For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6,8)
Every child of God should have convictions. To be conviction-less is to be spineless, double-minded, unstable, driven by every new wind of thought.
All believers must embrace the clarity of the written Word of God, and based on the clear absolutes of the Word, certain convictions ought to be universal. Other convictions are personalized based on the Spirit’s specific guidance in an individual’s life, and any personalized conviction the Spirit leads you to embrace, you must embrace. But care must be taken not to force personalized convictions on everyone else.
Even with the clear absolutes, Bible convictions come from the Bible’s author, the Holy Spirit. He is the divine one who convicts (John 16:8). To convict means to convince. The Spirit uses the objective Word which He authored to subjectively convince by bearing witness to the truth. Real biblical convictions must come from the Spirit and not human peer pressure. The Spirit often uses human instrumentation to convey truth, but the convincing of that truth must come from Him in order for a conviction to be formed.
This is true in gospel witness. We must declare the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ, but the Spirit must convince one of that truth for the person to believe in Jesus. If we pressure someone into a “decision” without the person being convinced of salvation truth by the Spirit, they are merely bowing to fleshly pressure and, sadly, are not actually getting saved.
This same dynamic can occur among the saints. Where the Word of God is clear, we must embrace the truth. But still, without being convinced by the Spirit, it is not really a conviction. So servants of the Lord must patiently declare truth and trust the Spirit to convince—just as we must do in gospel witnessing.
Greater carefulness must be displayed in matters that are not as clear in the objective Word. It is fair to seek to persuade one to your perspective, but in less clear matters, we must ultimately “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5).
In these less clear areas, the danger lies in the human instrumentation using human pressure through manipulative statements that intimidate. For example, someone might say, “If you don’t embrace this, you’re a compromiser!” But in a case like this, the real compromise would be in bowing to the fleshly pressure. It’s convenient to bow in order to fit in, however, to embrace the “conviction” in a situation like this is really pretense.
Some go along with the pressure in a “kissing up” way to advance in the system of a given subculture. Others go along with the pressure, sincerely thinking the leaders must be right—but they are not convinced by the Spirit. The leaders may be sincere, but when it is eventually realized that these are debatable matters that were taught as absolutes, people get disillusioned, knowing they have been manipulated by human pressure. When flesh is put forth as Spirit, eventually some people discern the difference. Sadly, some in their disillusionment walk away from that which is legitimate. Others learn a closer walk with the Spirit and grow in grace.
John Van Gelderen