I am not a risk taker. Because of that, I am prone to be slow at making decisions. One reason is because I don't want to be wrong, even though there is always a high probability for me to be wrong at some point. I tend to forget that being wrong is not always detrimental. It won't necessarily end in my death (though it could) :-). Sometimes being wrong is only a matter of someone else's perspective. So I have to remind myself that it's okay to disagree. However, this is difficult for the part of me that likes to keep people happy and favorable toward me.
I have been challenged over the past few weeks in discussions about some doctrinal issues. I have encountered people who disagree with my understanding of Scripture. I am not going to break open the specific topics in this post, but I am going to address the need to know where you stand.
After one of those encounters, to which my wife was privy, I began to review it all with her in the car on the way home. In our discussion, I began to waver on my convictions and she called me on it! I am so thankful for my wife. She has some great godly wisdom and she has a different perspective than I. She held me accountable to my convictions.
Some doctrines are not clearly defined by the primary texts. In other words, they do not directly tell the reader how to proceed though it is clear that something must be done or decided. So, how do you form convictions in these cases?
When addressing doctrinal uncertainties, you have to look at Scripture as a whole. Even though the Bible is a collection of books penned by multiple authors, its true author is the Holy Spirit and everything in it is 100% true. The Bible as a whole is cohesive.
It is a dangerous practice to take one passage out of the Bible and present it by itself. I have always heard the following illustration to demonstrate this danger: Matthew 27:5 says that Judas hanged himself and Luke 10:37 ends with the words "Go and do likewise". If you took these two verses out of their context or out of the context of all of Scripture, it appears that suicide is permissable. However, if you look at all of Scripture, you see that God values life and wants us to value it and that He alone is qualified to decide life and death for mankind (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, Deuteronomy 32:39 - of course, make sure you read the context).
Scripture is where our convictions must begin and end. Scripture is our primary source for discovering the heart of God. It is the only source for those who do not yet believe in Christ, For the believer, we have one other source: the Holy Spirit. We must constantly stay connected to the Father through the Holy Spirit by spending daily time in prayer in addition to Bible study.
In order for either one of these sources to benefit you and strengthen your convictions, you must commit to an investment of time and energy and thought. We cannot be haphazard about our relationship with Christ. To be lackadaisical about our relationship with Christ is even more detrimental than if you stop talking with your spouse. You and I both know that a marriage won't last long if you don't ever talk. It certainly will not improve without this activity. We must be fully devoted to and interested in our spouse for our marriage to reap the most benefit. We must also be fully devoted to and interested in our Savior to reap the most benefit our relationship with Him.
Finally, if you have encountered a difficult doctrine and have done all the research and praying to discover the best interpretation based on the whole of Scripture, you must simply take a stand on what you understand to be right according to the Scripture and the Spirit. Granted, there really are not many "unclear" passages in the Bible, but there are some and they require you to make an educated and convicted stand. I have heard it said many times, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything" and it is true. This doesn't mean you couldn't learn something new that might change your perspective, but it does mean that you will stand firmly upon what you have discovered until it is proven otherwise.
My rule of thumb is to consider what will give God the most glory. What will honor His name by following His principles. Jesus warned that the world will disagree and will even hate us for our stand, but it is much better to offend people than to offend God. He's the one we have to stand before at the judgment. I pray we I will be found faithful.
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet