Personal Convictions (The Best Approach)

When I was about 7 to 10 days into my new life in Christ, I was praying in my bedroom one day and a very distinct command came into my heart from Above.

“Take down your posters and throw them away.”

It caught me off guard. I never really expected, at such a young age in the Lord, to have the Spirit speak so expressly to me. I knew it was God, and I didn’t hesitate to obey. I just had to get over the shock of it all.

I stood up, went around the room, pulling them down one by one, and folding them up, I put them in a brown grocery bag and took them outside and dumped them.

Here’s the other part of the story:

Not all, but several of my posters were not becoming of a Christian. Some posters were from various video games I had bought over the years, including a poster for Doom, which featured a devil’s head placed over a pentagram.

Another poster was from the MTV show Daria, which had the main character quoting Jean Paul Sartre’s famous line “Hell Is Other People”.

I don’t remember all of them now, but I had a bunch. Another one was for Tekken, a 3D fighting video game, and a different one was for the Hobbit. Some were large and some were small. There was probably at least twenty or more.

This experience was my first foray into personal convictions. Like I said, not all the posters were of an un-godly nature. It was simply something God wanted me to personally obey in order to please Him. Does it mean that all saints everywhere need to evaluate their wall decorations and do as I did? Not at all.

And that’s the point. Personal convictions should not be preached into a person by an external influence. They should come from the Holy Spirit within the believer.

When personal convictions come from an external source, or as Freud might call it, from a Super Ego, there will be resistance. But not from the source you might assume.

The resistance will be from the Holy Spirit. Consider: if I command someone to do, say, believe, or think something that is personal in nature, and not expressly commanded in the Word of God, if someone undertakes to adopt the conviction I’ve commanded, it is likely, even probable that the received conviction didn’t come from the Spirit for that person, which means that, if the Spirit didn’t engender it from within, it didn’t come from God, meaning the person will constantly struggle between obeying God and what He wants them to do, say, believe, or think versus what I’ve persuaded them to do, say, believe, or think.

That is a terrible position to be in. What if I hold some level of authority or present myself as a archetypal power figure in that person’s life? I could do terrible damage to his or her faith.

I have children, a daughter and a son. Now, they are little, but time moves by quickly when kids are just kids. My daughter will be twelve before I know it. I want my girl, as she ages, to be dressed modestly, as becoming a daughter of Zion. I want her outward appearance to reflect the inward glory of Christ.

So, as she ages, and learns to dress herself, pick out her own clothes, or even more than that, as she begins to shop for herself, do I want her to dress a certain way only because “Dad says so”?

Not in the least! I want her to dress in a way that she knows pleases her Savior. If He is happy, how can I not be?

But how many people attempt to abide by some kind of standard simply because “My church teaches…” or “My Pastor said…”?

So which is better? Attempting to hold down an externally introduced conviction or one that is easily obeyed because you know it came straight from the Throne of Heaven?

Here is a fact:

Not one pastor or leader has ever told me how to look and not look, how to talk and not talk, where to go and not go, what to think and not think, how to dress and not dress, who I should and should not associate myself with, and etc. in order to be a good Christian. Never. Not once.

NO ONE EVER PREACHED HOLINESS INTO ME! Instead, they worked to constantly PREACH SIN OUT OF ME!

If a human vessel is not holy, by default, it creates a vacuum that can and too often does, sucks every sinful thing into it. Conversely, if a human vessel is “swept and garnished” (Luke 11:25) of sinful activity and the operations of the flesh, then what else can that human vessel be but holy unto God, even righteous?

You see, the issue isn’t, in the case of modesty, for example, whether or not some skin is showing. The issue is lust and the desire to be desired. This is the root of fornication and adultery. So if one preaches hard against such sins, you can rest assured that, once embraced as Truth, modesty will follow, without a word being said on the matter, as the personal conviction to live holy and be modest develops in the wake of purging one’s heart of improper sexual desires, i.e. a blend of concupiscence and lasciviousness.

In the case of spending and saving habits, one need not enforce their own personal convictions on another; rather they need only preach hard against idolatry and greed. Once embraced, you can be sure one’s spending and saving habits will please the Lord.

And on it goes.

Not too long ago, someone reached out to me to let me know that they were going to do such and such a thing to protect themselves spiritually. The problem was such and such a thing was not completely honest. While it could have been considered true from a certain point of view (cue Obiwan Kenobi!), the fact of the matter was such and such a thing was deceptive. To this person I pointed out Romans 12:17,

17. …Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

They realized, because of the Scripture (and not because of me) that they couldn’t proceed with such and such a thing. So this person asked what they could do instead. I refused to tell them. Instead I led this person to realize what the source of the problem was so they, and here it is! could come to their own conviction on the matter.

And this person did just that. It was great to see the light bulb come on as the Spirit revealed to this person what they needed to do to better attain a protected life in Christ. Afterward, I explained why this matters so much:

“Since you came to your own conclusion on the matter, and have now developed your own conviction, it will be much easier to obey and maintain since it didn’t come from me.”

That is allowing Jesus to be the Head. If He wants me to do, say, believe, or think something, He will make sure I do, say, believe, or think something. I don’t need “10,000 instructors in Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:15) constantly telling me how to live for God. And you don’t, either. No one does.

Shepherding a soul is not about making disciples/clones for/of yourself. It’s about pointing people to the Answer, Jesus Christ. We need to constantly affirm and reaffirm a complete reliance upon the Messiah for all things. This is the essence and meaning of New Covenant faith.

Even more recently, my wife and I entertained a couple who brought their children to play with ours. After dinner, we of course talked faith, Bible, and other Spiritual things. It came up that the husband is dealing with people asking him for counsel on big decisions. He admitted to a certain level of “I don’t know what to tell them”, but nonetheless, still felt obligated, because of his position in the Church, to give input and advice.

Realizing they were wanting my take on the matter, this is what I told them:

If a saint wanted to know if they should join or depart from a ministry, or some other type of small matter, I would advise and give input. But if they wanted to know if they should go to college, get married, take a certain job, transfer churches, move to a new location, or etc. I wouldn’t give a word. They had best get their answer directly from God. I wouldn’t dare lead a person to such a life changing, faith affecting, eternal decision. I want no part in such things.

It seemed as though jaws dropped. What I had said ran so counter to what they thought they were supposed to be doing for people who looked to them for leadership and guidance. Realizing their surprise, I continued:

If I end up leading someone to make such a big decision, and it’s the wrong decision, and it ruins their life, damages their walk with God, or interferes with their eternal life, I don’t want that hanging over my head. Such a person needs to be solely responsible to the Lord in such matters. If it’s the will of God, God will make it known. But if it’s not, and I don’t realize it, and my input, even accidentally or inadvertently, leads them to disobey the will of God for their life, then shame on me. What did I just do to that person?

Understanding seemed to be achieved. The matter was quickly passed and we moved on to other topics.

But that’s how I really feel. I’ve seen too many people try to please someone other than God with their personal convictions, and watched as they suffered.

Outside of a direct word of wisdom, no one in the Kingdom should be telling too many people what to do, especially in matters that don’t have much Scripture to guide and direct (like taking down one’s posters).

And even if one has been given a word of wisdom by the Spirit, even then we must all be careful, since “words” need to be established by two or three other independent sources.  So give your word to me, but if you don’t let me wait it out to see if it’s from God or not, then don’t speak. You’re just going to damage both of us in the end.

To conclude, I share with you one more recent example. I received a text from a very good friend, who is stressed out about their current situation, one that I’ve personally been in myself. They seem to be at a crossroads. They could continue on in the same direction, counting the cost and hopefully make headway. Or, they can count the cost, realize it’s not worth it, perhaps not being God’s will for them, and change course. An in-enviable position to be sure. This friend asked me to pray for them. I said I would, sharing my empathy and understanding. My final word for them was this:

Whatever you decide to do, just remember, you are called to peace.

And that’s the best approach to personal convictions: whatever you do, say, believe, or think, first and foremost, always remember the Lord of Peace calls you to peace (2 Thessalonians 3:16 and Colossians 3:15). Anything less than that is external pressure conflicting with the Spirit of Christ within you.

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~ by votivesoul on 09/24/2013.

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