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Is It a Conviction

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  • Is It a Conviction

    Hello, I really would like some insight. I know Romans 14:5 says that everyone must be convinced in their own "minds" about matters of conscience and Christian liberty. However, I am having trouble even discerning whether some of my alleged convictions actually are convictions. Many times I will feel something in my heart area that seems to communicate that something is wrong with what I am doing. But in some of those situations my mind (or my logical thinking) tells me there is nothing wrong with what I am doing. I'll give an example. I am 21 and I attend a Sunday School class hat is supposed to be for 40-60 year-olds. Normally I am not one to do things that even hint at breaking an established rule. The sunday school class enjoys me being there, I have tremendous ministry opportunities, and have grown tremendously. However, I occasionally feel this feeling in my heart area that I am doing something wrong by being involved in this sunday school class even though I believe in my mind (or my logical thinking) that there is no reason why I can't attend since they have no problem with it and I don't see any harm in doing it. This is just one of multiple examples of situations where I can't even decide whether or not my conviction actually is one. I desire to live for God and I also want to know whether or not I have certain convictions so that I can either live in the freedom that God has blessed me with or stop what I am doing. Please help! Thanks.

  • #2
    Hi Grant,

    I'm nearly 60 and have been a believer for nearly 35 years. The matter of conscience is not something I would expect you at age 21 to have very developed unless you've been a believer for many years and spent a lot of time in prayer and God's word and being mentored in this area by one mature in this area. Conscinece is a matter of maturity and in this regard it can be understood as a developmental process.

    Here's an example of what I'm talking about. When I became a believer I was zealous for more Jesus. The problem was I lacked knowledge and maturity.
    "Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way." (Pr. 19:2 ESV)
    Speaking of the Jews still bound to Moses Paul wrote,
    "Brethren, my heartís desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about Godís righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Rom. 10:1-4)
    Blessedly, God is faithful and He completely understands.

    When I was a new believer I thirsted for God. I asked Him big questions and expected big answers. The problem was I lacked big silence. It is impossible to hear from God if you're still talking, and thinking is just talking to oneself. This is why stillness, silence, meditation and contemplation are such important spiritual disciplines. Eventually it occurred to me: Don't ask God big questions if you lack the the ability to listen to big answers. So I started wording my inquiries in the form of questions that could be answered with a simple, "Yes," or "No." And then I waited. I trained myself to hear small answers and worked from there. I'm sure God was speaking in long discourses before but I lack the knowledge, discipline and spiritual intuition to hear and understand. Over time (maybe ten years!) I learned to hear sentences, and then small paragraphs. Along the way I had to learn to trust what I heard because it does you know good to listen if you're unwilling or afraid to act upon it.

    Everything God says in illumination reconciles with his word. His word can be read and adhered to in its letter but its power is in understanding the principles and precepts, not merely the letter of the law. For example, the OT law about not muzzling the ox is referenced at least three times in the NT but not once in the NT does it have anything to do with oxen. This is one of the reasons the Jews failed to understand love was the fulfillment of the law and all the law, prophets, and Psalms testified to Christ. The held to the letter and (usually) missed the intent, principle, precept or truth upon which those commands were commanded. For this reason it is important to have a good knowledge of God's word and an even greater familiarity with it. Just keep reading. I highly recommend you read the Bible from beginning to end exactly as written and then read it a second time in chronological order (there are Bibles written that way, or the chronology can be found online). For example Romans was one of the last epistles written, not the first. Paul first dealt with the problems arising in Galatia, Thessalonica, and Corinth. Things were messy and the feel for what he was dealing with is better understood through a chronological reading. Then every few years give the Bible a read through from beginning to end and your daily devotions will consolidate accordingly.

    There is no clear conscience without a knowledge of God's word because there is then nothing by which the thoughts might be measured but your self.
    "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9)
    Remember God's word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword and it divides soul and spirit. And it is God's job to sanctify you to renew your mind with His word and His Spirit..... once you've become obedient and placed yourself in a position to be sanctified and renewed. The spiritual disciplines are important.

    Now that being said, I think reading the works of those who have walked the road of faith in Christ before us is also very important. Unblessedly this takes a willingness to read diversely. For example, I believe every Christian should read Francis Schaeffer's trilogy and J. I. Packer's "Knowing God." I deem them necessities. I also think "The Cross of Christ" by John Stott is great, but I also benefited from writers as diverse as Watchman Nee and Jerry Bridges. At age 21 I doubt your ability to measure your own conscience with God's word will be as adept as it will be when you are age 41 and have another twenty years of prayer and study, renewal and sanctification within you.

    So be patient with yourself (and God).

    One last word on the matter of maturity and one's ability to have his own conscience as a tool for righteousness:

    He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Jesus has gave the early church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers so that the believers in Christ could be equipped for service building up the body of Christ until that body attains 1) unity of the faith, 2) knowledge of Christ, and 3) maturity in the fulnnes of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). In other words, most of us are sheep, not shepherds. One mature sheep is worth ten immature leaders.

    Go through the Bible and examine the scriptures that mention "conscience." Then read about Peter. Peter appeals to a clear conscience when he discusses salvation and Godly living in 1 Peter 3. Keep in mind that this is the same Peter who first recognized Jesus as the Messiah and this is the same Peter willing to step out of the boat but also the same Peter who denied Christ and the same Peter who acted so hypocritically with the Gentile and Jewish converts that Paul had to rebuke him. Do you think your conscience will mature without an occasional rebuke? If not then what have you done to learn how to manage rebuke in a Godly Christlike manner? Most know 2 Tim. 3:16 but how many can recite the rest of Paul's statement?
    "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
    One sheep living with a clear conscience is more useful in God's hands then ten shepherds with immature consciences.
    "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins." (2 Pet. 1:3-9 NIV)
    You have been cleansed. Do not become nearsighted and blind forgetting that truth.

    We will each die with sin on our ledger. God knows this. He has washed us clean in the shed blood of His son, the Son it pleased Him crush on your behalf so you could be washed clean.
    All verses cited or quoted or in the NAS unless otherwise noted.

    ďif anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.Ē (2 Tim. 2:5)