How is it that I can believe something to be true, yet behave in a way that is contrary to that belief. For example, I may believe that exercise is good for me, and that I will feel healthier and be healthier if I exercise. But at the same time, I find it hard to get around to exercising. Or I may believe that a certain activity is sinful, and yet continue to do that activity, knowing the damage it does to me, to others, and to my relationship with God. Paul expresses this frustration with this in Romans 7:18-24.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do —this I keep on doing
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Josh McDowell contends that Christian youth are statistically indistinguishable from un-churched youth, with respect to moral behavior, because we have failed to build conviction into their lives. They have a belief system, but they don’t have convictions. That is true of the Church in general. If we lack conviction in our lives, our belief-system will not really lead to life change.
The difference is that belief is, for the most part, a function of the mind, but conviction is a function of the heart. Conviction, like other functions of the heart, has a spiritual component, not just an intellectual or emotional component. It is buried deeply in who I am, bridging the connection between soul and spirit. It is a part of my character, not just my personality. It is what educates my conscience. Conviction is “thinking with my heart” and brings the soul and spirit into agreement with God’s word.
The mind is prone to distractions. That is why Satan keeps the battle in my mind instead of in my heart. He does not want me paying attention to my heart. He knows that there, I might hear the still, small, voice of God. In fact, he will send all manner of calamity into my life to wound my heart, and make it hurt so bad that I choose to ignore it.
On the other hand, God communes with me, engages me from the heart, through His Spirit inside of my spirit. He calms my heart during the storms of life, and gives me sweet, peaceful times of communion in the midst of raging storms or battles. He heals the woundedness of my heart and restores it so that it is capable of receiving all He desires to give me.
An observer will know my convictions by watching what I do in the tough times. My convictions (or lack there-of) are what really drive me. I am my convictions. (Convictions R Us!). My mind is prone to forget things, especially under pressure or duress, but the seat of true memory is the heart. It is what I return to in a bind, so I will do or say what is in my heart.
Convictions are at the base of an intentionally-Biblical world-view. Mere beliefs are too weak to carry it, too fickle to sustain it, too sterile to animate it.
If you think about atheism, it is a belief, not a conviction. It is generally only arrived at by denying what the heart really feels in favor of what the mind wants to believe. And that belief is often motivated by some deep hurt that Satan has inflicted in a person’s heart, convincing him that God was the one responsible for that hurt.
By nature, convictions are intentional. They are not knee-jerk reactions, made in the heat of battle. They are come to after long careful consideration of all the ramifications and implications involved. They are made before they are needed, and built into my character with intent.
Godly convictions are founded upon the word of God, using the wisdom He gives to discern right from wrong, and are independent upon the circumstances in which I find myself. In the great acrostic Psalm (119), the Psalmist addresses the importance and the process of building conviction based upon the Word of God. Just a few of the passages are given below,
Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways.
You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. (Ps. 119:1-4)
How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalms 119:9-11)
Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. (Ps. 119:33-37)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalms 119:105)
Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Ps. 119:165)
Why have we failed as the church to build convictions into our own lives and the lives of our children? Maybe we have subconsciously bought into the central lie of moral relativism, that there is no absolute right or wrong – it depends upon the situation. Convictions are all about absolutes, so they are in direct conflict with moral relativism. But that lie is so pervasive in our culture that it must be intentionally challenged, or it will be subconsciously accepted.
Let us all spend some time in Psalm 119 and make it our prayer – to be wholly committed to the process of building Godly convictions into our own lives and the lives of those we lead. Let us reject the “wisdom” of the world, and cling to the wisdom from God
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)