Author: Ron Graham
Authority and Conviction
—What makes a conviction true?
This lesson examines whether our personal innermost feelings and convictions have any value as authority from God. When our own heart feels something to be God's truth, is it?
1 The Value of Convictions
We should certainly respect our own feelings and convictions, and those of others. This is especially true if those convictions come through Bible study and through prayer.
- The scriptures are "able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation" and adequately equip you for every good work (2Timothy 3:15-17).
- "The word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword", it does surgery on the soul and spirit and "scrutinises the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
- Prayer brings us wisdom from above too. "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask of God, who gives to all persons generously and without reproach, and it will be given to you" (James 1:5-7).
We must always be careful, however, to distinguish between the authority of God and personal intuition and convictions, even though we believe them to be enlightened by Bible study and prayer, and even though we hold them honestly.
2 Convictions Without Authority
Paul says, "If you have a belief, keep it to yourself as your own conviction before God" (Romans 14:22) and he has earlier said not to judge others by it (Romans 14:10).
Now Paul is not speaking here of belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for that belief has the authority of God and we should not keep it to ourselves as though it were merely our own personal conviction. Rather, Paul is talking about questions of what you may and may not eat and drink (Romans 14:2-6).
A conviction about something like that has no authority from God, and is binding only upon yourself as your own conviction
There are some who treat their own feelings and convictions as divine light. However, if their hearts and minds are "darkened in their understanding" (Ephesians 4:18, Romans 1:21) then their feelings and convictions are mistaken, and a false guide.
As Jesus said, "If the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matthew 6:22-23).
Paul, looking back to the days before his enlightenment and conversion says, "I thought to myself that I ought to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" and he followed that thought with great conviction (Acts 26:9-11).
Paul, however, was wrong. His own inner light was darkness, and he most certainly did not have the authority of God.
3 Our Thoughts and God's Thoughts
Contrary to popular "New Age" teaching, our innermost thoughts and feelings do not connect with the mind of God. That is made clear in the Bible.
- "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways' declares the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
- "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25).
- "The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God" (1Corinthians 2:9-16).
If we would have the authority of God, therefore, we must listen to what has been revealed by the Spirit of God, who alone knows the mind of God. We can have the mind of Christ, which is to say we can have the authority of God, however we will not find it in our own innermost thoughts and feelings, but rather in God’s revealed word.