Convict means to convince. So, conviction is being convinced, and a biblical conviction comes from being convinced of what we believe the Bible teaches regarding a particular matter.
Some convictions are more important than others because the Bible distinguishes between the greatest commandments and the least commandments. Anything that God commands is important, but God clarifies that some matters are more important than others. But even if you have a conviction of something of lesser importance, it is still important to obey what you believe. In fact, even if your belief is inaccurate, it is still important to follow what you believe because acting to the contrary will hurt your conscience (1 Tim. 1:19). It is vital to live by convictions.
The best case scenario is to have accurate convictions—convictions held because the Holy Spirit has convinced you of a biblical truth, its interpretation, and its application. These are three different levels. However, sometimes we are convinced of something because of peer pressure or traditional prejudice. When this is the case, the convincement is more of a comfort zone than a biblical conviction. It may be a conviction but not necessarily a Spirit-led, biblical conviction.
As I travel in evangelism I have the privilege of crossing legitimate lines. There are various “flavors” of churches within this scope. Once in a while, this has brought me into varying applications that are out of my comfort zone.
In some cases, I have sensed the Spirit’s life in applications I’m not accustomed to—not in everything, but in some things. This has given me pause. How can I condescend toward something the Spirit blesses? Over time I noticed those given applications have become a part of my comfort zone. This has helped me distinguish between biblical, Spirit-led convictions and convictions that stem from a comfort zone.
With some applications, I have not sensed the Spirit’s life. Whenever this is the case, it is vital to hold to your convictions. Obviously, we should be gracious, but at times it is legitimate to challenge the thinking of others. And in doing so, we must remember and factor in the different levels of importance.
When something is new (or at least new to us), it will be out of our comfort zone at the onset. It would be wise, however, for us to discern whether the matter represents a violation of our convictions or simply a challenge to stretch our comfort zone. If it’s the former, we should hold to our convictions. When it’s the latter, we can give latitude. And when it’s legitimate to give latitude, this new thing will find room in our newly expanded comfort zone.
Ephesians 5:10 challenges us to prove or find out what is acceptable to the Lord.
John Van Gelderen