Living With Biblical Conviction

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, by the craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”——Ephesians 4:14-16

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Our lives are constantly filled with pressure from every side to conform.  We are expected to live up to a certain standard set by those around us.  And with so much pressure, we face the continual temptation to compromise our beliefs and actions to simply fit in with people.

As the world moves further away from God and the Truth of His Word, it is becoming more and more difficult to remain faithful to the Lord.  We all struggle to stand strong in faith in certain situations, and at the same time, try to stay away from confrontation.  It is one of the most difficult things when we know we have to do what is right before the Lord, but also know that it is going to cause tension with others.

For far too long, professing “Christians” have been taught to tolerate and simply “love” people.  We have been told not to “rock the boat”, be “judgmental”, or be “divisive”.  But what are we to do when we have to make a decision that isn’t popular, but must do so to be obedient to God??  Are we to obey man rather than God?? (Acts 5:29)

What is troubling is that we have been led to believe that when we make a stand in obedience to the Lord, we are being self-righteous.  This is often a wrong belief.  As Christians, we can make clear decisions to walk in obedience to the Lord, while still maintaining an attitude of humility toward others; even if others may see it differently.

One of the biggest struggles we have in churches today are Christians living with Biblical conviction.

In order to be living with Biblical conviction, we must know what we believe and why we believe.  And to believe the Truth about Christianity, we must be reading and studying all of the Bible and not being led wherever and by whomever the wind takes us.

Since there are a growing number of people not being given a heavy dose of Biblical preaching and teaching these days, it is no wonder that most professing “Christians” compromise their beliefs and often have vastly different understandings of Christianity.  Or worse yet, many end up being hypocrites in how they live or even look no different than the rest of world.  If we don’t live with Biblical conviction, our beliefs and actions end up taking on whatever shape each situation dictates.

Biblical conviction begins with seeking Truth.  Truth is found as we go through the Bible, asking questions and working through what we are to believe according to Scripture.  While we don’t all have to agree on every point of theology, we should be able to relate to others on how we got to those conclusions from the true context of all of Scripture.  When we read, study, or are confronted by wrong beliefs and actions in the Bible, we must quickly acknowledge those things and adjust our beliefs and actions accordingly.

If we are not preparing ourselves and making stands in the little things, why do we think we will on the big things??

Christians tend to be very soft when it comes to social issues.  With such a great fear of offending people, it is much easier to just go along with whatever.  This leads to giving approval to the sinful beliefs and actions of others, as well as even participating in these things.

Passive participation is equally as sinful as active participation.

Passive participation is essentially going along with those making sinful decisions.  This doesn’t mean that we have to go around calling everyone and everything out, but does require us to respond in the situations we find ourselves in.  And while we may not actively be a part of those decisions, sometimes our mere presence along side people can show our support.  We must be careful that just because we love and care for people, we don’t allow our passive participation to become sin in us.

There are many difficult situations that Christians find themselves in these days.  Christians are asked to be part of weddings where the couples, who are professing Christians, are clearly living contrary to God’s Way; living together before marriage, engaging in sex before marriage, who are divorced and are now remarrying, and so on.  Believers are being asked to bake cakes, take video and photos, and other things for homosexual weddings.  At work, Christians are asked to make unethical and sinful choices in how to do business.  In other situations, there are temptations to join in gossip and talk bad bad about people.  Believers are even asked to join in other activities that would require setting aside obedience to the Lord.  These things are not easy to always make a stand.  And these are just a few of the growing list of areas that challenge what we believe as Christians today.

When it comes to churches, almost anything anyone preaches, teaches, blogs, posts on social media, writes a book about, and so on, is embraced within the confines of “Christianity”.  This shows how far we have gone that many are so gullible to be following anyone and anything done in the name of “Jesus”.  Isn’t this what Paul was warning about in the book of Ephesians and many other places in the Bible??

We have to realize that our obedience to God far outweighs the praise of man.

In order to live with Biblical conviction, we must know that it is going to cause conflict.  Even though we all want to be liked and accepted, it comes with a great cost.  When it comes to deciding between honoring the Lord or being a part of something sinful, we must make our stand for the Lord.

We must know that when we do make a stand in obedience, there will be fallout.  We may lose friends, family members may be upset.  We may not get the jobs or promotions we had hoped for, or worse yet, we could actually lose our jobs.  But as believers, we must be preparing ourselves for these things now, so that we don’t find ourselves compromising later.

