Convictions – What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

 

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Basically, convictions are your personally-held beliefs that guide the way you live. 

In the Bible, there are definite rights, ie. love God, love your neighbors, treat others the way you want to be treated.

And there are definite wrongs, ie. don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t be jealous of what other people have.

The Bible is 100% accurate and perfect in every way and is the ultimate guide to life. But it does not always spell out exactly what to do in every situation.

It’s like the U.S. Constitution. Everything in it is true and relevant, but it requires interpretation in cases not specifically covered in the law.

Sometimes church denominations will hold certain convictions that they expect their members to follow, like abstaining from alcohol or requiring women to wear dresses and have long hair.

But I truly believe that convictions are personal.

The ultimate purpose of convictions are to keep yourself in a place where you are best able to worship God.

Convictions can help you set boundaries to keep you from situations where you would be more likely to make wrong choices.

For example, let’s say Bob gambled for many years. He lost his wife and family because of his addiction and ended up deep in debt. Eventually, he gave his life to Jesus and decided he wanted to leave gambling behind him.

So Bob decided to quit going to casinos and playing card games all together. It’s not that he thinks Solitaire is a sin, but he knows that being around cards could trigger his former desire for gambling. His choice to stay away from cards is helping him focus on living for God, and not dwelling on his past.

Now, Bob doesn’t expect everyone to quit card games and he doesn’t judge anyone that plays them. He just personally chooses not to.

Growing up, my family had 2 major convictions: 1) we didn’t go to movies and 2) we didn’t go to restaurants that served alcohol.

The movie conviction actually used to be part of the Nazarene church’s member covenant. My grandma never went to movies growing up, nor did my mom, nor did my brother and I. It’s not that the movies themselves are inherently evil, but rather the fact that there was no control over what commercials would play and no way to skip over objectionable content.

We usually watch movies on Netflix or Prime, or get DVDs from the library. So while I’m not always current on the latest movies, I end up seeing them eventually. 🙂

I personally am apathetic on this issue. I don’t feel strongly about NOT going to movies, but I don’t really desire to go either. In all honesty, I’m not a movie person. Give me five billion episodes over a movie any day (unless it’s Marvel). Movies are long, expensive, and some theaters have bed bug issues (no thanks!). And, I want to respect my family’s convictions.

However, I do agree with my parents’ conviction about not going to restaurants that serve alcohol. This comes from a very personal place. My dad’s biological father was an abusive alcoholic. My dad and his nine brothers and sisters were placed in foster homes from a young age and there have been so many health and mental problems among my aunts and uncles that came from his drinking.

Alcohol is literally in my family’s blood and one drink could lead to a lifetime addiction. So my parents always felt strongly about staying away from it as much as possible. There are still several excellent restaurants that don’t sell alcohol and we’d prefer to go there than be exposed to something that destroyed my family.

But here’s the thing: not everyone has to agree.

Growing up, I always thought that we didn’t go to movies or restaurants that served alcohol because that was the “Christian” thing to do.

I always wondered how people at church and school could be Christians if they went to those restaurants and theaters. I didn’t understand what convictions were at all.

And then, I read Romans 14. I highly encourage that everyone reads this chapter. It completely changed the way I viewed convictions.

The Apostle Paul wrote Romans during a time of major change for the church. After Jesus died and rose again, salvation became possible for Jews and Gentiles. The Jews were still used to the law and their traditional customs. Gentiles didn’t have these same customs.

There became major debates as to what was necessary for faith and what didn’t really matter in the long run.

One huge issue was food. Under the Jewish law, there were many foods considered “unclean”. It was also common that meat was sacrificed to idols in those days.

So some believers only ate vegetables. They knew it was kosher and there was no idolatry connected to it. Others argued that God made all food and it was fine to eat whatever.

Paul basically tells the Romans to not condemn others for their beliefs. In verse 6 (NLT), Paul says, “…Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God.”

Paul goes on to say that we shouldn’t condemn other believers.

“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”
~ Romans 14: 12-13 (NLT)

Another important part of convictions is sometimes doing or avoiding certain things to help other believers. Let’s say you invite Bob (in the example above) over to your house to hang out one evening. Instead of playing Hearts, you could opt for Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. You are 100% free to play Hearts any time, but choosing another game that night out of respect for Bob would help him stay true to his convictions.

Ultimately, here’s what Paul has to say about convictions:

“…Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.”
~ Romans 14:22b-23

What are your thoughts on convictions?

What convictions do you personally live by?

Thanks so much for reading,

RaeAnn

Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love – Romans 8:35-37 Devotional

The end of the semester is quickly approaching. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything that’s due over the next two weeks – studying for exams, finishing projects, preparing for presentations, etc.

But the good news is that we’re never alone. God goes with us, wherever we go. 

It’s hard leaving friends behind in the summer, especially for those who are graduating. But we can be sure that God will be at the mission field, at home, at a full-time job, or at summer classes with us.

