Convictions vs. Preferences

I was actually kinda inspired by Heather to write this post. Every post I read here tends to be a thought-provoking article, which serves to help me to draw the line of distinction between what I firmly believe  and what I prefer.  With that being said, on to the post!

I’d like to start off with a couple of definitions if I might. For the purpose of this post, I’d like to use a couple different sources.

Conviction is defined by my Pastor, Paul Kingsbury, as “a belief for which we would be prepared to give our life to hold.”

Preference is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the act, fact, or principle of giving advantages to some over others.”

ConvictionSome examples of convictions are Salvation by grace through faith alone, baptism after  salvation (not as a pre-requisite), and creation in six literal days.
Some examples of preferences would be women wearing skirts/dresses instead of pants, not going to the movie theater, listening to hymns only, or any number of other beliefs.

Oftentimes, I am surprised by the ferocity and tenacity that Christians, who are very dedicated to the cause of Christ, defend and fight for beliefs that are not core principles of our Faith. We need to be careful to differentiate between preferences we hold, and core values that are integral to our beliefs.

For instance, I have been the unfortunate witness to many sincere Christian people who spend their time discussing their preferences with an unsaved person. That person should be hearing the Gospel that brings salvation instead of hearing about why the KJV is the only Word of God for the English language. Yes, I believe 100% that it is the only one, but that is not what that person needs at the moment!

I once worked for a man named Jack Patterson. He ran many different homes for troubled youth as well as adults in need of help. He was constantly in the middle of disputes that people tried to bring him into. His favorite quote was “I Don’t Fight the Brethren!”  He did not believe in fighting over petty things.

There is a big difference between allowing people to have different preferences and allowing and condoning sin. Sin is sin. Period. However, I don’t believe we should judge others based on our personal beliefs. If I had the belief that watching TV is not good for me, that is all fine and well. I cross the line when I tell others they cannot watch TV because that is how God led ME. The word “personal” in the phrase “personal preference” is just that. personal. for you. you alone.

The work of the Holy Spirit is an exciting thing to witness in people’s lives. It thrills me each and every time I get the privilege of seeing it. But, if we are not careful, we lessen the impact of this work when we try to take His place. How can we try to convict a person about something that the Holy Ghost has not? Can we force them into compliance? Possibly… But is it lasting spiritual growth? No! Christ does not bless anything He does not initiate. Again, I repeat, I am NOT condoning sin. I am saying that we should let God do His work.

Convicting can only come from God. If it is not convicting, then it is condemnation. We know that condemnation is not of God.

“[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” ~ Romans 8:1

If I can leave you with a brief synopsis of this rambling post, it is this:

1. Stand firm on your convictions.
2. Know what they are, and why YOU believe them.
3. Be flexible in your preferences.
4. Do not judge others based on preferences.
5. Know the difference between the two.

~                    ~                    ~                    ~

Andrew Wikel blogs over at Wikeloogle, and is a self-proclaimed Christian geek (meaning he’s pretty tech-savvy)! He blogs about anything ranging from the Christian life, church ministries, to technology and other brainiac stuff (meaning it’s way over my head)! He’s very involved in his local church’s Reformers Unanimous program. Him and I have something very cool in common… a particular individual. My former youth pastor (Pastor King) is now the youth pastor at his church, several states away from me. I encourage you to take a trip over to Andrew’s blog and have a look around. Be sure to let him know you stopped by!

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About Andrew Wikel

I am your friendly neighborhood geek. I am passionate about my family, coffee, and other nerdy things. I work for Automattic on WooCommerce Payment Gateway Support.

Posted on March 25, 2011, in "Guest Post" March and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Good post. It is important to stand firm on your convictions. When we do not, it is very hard to defend positions later. I think the important point is that when we share what we know to be the truth, that we share that with compassion, which should always take into consideration to hearing ability of the person with whom we’re sharing.

  2. “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for THE FAITH which was once delivered unto the saints,” Jude 3 [emphasis mine].
    There’s no need to argue vehemently over issues which aren’t directly related to ‘the faith,’ which I believe are the doctrines involved in the common salvation he references. There are then issues which we ARE to fight over, but preferences isn’t one of them.

  3. Jesus said I am the light of the world.

    He also said you are the light of the world.

    Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life. He didn’t share that one. Ultimately Jesus is the truth we should be bothered about. If our lives point to Him then we shouldn’t be getting our knickers in a twist about whether someone if right or wrong about small inconsequential issues.

  4. We lose our focus when we get our eyes off Christ, and following him implicitly. Our main purposes are to win souls and edify the brethren. Fighting over silly preferences does neither, but only serves to drive the lost further from Jesus.
    I wrote another article similar to this one ,http://wikeloogle.com/2011/03/16/church-house-masquerade-2/ . This is an issue that I have been guilty of, and have seen so much damaged caused by it.

  5. Hi,

    I read your article and agree with much of what you say. For example, I think it is foolish to get into a lengthy discussion about Bible versions or church standards with a lost sinner, and then fail to give him the Gospel. However, sometimes unsaved people ask about these things and so we have to respond to their questions (with wisdom).

    Do you really believe however, that preferring the KJV over the NIV, and believing jeans on ladies is immodest, and that rock music is from the devil, etc. are nothing but “silly preferences”? (your term) Another blogger says these are “small inconsequential issues.” The modern translations take out the blood of Christ. They removed God from I Timothy 3:16. Acts 8:37 has also been removed. Is it “silly” to warn people about this? Is it “inconsequential” that some independent Baptist women dress like worldly tramps?

    Can’t a Christian have strong CONVICTIONS that the devil is corrupting the churches through inaccurate Bible translations, worldliness, new evangelicalism, CCM, etc.?