Jesus never said that life would be easy.  As we grow in faith and obedience, things often get worse and not better.  But God is with us.  Even in the midst of difficult circumstances and the consequences of seeking to be obedient to the Lord, our reward is in heaven and not here on earth.  Once we begin to shift our thinking to pleasing God and not man, it gives us great hope in knowing we are doing what is right before the Lord.

Living with Biblical conviction is difficult, but it is right.  As believers, we must return to living in a way that honors and glorifies God in all areas of our lives.  We must make sure that we are not being “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine”, and are truly grounded in our beliefs from the Bible alone.  There will be some, even professing “Christians”, who will take offense.  But for the sake of our faith in the Lord and our hope of eternal life, we cannot compromise ourselves to try and make others happy.

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What Does That Even Mean??

Do you ever wonder why pastors and professing Christians have a great need to say really obscure things to sound spiritual??  Even though we can sometimes figure out what people are saying when they use these words and phrases, when you take a step back and look at what people are really saying, it is really quite bizarre.  Why the need to always try to be relevant, “nuanced”, or say such abstract things.

Incarnational, Missional, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Discipline, Social Justice, Speaking Prophetically, Beauty, Sacramental, Sacred, Speaking Life, Spiritual Rhythms, Journey, and Presence are just a very few of the trendy phrases of the day.  They are merely crafty formulations by people to describe some idea or topic.  But get this, even though many try to define these things as being Biblical, the concepts are actually often far from it.

I often hear about how absurd things like these are from other believers.  Instead of trying to have some “deep” meaning, why not just be clear and teach what the Bible actually says??  No need for some clever term or catch phrase; just explain the Word from the text.  I guess that doesn’t sell books, provide invitations to speak at conferences, grow churches, or get the most followers.  But I digress.

As believers we should expect so much more from those who are leading us in the Lord.

Let’s be clear.  Just because someone may be a good wordsmith, can speak in a way that may connect with people, and can even sound Biblical, doesn’t mean they are to be admired.  They may even say some Biblical things at times, but in the end, it truly makes them that much more dangerous.

The constant drivel of nonsense is nauseating.  What does Incarnational even mean??  How about Missional??  Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Discipline, Social Justice??  Speaking Prophetically??  What about Beauty, Sacramental, Sacred??  Speaking Life over people and culture??  Or how about Spiritual Rhythms, Journey, or Presence??

I don’t want to have to hear someone lecture in order to find out some hidden meaning or how they are defining some new term.  If the average believer can’t conclude these things, even from a cursory reading of the Bible, why do people think they need to invent or re-invent some phrase to capture what they are trying to say??

We have gotten so far away from pointing people to reading and studying the Bible that most today would rather hear what man has to say rather than God.  What we really need is to be teaching people Biblical discernment so that they might recognize true Biblical preaching and teaching versus the false teaching and false teachers that are truly all around us; even those who are in our local churches.

Biblical discernment starts with us.  We must be reading and studying the Bible enough to know the difference between truth and error and truth and opinion.  It isn’t enough that we just take some guy from the pulpit, someone speaking at a conference, an author who wrote a book, a blog, or some post on social media as the Truth, but spend the time to see who they really are and what they actually believe.  The reality is that it might truly surprise us what we will find out.

We must stop with the cute lines and hold those as pastors, leaders, authors, and even other professing believers to the same standard.  It all boils down to clearly declaring the Truth.

That means that sermons need to really be going through a book of the Bible systematically (without the constant jumping around to other passages), without an agenda or the modern day “sermon series”, and start explaining the Biblical text, as well as the real context, so people can understand what is written. (Nehemiah 8:8)  Enough with the acronyms, fill in the blanks, the 3 “R’s” of some topic, or the however many keys, ways, signs, marks, strategies, or steps to whatever.  Enough with filling sermons, books, and making pictures with spiritual sounding quotes from people.  None of that means anything.  Let me say that again.  None of that means anything.  Yes, it may be popular today, but please, please, can we all just return to actually preaching and teaching the Word.

This also means stopping the blogs, social media posts, and books on obscure trendy issues.  I really don’t want to read a book called, “Jesus Swagger” or “Swipe Right”.  These things again may be appealing to the masses, but this is absolutely ridiculous and needs to stop.

The sad reality is that these things will continue.  The sadder part is that most of the pastors you see partnering with one another at conferences and interacting on with each other on social media, promote these things and go around gushing over one another.  The same seems to be happening even among professing believers.  And these aren’t just isolated instances.  Chances are, a striking number of the pastors, leaders, authors, and even those in your own churches, are guilty of doing these things.  Don’t believe me, check out their social media feeds, the books they promote, and the things they are talking about and pursuing.