Romans 8:35-37 (NLT) says, Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

Honestly, human love is very circumstantial. It’s easy to love those who love us and treat us well. It’s harder to love those who constantly let us down or ignore us. Sometimes we feel unloved by those closest to us.

But no matter what we’ve done in the past or what we will do is the future, God’s love for us is unchanging. Whether we have a six-figure salary or are struggling to make ends meet, God loves us. Whether we stay close to home or move to a foreign country, God loves us. Despite any mistakes we’ve made, God loves us.

My favorite part of this verse is the phrase “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ”. God not only loves us, but he also gives us victory. Victory over failures, victory over fear, victory over circumstances — overwhelming victory!

I hope that everyone has a great rest of the semester here at Cedarville and a fantastic summer break. I’m excited to see how God will work through each and every one of us this summer. And no matter where He leads, His love and overwhelming victory go with us!

Chains Will Break

“But I do the very thing I hate…”

Sin is always so appealing. Whether it’s cheating on an exam to get that grade you want, stretching the truth to earn trust or approval, spreading gossip, it could be anything. The attraction lies in the benefit. A satisfaction seemingly so good that boundaries are crossed, mistakes are made, lies are told, tracks are covered, and consequences are ignored. A temptation that is so strong that we no longer care what is right or wrong and then we cave in.

I know I can relate to this. I try to break a habit and soon find myself returning to the very habit I was trying to break. I understand the error of my action, realize the mistake, and what do I do? The very sin I thought about and considered the error of. Why? Why do I return to my sin? Why do we do what is wrong even though we’re aware of the error? But the more concerning question is, even though I make the same mistake over and over, can I still find forgiveness?

About 2000 years ago, Paul wrote a letter to the Romans that holds undeniable truth that is relevant still today. A letter that sparked a revolutionary fire in many souls through the message it shares. A Gospel message of conviction, redemption, and freedom. In the middle of this letter, Paul shares with us something I believe we all can relate to. Romans 7:14-15 says, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Here, in this Scripture, Paul expresses his understanding of the very same issue I face.

We all struggle with sin. I mean, Paul, a well known apostle and example for the Christian faith confessed to this, which is proof that even the strongest heart faces times of weakness. The expectations of God lie within our Spiritual strength and persistence, but this world we live in and the bodies we’ve been given have been stolen by sin. The flesh in which we reside is a weak, disobedient, sin-tainted flesh. A flesh that is bound and destined to make mistakes.

So, now that we have an idea of why we continue life in sin, we need to consider the next question. Is there hope for us to hold on to?

I sure hope so, because if there isn’t, then I’ve got a lot to worry about! The beauty of the cross is the sacrifice made for my sins (and yours). The renewed grace, mercy, and love of God are given to us unconditionally. Well. There is one condition: That it is received. God knew that we would stumble and He knew that we would make mistakes. That’s the whole point of the death and resurrection of Christ. The fulfillment of a promise of hope and restoration. A works-based faith doesn’t work because our sinful nature makes it impossible for us to be “good enough,” and what a relief that is! Praise God that we don’t have to meet that requirement on our own, because I know my track record certainly speaks of my inability to. All we have to do is ask for and receive the forgiveness He has for us. The robes of Christ cover our sins. When we ask for forgiveness, we are no longer responsible for due judgement. The wrath of God was satisfied by the blood of Jesus, and, as Paul later mentions in Romans, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NOTHING can EVER separate us from the work of Christ so long as we are willing to accept the free gift offered to us.

That covers two questions. Now that we are beginning to understand why we continue to sin and have reflected on the forgiveness always available to us, there is one more question to answer. How do I respond to all of this?

Despite the forgiveness we receive, sometimes we still hold on to a feeling of guilt, or maybe even God-given conviction. The consequences of our sins still remain. Lies can hurt and actions have consequences. How can we begin to heal if we have to face the result of our sin? Despite what you may feel, keeping it secret is not the answer. I am convinced that silence is a tool of the Enemy to keep us from true Spiritual healing. Silence is a fear-driven response. To find peace and joy, there is only one answer, especially when considering those sins which are exceptionally binding. To confess. James 5:16 says to us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Though it might be the most terrifying option, there has never been a time that I regretted bringing my sin to light. Every instance brought forth a response of love and acceptance, but more importantly, people who are willing to walk with me and carry me when it gets hard and when I stumble. Even if there is healing for our mistakes, should we live like they don’t matter? Again, we can look at Paul, in Romans 6:1-2, where he responds to this very question with, “By no means!” Instead, we should follow the direction of 2 Timothy 2:22 which tell us to, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

So, don’t let yourself be discouraged by the struggles you face. There is forgiveness. Don’t let your sins be kept in secret. In confession is healing and unmatched peace, joy, and freedom through the prayer and support of those who love you. Break the chains that bind you through the strength of the Lord. Lean on those around you, and know that as I type this, I am praying for this message to reach into the depths of your heart and soul that you may find the abundant love of Christ and grow in ways you never thought possible.