    I agree there is a distinction between convictions and preferences, but too many preachers are allowing things to go on that are not right. And they often use the “convictions vs preferences” argument.

    Sincerely,

    James Barker, pastor
    Bible Baptist Church
    Elmont, NY

    • Pastor Barker,

      I do believe a lot of these issues are preferences, not convictions, according to the definition given in the post. However the main thrust of this is to emphasize the important things for us, as lay people, to focus on.

      You, as a pastor, are definitely supposed to teach and preach the “full counsel” of God. This includes preferences at some point I am sure. I agree with preachers teaching on Bible versions, modesty, music, and all the other issues.

      I do not agree with the Internet “bar-room brawl” mentality, where anybody can assasinate a servant of God’s character because their dress is one inch shorter than we think it should be.

      Hopefully this makes sense, and I explained it a little better.

    • As I said in the rest of my comment, for me it’s about Jesus – He is the Truth. And the truth spent a lot of His time on earth rebuking the religious for turning the freedom and love of God into a list of rules and regulations to chain people too.

      Yes He often told them to go and sin no more, but He often left them to work this out by themselves. You can have strong convictions about these things, but I would rather have a strong conviction that as bad as the world is God wants to bring everything to unity under Christ.

      And personally I do not believe that a lady wearing jeans makes her a worldly tramp, nor do I believe the KJV is better than the NIV, and I certainly do not believe that rock music is from the devil, and yes I do believe that ultimately, in a word where people are starving, poor, unloved, stressed, suicidal and in desperate need of a Saviour, they are small inconsequential issues. When I get to Heaven, I think Jesus will be more interested in who I fed and clothed than what music I listened too…
      Ultimately perhaps we have abused our ‘convictions’ as an excuse to pass judgements on others….

    • Out of curiosity @Pastor Barker, what does CCM stand for?

  6. Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the reply.

    “I do believe a lot of these issues are preferences, not convictions, according to the definition given in the post.” I understand that. However, my point is that these definitions are not given in Scripture. And I agree with your comment about the “Internet character assassination.” This is why some people should spend more time in prayer and Bible reading, and less time on the Internet.

    May the Lord bless you and guide you.

    JB

  7. Amen. For the Lord to guide me is my sincere hope.

    There is Biblical mandate for teaching from the preacher of the local church. I do not, however, find the commandment for others to correct everybody else who does not agree with them in the minute details.

    We need to be careful to not use our liberties for an excuse for excess. This can cause the weaker brethren to stumble and fall. Because we have been enlightened to the truth, we should not use our knowledge for a sword to hurt others not as far along as us in our development. Let the Holy Spirit do what He is so good at, convicting of sin.

    Keep teaching and preaching righteousness, Pastor Barker, for we need it now more than ever.

  8. If I may, a biblical conviction must be biblically mandated. We can have things we would give our lives for as a conviction but it is not actually biblical. We may believe things strongly even, as Pastor Barker does about CCM, but in categorizing things as conviction or preferrence we must see what Scripture says about an issue. We must be careful not to elevate our beliefs to an unbiblical level. Preaching the whole counsel of God does not mean we preach our preferences as truth. We can share our preferences, and give our reasons, but if we elevate them to the level of biblical convictions then we begin to add to God’s Word. For example, if I were to share an alternative view of the KJV, dress, music, or alcohol then I’m sure we could have an all out war going within two comments. People have elevated their views on these four subjects to be on par with what Scripture teaches. Sometimes that isn’t so.
    What was shared in this post was good. Stances on many areas (they happen to be the things preached on the most for some reason) are inconsequential to Christianity. For example, there are God-fearing men who write CCM just as there are God-fearing men who play more traditional gospel. One style doesn’t make the man more or less carnal. If anything is carnal it is judging the other for their different style. Scripture doesn’t prescribe a set style of music.
    I’m not trying to argue over any particular issue. I think Mark Hall said it well, so I’ll just quote him:
    “People aren’t confused by the gospel
    They’re confused by us
    Jesus is the only way to God
    But we are not the only way to Jesus

    This world doesn’t need my tie, my hoodie
    My denomination or my translation of the Bible
    They just need Jesus
    We can be passionate about what we believe

    But we can’t strap ourselves to the gospel
    ‘Cause we’re slowing it down
    Jesus is going to save the world
    But maybe the best thing we can do
    Is just get out of the way”

  9. Enjoyed both the in-depth thinking and the lively debate in this post.

    The church I grew up in (once I finally started) was much like what many of you tell me yours was/is like. I accepted all of it for quite some time. Then, while teaching a Sunday School class, I decided to see what the Bible actually said about it. That study turned my “convictions” and “preferences” around nearly 180 degrees. I found that many of the things the Bible classed as “convictions” were things my church didn’t even mention. And the reverse – many things my church considered important the Bible considered insignificant.

    I’ll stay out of the debate on those details, though I know what I believe on them. Because later, I did another, much more detailed study. And wound up realizing that both the “convictions” and “preferences” that the first study validated were all summed up by two others: Love (and obey) God. Love (and help) our “neighbors.”

    And I learned that meant everyone. From our own families, to our government leaders, to the members of other Christian churches, to the poor in Africa. I WILL argue that we all need to show love to each other and God. But that means loving each other even when we don’t agree on details. And since even Paul admitted he didn’t know all of those, and I no way think I’m smarter than him, my position is that I accept and love you all even if I find I disagree on some of your “preferences” – or even occasional “convictions.” God bless you all!

  10. Interesting thoughts and position, Pete. I am all for people finding their own convictions and preferences in the Bible. This is the only good source for them (along with the leadings of the Holy Spirit). I must say that some of the teachings of my youth I have found to be extra-Biblical in origin. They are not bad, but not something that I necessarily want to follow. I have found it a good practice to ask someone why they do what they do, or what the source of their belief is.

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