All of us have opinions. We have opinions about politics, about food, about television programs, about other people, about our church, about ourselves. We base those opinions on our personal likes and dislikes. If we drill down a bit deeper, our opinions are shaped by the values which we hold. As Christians, we base our values on the Bible. What does God’s Word say about a particular issue? That is our value. The world has its set of values too. They are based on the value system informed by Satan. The world’s values serve Satan’s agenda and are the opposite of God’s values.
How do values relate to opinions? If we value older hymns and consider them the stuff of “real worship” we will have a definite opinion about contemporary music and whether or not it is worship. If we value truth we will have a definite opinion about which political candidates we favor based on whether we think they’re telling us the truth. If we value slimness as marks of health and beauty our opinion of ourselves is liable to sink if we gain weight.
What are convictions and when do opinions become convictions? According to the dictionary, convictions are, “a strong belief or opinion. The feeling of being sure that what you believe or say is true.” Convictions are the beliefs about which you cannot be swayed or changed. You are willing to risk jail and even death for your convictions. Like Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, you have thought it through and declared, “I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Luther’s conviction was that he would violate his conscience to recant anything he had written in his 95 theses. He risked his ministry and his very life to do so. That’s a conviction!
Do you have any convictions? What conviction are you resolute about and inflexible? One of the marks of a conviction is firm, inflexible belief. A conviction cannot be moved. When pressed, convictions lead to actions. In the case of Pastor John Piper, his personal value is that life is a gift of God and should be treasured. This led him to the conviction that abortion was morally wrong and a sin against God. This conviction led him to protest the abortions being performed at the Planned Parenthood Clinic on Ford Parkway in St. Paul. He was arrested and jailed in January 1989 for trespassing. That’s “skin in the game!” That’s conviction leading to action! Here is Pastor Piper’s own description:
In the late 80s and early 90s, I was deeply moved by the rescue movement that originated in Atlanta. Noel and I watched from a Pizza Hut television monitor as people who were not doing anything but sitting in front of an abortion clinic were picked up by the police, put into buses, and dragged away. As I watched that happening, I said to Noel, “That is just right.” It came over me with such a strong conviction, and as it grew, we became very much a part of the rescue movement in the Twin Cities.
We would get up early, pile into buses, and sit in front of an abortion clinic so that nobody could get in or open the door without stepping on us. Eventually, we’d be accused of trespassing, and they would tell us to leave. But we wouldn’t, because we believed that we were there trying to rescue children from being aborted. So the police would come haul us down, tell us not to do it anymore, and let us go. That happened maybe half a dozen times, and one of those times we were sentenced to a night or two in jail.
We live in a culture where few have convictions like that and even fewer have taken stands on those convictions. We call ourselves Christians with biblical values but truth be told we have few if any convictions. In many cases we have embraced the world’s values and made them ours. We are silent in the face of the death of our unborn, silent in the face of homosexual marriage, silent in the face of corporate greed, and much more. Our guilty silence is deafening! We can justify our silence by saying that we don’t want to get involved or we are called to save the lost, not take stands on moral issues. More likely it boils down to a lack of convictions or cowardice to face the persecution and suffering our convictions would bring.
Strange as it sounds, what the church needs is persecution and suffering! We fear both but we need them for only through persecution and suffering would we move from opinions to convictions to actions. Persecution and suffering would separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“Lord, give us courage,”