By Dr. Charles Stanley
Strong biblical convictions are essential for everyone who wants to lead a godly life. On many topics, God has given specific instructions through His Word. But what does the Bible call us to do when our personal beliefs clash with those of other Christians? And is it sinful to violate a conviction that is not a clear scriptural teaching?
1. Some convictions should be a part of every believer’s life.
On a number of moral issues, the Bible clearly defines how a believer should act. On these topics, all Christians should hold to the scriptural standard.
- List six convictions the Word sets for all believers, according to Mark 10:17-19.
- Why do you think Paul instructed followers of God not to associate with believers who act like nonbelievers (1 Cor. 5:11)?
- Name a few convictions you hold that are scripturally based (other than the ones mentioned inMark 10:17-19).
2. Other convictions will vary from believer to believer.
Although the Word of God is explicit on many issues, there are other questions that it does not specifically address. For instance, some people can listen to secular music without wandering from their devotion to God. In others, those same songs stir up old desires that would lead them down a path of spiritual drifting or outright rebellion.
Because personal convictions are sometimes presented as scriptural commands, you must learn to evaluate whether they are taught in the Word of God. If they are not, the Spirit can help you discern where the line falls between law and liberty on such matters.
- Nazirites were Jews who were especially devoted to God. What added restrictions did they take on (Num. 6:1-8)?
- Briefly describe what they had to do if they became defiled accidentally (vv. 9-21).
Samson (Judg. 13:4-5), Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11), and John the Baptist (Luke 1:15-17) took lifelong Nazirite vows; the apostle Paul took a temporary one (Acts 18:18). Yet we have no record of any of these men instructing God’s people to follow the three Nazirite restrictions described in these verses.
- What are some of your personal convictions that are not clearly spelled out in Scripture?
- Are you careful not to impose your standards on others, or do you sometimes expect all believers to feel as you do? Why or why not?
3. Because convictions can be personal, place more weight on the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice than you do on what others say.
God may tell you to avoid something your friends say is acceptable. Others may think your standards are too high or restrictive.
- Read 1 Samuel 24:1-7. What did David’s friends urge him to do?
- What did he do instead? Why does he regret even this action?
- Why do you think David was able to act with so much integrity, despite the pressures he felt?
- Why is it important to stay true to your personal convictions, even if everyone else says your standards are unnecessary (Rom. 14:14, 20)?
4. When you violate your convictions, confess that to the Lord.
Since convictions can be a personal matter, your friends or even those in spiritual leadership may tell you that you did nothing wrong. Although their counsel might provide temporary comfort, the Bible says something different.
- What is the scriptural standard for right and wrong (James 4:17)?
When you violate a conviction, confess your sin to the Lord. He will be faithful to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). It’s also helpful to evaluate why you didn’t stay true to your conviction. Ask yourself how you can keep from repeating the sin.
- Describe a time you felt a personal conviction about something no one else considered wrong. What did you do? Do you think you made the right choice?
5. Show consideration to fellow believers who have different convictions than you.
In disputable matters, Christians should show respect for others. For example, we shouldn’t play secular music when carpooling with a friend who feels listening to it is wrong.
During the days of the early church, some believers felt they should follow the Jewish dietary rules, which set some foods apart as “unclean,” or unlawful to eat (Lev. 11:1-46). Though these restrictions no longer applied, a number of immature believers still adhered to them.
Read Romans 14:13-23.
- What instructions did Paul give to mature believers (vv. 13, 19-22)?
- Why do you think he approached the controversial matter this way?
- What are some gray areas where you could honor the convictions of friends or church members who have more restrictive values than you do?
Conclusion: Instead of allowing society to set their values, Christians should base convictions on biblical principles. Followers of Jesus should show consideration to fellow believers who hold different opinions on disputable matters. Seek to hold true to your beliefs, regardless of the cost.
Prayer: ather, teach me to stand firm in what You have called me to follow. Enable me to graciously accept my brothers and sisters in Christ who have different values than I do. Make me one who will bring honor to Your name through all I do. Amen.