We can, and we must do better than this.  We are far past the time of tolerating this nonsense in the Church.  Why would we waste our time with those that continually feel the need to be focused on such ambiguous and random things by dragging Jesus’ name through the mud.

For the sake of the Gospel and for the sake of truly making disciples, we must return to the simplicity of clearly proclaiming the Bible.

Take Some Responsibility

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”——Matthew 7:3

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We live in a world where people continually see themselves as a victim.  Something happens and all you hear about is how it is someone else’s fault.  This mentality of victimhood has taken over much of today’s thinking to the point where hardly anyone takes any responsibility for their own actions.

Growing up, my mom would always tell me to, “take some responsibility”.  It was her way of not letting me pit the blame on others when I clearly needed to evaluate my part in things.

Personal responsibility starts with reflecting on our own lives.  When you always look outward, you never see where you have failed, not done as you should, or even seen the sin in our own lives.  This introspection is critical, not just for the world, but especially for anyone to put their faith in Jesus.

This victim mentality has also taken root in churches.  Instead of boldly confronting sin, many have focused on simply comforting people.  They say things like, “we all sin”, or “life is just messy”.  This sounds more like an excuse for sin rather than understanding the Gospel.

My dad once told me about a pastor that talked about how people go to church after being so beat up during the week that all he wanted to do was just to show people love.  Although we can all acknowledge that people are hurting and going through very difficult circumstances, without confronting sin, people will never realize that their true need is repentance and faith in the Lord.  God’s love is not devoid of recognizing our utter sinfulness just because people are so “beat up”.

Taking personal responsibility requires us to see ourselves as the perpetrator.

When we go against God’s Way and sin against Him, ourselves, and others, we are not the victim, but the one who is truly guilty.  We are the true offender.  It is our offense against a Holy God that deserves God’s wrath and punishment.  Our sin has separated us from fellowship with God and the just sentence is eternal punishment in Hell.

A growing number today don’t want to hear the bad news about sin.  Even a growing number of pastors and leaders don’t like the “atonement theory” about Jesus dying on the cross as punishment and substitute in our place.  They would rather redefine the atonement to something that better suits their idea of non-violence and Jesus’ victory over a violent world.

The reality is that when anyone begins to redefine foundational doctrines of the faith, it changes faith completely.  When we don’t understand that we are the ones that are guilty and deserving God’s punishment for our sin, we are no different than seeing ourselves as merely victims in some cruel game.

This isn’t to say that awful things don’t happen and that we can actually be the casualty of evil at times.  There are times when sin and sinful actions are done against us.  But to always be looking to blame others for the reasons for broken relationships, lost jobs, lying, cheating, or the myriad of other things we may have done, is to miss the point completely.

Personal responsibly requires great humility.

Pride is the opposite of humility.  Pride says that I am better and more deserving of beneficial treatment.  When things go bad, a life of pride points out the faults in others, but doesn’t look at the sin in one’s self.

Humility, on the other hand, truly understands that the only thing each of us deserves is God’s punishment for our sin.  Humility takes an honest look at how we have gone our own way against God.  Humility doesn’t downplay our guilt, but embraces our utter need for God’s grace and forgiveness.

Many reduce sin to simply “making mistakes”.  Sin is so much more than just “making mistakes”.  Sin is open rebellion against God’s Way.  Taking responsibility for our sin is to make it clear that we are the offenders.

So when we sin against God, ourselves, and others, we cannot look for excuses to blame others.  We must humbly accept our guilt and confess our sin to God and to those we have sinned against.

Seeking forgiveness is difficult for all of us.  It is difficult because we don’t know how the other party is going to respond.  Some even believe that they cannot go to God and find grace and forgiveness.  But if we know God is loving and desires us to confess and repent of sin, we should quickly go to Him knowing we will find mercy, hope, peace, and true forgiveness.

In seeking forgiveness from people, we often question if they will react in anger or even reject us.  But taking personal responsibility should not be based upon how others may respond, but rather about us owning up to our sin and the things we have done; it is doing what is right in spite of the outcome.

Taking responsibility is never easy, but it is absolutely necessary.  In a world that continually sees itself as the victim, we must walk in humility and examine our own lives.  As believers, it is even more important that we don’t fall into the victim mentality of the world, but live in a way that truly takes ownership of our sin.

As my mom always would say, may we each truly learn to, “take some responsibility.”