While I haven’t quite reached the threshold of old age, the longer I live the more I feel the same. Those things that I do believe, I believe more deeply and passionately than ever before. The number of things that I believe, however, seem to be less and less. Let me explain.
Earlier in life I had passionate convictions about all kinds of things, and I was quick to go to the wall for all of them! I may not have always been RIGHT, but I was always CERTAIN. I felt uncomfortable with things that appeared gray so I tried to paint everything either black or white. I felt insecure with ambiguity so I tried to have settled answers for every question.
I find that most Christians are people of conviction.
In a wishy-washy world that is an honorable thing. We are not pushovers. We are not afraid to think for ourselves or take a stand for what is right. We need more people with strong backbones, settled convictions, and passionate faith.
Unfortunately, the problem is that often Christians don’t know where to stop.
We have a hard time recognizing what is worth going to the wall for, and what’s not. We lose sight between essential convictions, where we should be people of TRUTH – and side-line issues, where we should live as people of GRACE.
In the book of I Timothy, the Apostle Paul repeatedly encouraged the young pastor to courageously guard and proclaim the treasure of truth that had been entrusted to him (essential convictions). But he also urged his young protege to not waste time with worthless controversies and foolish arguments (side-line issues). “These things,” Paul writes, “only lead to meaningless speculations and don’t help people live a life of faith in God” (I Timothy 1:4, NLT).
Intelligent conviction requires not only the willingness to take a stand, but also the wisdom to know what’s worth taking a stand for
So what is at the heart of that essential truth worth standing for? Paul summarizes it for young Timothy at the beginning of his letter:
“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners…” (I Timothy 1:15-16, NLT)
I should probably confess that with all of my learning, I actually have more questions than I started out with. You probably should know that sometimes I see more shades of gray than I used too. However in the essential truth, I see it more clearly and I believe it more deeply than I ever have.
John Newton is the one-time slave trader who came to pen the most well-known hymn in the world, Amazing Grace. In his advanced years he became deaf and almost blind, but even into his eighties he continued to preach. He would have to be assisted into the pulpit, and at times when he lost his place a curate would have to remind him of his point. In his final sermon he simply could not recall what he had come to say. With an apology in his voice, he said to the listening crowd, “My memory is almost gone, but I do remember two things: that I am a great SINNER and that Christ is a great SAVIOR.
That’s believing more and more about less and less!