I have been reflecting some on how we arrive at the values which we hold. We seem as American Christians to be far more swayed and influenced by the value system and worldview of the world around us than by the one the Bible presents. Unless we are far more intentional, we will simply default.

What does it mean to have “convictions?” We often associate “conviction” with sin; that something we experience when we become “convinced” by the Holy Spirit that some motive, action or attitude is out of adjustment with God and must change. Of course, it is possible to resist the Spirit’s appeals; but to do so is dangerous, perhaps even fatal and to really believe that our unresponsiveness is in fact dangerous seems to be just another thing of which we need to be convinced.

The idea of conviction is bigger than just a correct view of sin; in fact conviction is foundational to the way we do life and are to do life, whether we are fully aware of it or not. A conviction is a way of seeing something in life which seems to me so true, so compelling that I must live accordingly. I say “seems” because my way of seeing could really be wrong – I may be convinced that something is true and live accordingly and be very wrong. Sincerity is nice, but truth is far more important.

How can we know what our real convictions are, not what we say is important but what we actually are convinced of? By evaluating, with the Spirit’s help, the way we actually live. What we actually do is what we are convinced is important, valuable enough to act upon, regardless of what we say is important. It is this “hypocrisy gap” that the Holy Spirit addresses in our lives – the distance between how we are actually living and what we say or even know to be important. What values are really determining our lives?

Partly at issue is the way we misuse the term “believe.” We have turned belief into an opinion or simply an affirmation about something. Perhaps I “believe” that I should spend more time with God to hear His heartbeat, but in the end do not. Why? Because though I “believe” I should, this sort of “believing” is just seen as an option among others, a preference that matters not. I am not “convinced” that I should do it, though I “believe” it is important. This kind of “believing” is not only not Biblical, it is sin (James 2:14-26, 4:17). And it is not true conviction.

Where do real, Biblical convictions come from? They come when we are committed to the Truth-Giver and are captured by His love. Not just His love for us, as important as that is, but His love for His very broken world. Once His love grips us personally, then His perspective will matter – we will then become “convinced” about things from His perspective. Gripped by His heart, eyes wide open to His perspective, we will shaped – captured by true, life orienting conviction. More about this later.

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