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Learning to Live with Conviction

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Learning to Live with Conviction
Learning to live with conviction

A couple of years ago, a bishop of Uganda while commenting about the nature of faith that his people, the Baganda, had, said, “If it came to it, I think the Baganda would be ready to die for Christ today: it is living for him that they find difficult.”[1] Today, although there are many who would identify themselves as Christians, yet when it comes to living out the authentic Christian life, they have gone in the direction of ancient Israel, i.e., “every-one did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25, NIV). In other words, ‘morality’ or the Christian code of conduct is arrived at more by consensus rather than absolutes.

Well, we may neither do that which deems fit in our own eyes, as everyone else would do, as prevails in the culture, but nor do we live in accordance with the Biblical standards. Instead we strive to conform ourselves to the pattern of Christians that we see around us, or even worse still, we expect to attain holiness by means of ‘osmosis’, i.e., by absorbing the ethical framework of our fellow Christians. Today, the crisis seems to me that the Christian life is rooted in convenience rather than biblical convictions.[2]

The Oxford English dictionary defines the word ‘conviction’ as “a firmly held belief or opinion”, something you cling to so strongly that it impacts the way you think and the way you live your life. Someone has put it this way, “a belief is what you hold, but a conviction is what holds you”. This implies that one may live his/her life not in keeping with one’s belief but one does not necessarily live against one’s convictions. Convictions can either be good or bad. Therefore, in order to ensure that our convictions are good, we need to cultivate the habit of anchoring our convictions in the Bible.[3]

Life-time project

There is no easy road to cultivating biblical convictions, rather it is a project of a life-time. It begins with the acknowledgment of a few important truths. First, it is to recognize that the nature of the Christian faith as passed on to us is the one that saves and not just a mere set of beliefs. While it is true that Christ is the object of our faith, yet it is a conviction of a settled truth about Christ that we are convinced or that possesses us. In other words, the starting point is when the lost soul is restored by the Spirit of Almighty God. Robert Wise writes, “Reconnected to the Spirit of God, lost souls discover they have power and capacity beyond anything they could have dreamed. The restoration of soul is more than a recovery of connectedness. Significant strength, ability to achieve, guidance, and awareness are imparted.”[4] In a sense, to have one’s soul plugged in to God is to have our convictions firmly embedded on a solid and dynamic foundation of God’s redemptive work. This is similar to the kind of faith that the patriots or the fathers of faith had as mentioned in Hebrews 11. Their whole life’s conviction rested on the faith that not only saves but also prompted them into action.

The second truth to ponder is to acknowledge that the convictions of a transformed life ought to be constantly nurtured by the law of God or, in other words, the counsel of the Bible as a whole. The picture is that of the man described in Psalm 1. His conviction is not derived from the latest public opinion or, for that matter, from smart opinion makers for he “does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (verse 1). Rather, his conviction is derived from the law of God, for “his delight is in the law of the Lord” and he “meditates day and night” (verse 2). Implying that his conviction is bound by the law or, in other words, he allows the law to speak to himself.[5] Perhaps, a similar conviction was exemplified in the life of the great reformer, Martin Luther who, when asked to recant from his current position of belief, concerning the Bible, he had put forward in the form of his ninety-five theses said, “I am bound by the texts of the Bible; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience.”[6]

Accountability structure

The third essential truth to consider is that convictions are at best reinforced when there is an accountability structure set around us. These structures can be our families, churches and even other groups (big or small) just to name a few. Chuck Colson, while speaking on the importance of accountability in his life, writes, “Let me give you one practical suggestion. I did not find this out until I hit my head and went to prison, and my meteoric career went down the drain. I have to hold myself accountable to other people. My wife, my immediate family, and my kids. I wouldn’t think of making a decision without them. And I have got a smaller accountability group; half a dozen people. And I won’t make any move without their concurrence. I don’t trust myself. That is a good place for me to start. Find five or six friends and form an accountability group.”[7] In fact, Colson went on to emphasize that it is precisely the practice of “accountability to one another” that made all the difference in the Prison Fellowship.[8] In a similar note, the Bible emphasizes the point that it is only when we support each other (through the different accountability structures) by carrying each other’s burdens that we begin to see the fulfilment of the law of Christ in our lives (Gal. 6:2).

Learning to live our life of biblical convictions is relational and not just a personal affair.

Finally in closing, the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1-2 that in light of “God’s mercy” and grace we are called to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Him. Even a watching world will know more about the Christian faith by looking at the quality of our lives which is a life of deep conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Therefore, to do so, we need to practise the disciplines essential to cultivate deep Bible-based convictions.

[1] Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Missions (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1964) pg. 386 as quoted in Ajith Fernando, Spiritual Living in a Secular World (Gospel Literature Service, 1996) pg. 25.

[2] Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (Navpress, 2006), p. 166.

[3] Ibid, pg. 167.

[4] Robert L. Wise, Quest for the Soul (Nashville: Nelson, 1996), 88 as quoted in Dallas Willard, Revolution of Character (Inter-Varsity Press, 2006) pg. 161.

[5] Ibid. pg. 160.

[6] Martin Luther, The Great Reformer (Ben Publishing, Secunderabad, 1998) pg. 122.

[7] Scott B. Rae, Doing the Right Thing (Zondervan, 2013) pg. 75.

[8] Ibid. pg. 75-76.

Balajied Nongrum is a Speaker and Trainer with RZIM Life Focus Society.

The article was published in Engage in July 2018.

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