Conviction is the personal, God-given guide that discerns good and evil. God has ordained numerous guides to lead us from earth to Heaven, His Word and His Spirit being the most outstanding. Other influences, such as, the church and godly homes, also provide valuable guidance. Yet unless those influences become embedded in our hearts, they will not have the effect our Maker intended.
In home training as well as in the church, the example, conversation, and teaching a child observes and receives from his early surroundings greatly influence his sense of value. The church provides much needed religious teaching. At home, he learns what is commendable and what is shameful. He learns to be selfish and undisciplined, or he learns the value of order, respect toward others, and conscientiousness. Conviction, together with the conscience, is formed first in the church environment and in the home.
While exterior influences are powerful forces in forming a person’s principles of life, they do not account for what we speak of as conviction. Conviction has a foundation in something beyond environment and instruction, and supersedes intellectual abilities.
Second Corinthians 5:17 explains the basis from which godly conviction springs: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” The newness spoken of in this verse is not a paint job on the outer shell of man; it is a core change, beginning in the heart, illuminating and coloring his life in every dimension. It changes his viewpoints. His sense of right and wrong jumps to the forefront of his psyche. Even the person with poor home training, or having been reared in a corrupt environment, participates in this miracle of grace.
The foundation of new birth and infilling of the Holy Spirit is the starting point in one’s spiritual journey. Every person has the choice of how far he will allow God to lead him in consecration and, as a result, in conviction. At the time of new birth, or when he has a spiritual renewal, life and light come into his soul. God’s will is that by a faithful walk with Him, each person will come to greater love of the truth. And because he loves the truth, he will abhor sin and darkness, as well as everything that leads to it.
Although the word “conviction” does not appear in the Bible in the sense we are using it, it is closely associated with knowledge. Knowledge is more than opinion or ideas. It is based on established fact. Our source of true knowledge is Jesus, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Although the Colossians were converted Christians, the apostle Paul prayed “that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (1:9). Conviction is knowledge enlivened by the Holy Spirit joined in a willing heart.
The fleshly counterpart to conviction is opinion. In fact, unless one is spiritually minded, many of his thoughts may indeed be merely opinions. It is a position to which one has arrived on the basis of his observations and analysis. They may fulfill the dictionary definition of conviction in that they are deeply held and believed. However, they lack the dimension of Holy Spirit inspiration and authority. Godly convictions unite believers, because they have a common source. Opinions can divide, because they are one’s individual possession and many times do not agree with those of his neighbor.
Convictions are to be servants, not rulers. They are given to help with the day-to-day decisions we all face. Conviction gives stability and lends to a Christian’s security. As servants of the Holy Spirit, convictions satisfy the inner longing for purpose in life. Courage and boldness in the Lord come with holy convictions. It was what enabled the apostle to say, “I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
When convictions become our rulers, however, they oppress. We need only become the self-willed possessor of our convictions to change from being an inspiration to being a burden to those around us. Instead of directing others to Christ, our statements and labors tend to cause resistance. We know something is amiss when, even in our own hearts, we feel driven to fulfill our convictions and impose them upon others.
Indifference to the inner light and conviction we receive in our encounters with God will cause the dove of truth to recede. Confusion, backsliding, and lukewarmness will soon follow. Disillusioned, frustrated Christians can often trace their malady to unfaithfulness to God-given direction. Carnality dampens and eventually destroys conviction.
“The Pilgrim’s Progress” is an allegory of Christian life written by John Bunyan in 1677. As the main character, Christian, advanced on his journey to Heaven, he came to a place called “Vanity Fair.” All the privileges, interests, pleasures, vices, and diversions of the world ruled there. Christian’s road led directly through the fair. There was no way to escape passing through its territory, because to do so would be to go out of this world (John 17:15).
We are in Vanity Fair today. Due to our environment of enhanced communication, wealth, and location, we are submitted to myriad temptations to partake of all manner of sin. Its offerings are everything from subtle to blatant with an appeal to every personality and condition. Technology has brought temptation right into our homes and, if we will, into our private sanctuaries.
If we are to be faithful to our heavenly calling, we must do as Christian did and set our faces toward our goal, put our fingers in our ears, and proclaim that we are only interested in “buying truth” (Prov. 23:23). To stand in this environment requires conviction.
The apostle Paul’s exhortation was, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Steadfastness and immovability are the fruit of conviction. They are virtues that not only will guide us through the streets of Vanity Fair but will empower us to be faithful witnesses for Christ.
Messenger of Truth, 2016, No. 3