Contrary to the postmodern belief that there is no absolute truth, the Bible discloses much absolute truth, and it is incumbent upon believers to know it both so that we worship God “in spirit and in truth,” and so that our behavior reflects our beliefs. Otherwise our morality is determined by consensus, by what everyone else is doing. Even Christians fall too easily into that trap, of adapting their lives to their particular Christian culture rather than on Bible-based convictions.
Jerry Bridges, in The Discipline of Grace, defines conviction as “a determinative belief: something you believe so strongly that it affects the way you live. Someone has observed that a belief is what you hold, but a conviction is what holds you” (p. 167).
God tells us “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). Renewing our minds comes about as we read God’s Word, delight in it, meditate on it, and thereby derive convictions from it. “One who delights in the Law of God sees the Bible not just as a book of rules that are difficult to live by, but as the Word of his or her heavenly Father who is the God of all grace and deals with him or her in grace” (p. 169).
Without regular time reading and studying the Bible, our beliefs and morality will be influenced by the ungodly. Psalm 1 contrasts the righteous with the ungodly.
If we do not actively seek to come under the influence of God’s Word, we will come under the influence of sinful society around us. The impact of our culture with its heavy emphasis on materialism, living for one’s self, and instant gratification is simply too strong and pervasive for us not to be influenced by it. Once again, there is no such thing as a neutral stance on the continuum of influence. We are being drawn more and more under the transforming influence of Scripture, or we are being progressively drawn into the web of an ungodly society around us (p. 171).
But as we approach the Scriptures, we need to do so with the conviction that it is the Word of God, asking God to teach us its truths rather than just looking to shore up our own opinions, and we need to seek to apply it to our lives, not just store up knowledge and facts.
Our acceptance by God the Father is based solely on His grace to us through Christ. His favor is never earned by what we do nor forfeited by what we don’t do. But we may say with equal emphasis that our progress in the pursuit of holiness is to a significant degree conditioned on our use of the disciplines that God has appointed for us (p. 184).
Bridges mostly discusses how developing Bible-based convictions will keep us from veering off into ungodly thoughts and behaviors, but it will also help us not to veer into Christian lines of thought that are off-base or off-balance. Sometimes Christians can get hold of one aspect of truth without its balance of another, or take a Bible-based conviction and extrapolate from that certain standards of behavior that aren’t Biblically based at all, and defend those convictions with as much or more vigor than the clear teaching of Scripture. That can do great harm to the cause of Christ and the testimonies of believers. We desperately need to form convictions based on Scripture itself.
“The Discipline of Commitment” is the 10th chapter in the book The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, which we’re discussing every Thursday in the “Reading Classics Together” challenge at Challies‘ place. More discussion on this chapter is here.