Thursday, June 11, 2009

Devotion : What Does It Mean To LIve By Conviction?

Good morning my friends. We are continuing with Romans 14 today as we consider personal convictions. Again today we are only going to consider a few verses from this chapter but I suggest you read through the entire chapter to keep this portion in context:

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. vv. 5-8

There is a difference between openness and wavering. Wavering means that a person is moving between several different opinions, one minute stating that this is his opinion the next minute stating this other thing is his opinion. Using Paul's example of the days; some people may say Sunday is the day of worship and then change their opinion the next day that Saturday is the day of worship and the day after that there is no one day of worship, only to state the following day that Sunday is the day of worship. The only thing that wavering does is confuse people.

Openness on the other hand can be explained as being teachable. If you were of the opinion that Saturday is the day of worship and I was able to provide sound teaching from the Word of God that Sunday has been selected as the day of worship and you accept my sound argument and become convinced that I am right, that is being open. This does not lead to the confusion of wavering. I am only using Paul's example to make a point not to state my opinion on this matter.

Paul states that we must be people who "should be fully convinced in his own mind" ; in other words we need to be a people of conviction, not easily persuaded by the opinion of the day. A sound understanding of God's Word will help us to be people of conviction. I am sure you have heard the term, "He is a man of conviction", meaning he is a man who fully believes in what he is doing. My personal example is that I am a man of conviction concerning the need for Christian Education. This is not a personal choice but instead a conviction that has gripped my mind over a period of time. It has come from a greater understanding of God's Word, the direction of the Spirit and personal experience. Due to this conviction I will face whatever hard work, heartache, pain and suffering to live by this conviction. I am "fully convinced" in my own mind that this is important. However, as important as conviction is the reason for it is even more important.

Why have I opened a Christian school and why do I daily pay the personal cost of operating it? Is it to gain a great reputation for myself? I hardly think so. If this is my motivation I have failed miserably in doing it. Is it to have my church well thought of? If so this too has been a complete failure. Is it because I have nothing better to do? If so this is a very odd way to occupy myself. Is it because I need an income? I can think of better ways to make a living. No, I do it because I convinced that it is what the Lord requires me to do, according to my conviction. Being convinced of this I will not easily walk away from it no matter the obstacles and personal cost. This is the root of the matter when it comes to why we do the things we do:

He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

We do not live our lives according to personal preferences but instead according to convictions that everything we do in our lives we are doing for our Lord. We live lives directed by the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Whatever I do I do it for the Lord. If I keep my yard clean and neat I do it because I believe it honours my Lord. If I eat right and exercise I do it because I believe it honours my Lord. If I work tirelessly at the school to keep it running well and grounded in the Spirit I do it because I believe it honours my Lord. I do these things and I give thanks to the Lord for them. I do not do it with complaint or grumbling because I am thankful to be able to honour my God by what I do.

Not everyone will share my convictions but this does not make them any less my brother or sister in Christ. This is where we must abide by verse 1: Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. I can't judge another man's convictions as he should not judge mine. We may share our convictions with each other but if the other person decides not to live by my convictions it does not been he is any less valuable to me as a member of the Body of Christ. We have already learned that w belong to each other. This is such an important matter if we are to function as the Body, loving one another. Stick to what you are convinced of and respect other Christians by allowing them to do the same.

For my conclusion today I am going to go ahead of myself and jump to the end of the chapter. This really sums up my thoughts this morning:

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. vv. 22-23

Conviction must be born of faith. You must live what you are convinced of regardless of the opinions of others. If you are fully pursuaded that you stand on the Word of God, that you are directed by the Spirit, that you are honouring the Lord with your actions, then do not allow anyone to persuade you otherwise. If you live a life without conviction then you are living without faith and to live without faith is a very dangerous thing to do. This does not mean that as you learn more and gain experience that you conviction will not change; it will. But you must live according to your heart today.

This is how we are to understand the context of verse 1. Those of us who have learned much and gained much should have the wisdom to understand that people must live by conviction and it is not up to us to persuade them away from that conviction. To their own Lord they must be true. We must allow people to grow and mature by the Spirit and not according to our will. We live our life and if they have questions we answer them. We share our testimony. We teach. But allow the Holy Spirit to do the changing. And remember: everything that does not come from faith is sin.

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