful opposition. It is folly to drop your convictions simply because they are opposed, either by error or by the spirit of toleration. Scripture bears widespread testimony of that opposition, and of the saints’ standing against all opposition (Gal. 5:1; Phil. 4:1; II Thess. 2:15; Jude 3;Rev. 2:2).
Second, remember the nature of your convictions. You confess them by faith, which is the working of the Holy Spirit in your heart according to the truth of God’s Word. Faith is not merely your opinion, independent of facts or truth. The word that you speak out of faith is not your “spin” on the truth of Scripture. It is not your guess or best interpretation. It is the truth from God’s Word. You have the Spirit in you. By that Spirit, speak!
Third, understand that when you speak the truth, you must always bring glory to God. He is glorified when His truth is declared. It makes no difference whether your audience is one or a thousand. It makes no difference whether they agree or disagree with you. How helpful it is to keep in your mind and heart the glory of God and the glory of His truth. The truth does not begin with you, but with God. In circumstances in which your convictions are attacked, place yourself consciously before God’s presence. Hear Him ask of you, “Where will you stand? Will you stand with Me and with My truth, even if it makes you stand against these other people? Will you bring glory to Me, or will you give that glory to the men who speak against My truth?”
Fourth, know how wonderful convictions are. They are your freedom. It is simply bondage to live in fear of men, shaping your words and actions according to their opinions and practices. You do not need to try to figure out what they will say and do, so that you say and do what is pleasing to them and avoid offending them. You will not need to change your words and behavior as you move from one group to another. You will not need to wonder where the line of compromise might be as you actually compromise more and more.
Your convictions are wonderful gifts of God to you. Keep them living, healthy, and strong. Feed them by a steady diet of the Word of God. Exercise them by your speech. Above all, do not abandon them. When those convictions are strong, then you know that you are strong, strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.