The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Understanding Conviction: Invitations to Engage

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You’re thinking about getting an abortion and God convicts you not to.  Is He worried that you’re going to snuff out a life prematurely?  No, because He hasn’t placed that power in your hands.  You can’t mess up God’s plans for another soul.  You can’t cheat them out of opportunities that He wanted them to have.  God isn’t convicting you because He’s worried that you’re about to mess up His universe.  He’s convicting you to force you to choose between obedience and rebellion.  He’s after engagement.  He doesn’t need your help.

You’re cheating on your spouse and God convicts you to stop.  Is He stressing over the negative consequences that your actions will have on others?  No, because you don’t control consequences—He does.  Your actions are not threatening God, nor does He need your cooperation to accomplish His agenda in this world.  If God wants to force you to stop seeing your lover, He has infinite options at His disposal.  God’s conviction isn’t an attempt to coerce you down a particular road.  He’s not going for control, He’s going for engagement.

Anytime God speaks to you about any matter, you are forced to choose a response.  As soon as God convicts you, you are unable to take a neutral stance towards Him.  You are forced to choose between a receptive, obedient soul attitude and a resistant, rebellious one.  God’s convictions force you to declare a position in your relationship with Him.  They increase your accountability to Him, because once you know what He wants, your refusal to do it becomes an act of willful rebellion.

It is our soul responses to God that we are judged by and we can only respond to Him after He makes the first move.  God always initiates.  It’s never our idea to start a conversation with Him.  Even when we think this is what we’re doing, in reality God spoke to us first and we are responding.  Think of it like answering a call on your cell phone: you can’t choose to pick up the line until someone else dials your number.  In the same way, you can’t track God down, get in His face, and insist that He respond to you.  You can only wait for Him to call you, at which point you can choose to either pick up or try to ignore Him.

Because God controls your ability to engage with Him, He controls how many opportunities you will have to choose between obedience and rebellion.  Those opportunities often come in the form of convictions.  God whispers some directive to your soul, and your soul responds positively or negatively.  The more convictions you receive, the more accountable you become.  When God judges us, He takes every factor into consideration.  He weighs our choices against our number of opportunities.  The fellow who obeyed God four times out of twenty chances is in a better position than the fellow who obeyed God only four times out of a thousand chances.  This is what makes God’s convictions such serious things: because regardless of how we respond, they increase our accountability to Him and intensify the consequences we will receive in eternity.

God’s purpose in convicting you is to give you more opportunities to choose how you are going to respond to Him.  When we read more into it than this, we end up spinning off into delusions of grandeur and we start thinking that our actions are far more critical to God than they actually are.  The theory that we can hamper God in any way is utter rubbish.  God never needs our cooperation to get His agenda done in this world, so when we claim responsibility for destroying lives and start wallowing in endless guilt over the great damage we’ve done to others, we’re exaggerating our own power to ridiculous extremes.  When God convicts us, we must choose between obedience and rebellion.  The only issue at hand is that of spiritual choice.  Because spiritual choices are what we are going to be judged by, they are of great importance.  Yet so often we treat our personal response to God like the most trivial factor in the situation while we obsess over the circumstantial consequences of our actions.  It is our impact on other humans that we fixate on as being of supreme importance.  “I broke her heart.  I destroyed his dreams.  I ruined her chances.  I failed to save them.”  As logical as these conclusions can sound, they are actually quite absurd in the face of God’s sovereignty.  We are simply not given the power to control the impact we will make on other humans.  We are never given the ability to separate souls from their earthsuits.  It is God alone who controls these factors, and honest contemplation will reveal a totally nonsensical pattern in human interactions.  Two women get raped and one comes out stronger for it while another is crushed.  Two couples lose a child and the first marriage grows much stronger through the grief while the second marriage is torn apart.  Two people get brutally maimed and one goes on to wow everyone with the way he compensates for his missing limbs while the other wallows in self-loathing and despair.  How often do we shoot to kill only to have our victims survive?  How often do we set out to hurt someone only to have them laugh us off?  Meanwhile, we break our necks to help those who take offense at our efforts and we find some of our most sincere compliments being taken as crushing insults.  Certainly we can set out to do harm or to help, but how our targets respond to our actions is not ours to control.  For every abortion that actually succeeds, there are others that God derails using countless different methods.  The number of crimes that are planned is far greater than the number that get executed.  When we lose sight of our absolute dependency on God, we end up claiming all kinds of powers that we don’t have, then we get so obsessed with the damage we think we did through sinning that we waste a bunch of time wallowing in shame instead of repenting out of our rebellion and moving forward.

Convictions are opportunities to respond well to God.  The fact that you blew the last one, the last hundred, or the last thousand, doesn’t mean you have to remain in a permanent rut.  Each conviction stands alone.  Each conviction is a fresh start, a new chance to do it right.  When we view convictions correctly, we end up focusing on our personal dynamic with God instead of obsessing over circumstances.  It is your soul’s attitude towards your Creator that matters, not how perfect your life is.  Years ago, Tom blew off God’s conviction not to murder his unfaithful wife.  He not only murdered her, he mowed down his kids as well.  Now Tom is in jail for life—does that mean he can’t get into a good place with God?  Certainly not.  The next time God convicts Tom about something, big or small, Tom can choose to have a better soul response.  He can recognize the new conviction as an indicator that God is still giving him more chances to choose well, and that’s a very good thing.

We all sin in more ways than we care to admit.  We’re all guilty of getting snarky with God and intentionally doing the opposite of what He says because we’re feeling entitled or burned out or just plain mad.  If we start fixating on our poor choices and bratty moments, we’re just going to squander the new opportunities God gives us to succeed with Him.  Convictions are gifts—they are one of the ways God expresses His personal interest in us. As long as God is convicting you about anything, big or small, you know that He’s still willing to engage with you and He’s still giving you the opportunity to succeed with Him.  For the guilt-ridden, new convictions should bring a sigh of relief and joy over the fact that God is offering them a chance to make wiser choices than they have in the past.  Because God is so generous with His convictions, we end up with a plethora of opportunities to succeed with Him.  Because He chooses to focus on our present attitude towards Him instead of harping on the past, we don’t have to be defined by our past stupidity.

Once you realize that God’s convictions are about developing a relationship, not about you helping Him keep the world in balance, you will be in a better position to recognize when someone is trying to blame you for something that you’re not responsible for.  As much as other humans want to put you in the position of God and blame you for destroying lives, hearts, and minds, the truth is that you simply don’t have this kind of power.  Your responsibility is to focus on God: He is the only One you will have to answer to for the choices you make in this life.  As for sustaining life, mending hearts, and fixing circumstances—those are God-sized tasks which only God can handle.  Running the world is a very simple matter to Him, and if you’re going to avoid getting stuck in shame, you need to stop trying to take responsibility for the decisions God makes.  He knows what is the wisest course of action in a given moment—you don’t.  He is going to make things unfold the way that He wants them to. Meanwhile, you need to keep your focus on being receptive to His convictions and embracing the kinds of soul attitudes that He says please Him.  Ask Him to help you make the most out of each opportunity He gives you to please Him with your soul choices and He will.

FURTHER READING:
Conviction Q&A
Constrictive Convictions
Identifying False Conviction: Three Easy Tests
Repentant Sinners: Is it wrong to stop feeling bad about the past?
The Inner Room: Understanding How God Judges You
Accepting the Mercy of God
Overcoming Shame
Help For Murderers: Finding Peace With A God Who Loves You
Soul Attitudes That Please God: What They Are & How We Develop Them
How long will God punish me for the past?
Help for Stressing Christians: Is God punishing you?

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