Monday, September 10, 2012

Preference Above Conviction

Imagine having dinner with a group of your Christian friends and the conversation turns to pornography.  One person confesses that they watch pornography every week.  They admit that they believe it’s wrong, but they watch it anyway because they enjoy it.  Once the ice is broken, several others in the group admit they enjoy watching porn as well.  They find it to be enlightening and entertaining.  Everyone laughs and shrugs it off.  It’s no big deal.

That sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it?  Every Christian should know pornography is sinful and completely unacceptable in a Christian’s life.  It destroys marriages, families and lives.  We know we should avoid it completely and we’re horribly offended at the thought.  We’re convicted against it by the Holy Spirit that lives within us.  Or are we?  Are we really convicted against it or do we just prefer that both Christians and non-Christians abstain from it?

Now imagine having dinner with the same group of friends and the conversation turns to politics.  Everyone in the group agrees that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sin and that legalizing gay marriage would turn our country even further away from God.  No way is anybody going to support a political candidate that supports legalization of gay marriage.  We’re convicted against it by the Holy Spirit that lives within us.  Or are we?  Are we really convicted against it or do we just prefer that our society only recognizes marriage as the union of one man and one woman?

Now the conversation turns to a certain television show that everyone agrees is hilarious.  Yes, the show depicts the new normal family as one that includes a gay couple (married or not married, I don’t know), possibly an unmarried straight couple that lives together and enjoys a sexual relationship, and a divorced dad who has remarried a trophy wife.  Yeah, okay, it violates several Christian principles, some or all of which may be sinful, but the show is very well done and it’s hilariously entertaining.  We’re not convicted by the Holy Spirit of watching this show.  Or are we?  Maybe we’re a little ashamed to admit that we watch the show because there’s a little bit of conviction there.  But we prefer to suppress that conviction because we like the show.  We choose our preference above our conviction.

This evening I read the first chapter of Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  The title of the chapter is “I’ve Got Jesus.  Why Do I Need the Spirit?”  He talks about how the Church, as a whole, has so downplayed the role of the Holy Spirit within us that it’s almost as if we don’t believe that we even need the Spirit.  For many, if the Holy Spirit didn’t live within us, our lives would look no different that it does with Him.  As A. W. Tozer says, we “have imitated the world, sought popular favor, manufactured delights to substitute for the joy of the Lord and produced a cheap and synthetic power to substitute for the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Chan makes the point that when we receive the Holy Spirit, he actually lives within our body.  He physically indwells every believer to give us the power to do what’s right and the strength to defeat temptation and sin so we can experience the fruits of the Spirit.  As stated in Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  If we will yield to Him, we will experience the full power of God in our lives.  If we suppress the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, we will live a defeated life.  We can’t choose our preferences over our convictions and expect to experience the power of God in our lives.

When we choose our preferences over our convictions, we often mask our intentions by labeling the convictions as legalistic.  We also say that one person may be convicted against a sin, but we haven’t felt that conviction.  Some, in their piety, will attempt to claim something as a conviction when that something is actually a preference.  That’s legalism and it’s deceitful.  But if we know that there is something that violates Biblical teachings, and we say we’re not convicted that it’s a sin, perhaps we should consider the possibility that we’re choosing our preference and suppressing a conviction.

As I’m writing this, I’m processing what I believe God is teaching me.  This evening I became very aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit actually lives within my physical body.  He’s not just out there somewhere.  I pray that I will allow the Spirit to convict me and to lead me.  I pray the same for you as well.  Allow the Spirit to be your guide and surrender your entire self to Him.  The joy of the Spirit will far surpass anything this world can offer.

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