A group of ladies that I belong to was discussing the difference between personal conviction and legalism recently. One lady made the point that our obedience IS important, and that people can tend to use the term "personal conviction" to excuse all sorts of wrong behaviour.
Another one explained that early in her Christian walk, she had a checklist of sorts, a list of rules she made for herself, so she could follow the rules and feel good about her accomplishments. But she said this,
"I am slowly learning to let go of the things I do for the purpose of making me feel secure in my devotion for the Lord and to replace them with what He truly does want from me."
And I say, what He wants from us is our love and thankfulness. The FIRST and GREATEST commandment is to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength. He inhabits the praise of His people. The very best we can give Him is acknowledgement that He is God, that He is good, that He provided everything we need for life and godliness, and that His grace is amazing. All of the things we DO are tainted - our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight. Yet, He is pleased with our meagre efforts to obey and to please Him, especially when we acknowledge that we do it falteringly and not well at all.
He simply wants the truth from us. We are needy people. We cannot obey fully and well, although we can attempt to do so, and we ought to do so. We are called to be holy, for He is holy.
What that looks like may be different from family to family and person to person. That's what people are talking about when they speak of personal conviction.
God's standards don't change, and I am not implying that they do.
But the truth is that we can never measure up. We can never do things right. We can't even think pure thoughts for a day, much less act in a pure and holy manner towards God and towards our neighbour.
That's why we praise the Lord, for He lives IN us. His righteousness is imputed to us. He took our sin and exchanged it for His beautiful robes of purity.
I used to have a checklist that made me feel pretty good about myself. As I have matured and grown and learned more about God and His word, and developed more of a relationship with Him, I too have realized that my checklist was for my benefit. The awful truth is that I am rotten through and through, and my best strivings are "losings" - except for the mercy of God.
That astounds me and makes me want to live a purer, holier life - simply because God loves me so much, and is so very, very good to me.
The following is a hymn that has ministered to my soul. I am prone to wander, and as I look forward to 2010, I know that the only reason I can go on is because I have been redeemed, and I am kept by the fetters of His grace that bind my heart to my glorious God.
Someone named "jp", in a comment on this blog, said this:
The words paint a picture of a man who realizes the error of his wanderlust while at the same time knowing the profound and ceaseless goodness of God's grace. What then is the author's cry to God? He calls on the Stone of Help to rescue him. He begs God to bind him to grace with shackles and to seal his heart.
I praise God that He has bound me to grace with shackles, and that He has sealed my heart with the Holy Spirit as an earnest, an indication that He is IN me, and He is keeping me by the power of His love.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.