"Never let a little truth get in the
way of a perfectly good tradition!"
That could be the slogan of many denominations, churches, and Christians. We have attempted to neatly package God's ways in a box for so long that when truth comes our way and hits us right between the eyes, we reject it for the sake of conserving a belief that is based on tradition and not the Word of God. But, God may want to change your perception about some things you have always accepted as truth so that you can come to a new understanding of deeper truths.
Here are three ways He may want to change your perception:
1. You Can't Confuse Tradition With Truth.
Several years ago, we willingly surrendered everything we believed to God and asked Him to teach us what He wanted us to believe. There were three key truths that He immediately set in concrete for us. Those three beliefs have become constants against which all other beliefs are measured in our lives.
a. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He knows everything. He can do anything. And He is everywhere. If any belief violates those facts, then it cannot be based on truth.
b. Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life. If any belief leads to salvation, interpretation, or operation by any other source but the life of Jesus, then it is not based on truth.
c. The Bible is 100% truth. If any belief causes the interpretation of one verse to contradict with another verse, then we have not yet arrived at truth. We must keep asking God to reveal the truth from His Word until every verse of Scripture fits into our belief system.
With the exception of those three constants, we had to be open to the possibility that some of our long-standing beliefs might be based on tradition and not truth. We had to be willing to allow God to reshape our belief system.
2. You Can't Confuse Conviction with Condemnation.
Exactly what is conviction as the Bible describes it for New Covenant believers? Does it still take place in the lives of Christians today and if so, how? The Biblical definition of the word "convict" is a picture of exposing something that was once unclear or convincing someone of something they didn't think was true. It doesn't always mean that a fault is being condemned. Sometimes it simply means that a truth is being revealed or verified. Therefore, conviction does not always have to involve condemnation, as many of us have traditionally believed it did.
For people who are not Christians, conviction is always combined with condemnation. But since we know that there is no longer any condemnation for Christians (Romans 8:1), then we can be sure that conviction for us is simply God pointing out an area of our lives where we are settling for less than His best. It is God lovingly exposing places where we are not living in victory.
So, how does conviction happen in a Christian's life? Contrary to popular traditional belief, God does not convict us by weighing us down with feelings of guilt and remorse over our love for sin. Instead, He trusts the desires of the new nature within us to bring us to a point where we will seek a way of escape from sin on our own.
When Paul described his struggle with sin in Romans 7, he didn't sound like a man who loved sinning and wanted to continue in it. He sounded like a man who hated his sin and wanted it out of his life! If you are honest with yourself, you will probably admit that's how you feel as well. You don't love your sin. You may be tempted to do it and you may even enjoy it at times, but you truly wish it was out of your life. Deep down you hate it, right?
God doesn't have to lay guilt and condemnation on us in order to convict us that we are wrong. He has implanted within us our own personal "convicter" that lets us know when we are operating outside the perfect choices God has made available to us. The Holy Spirit living within us points out what is better than what we have chosen. God gives me victory over sin by convincing me that He has something better for me than the temporary pleasure and comfort of my sin. That is God's loving method of conviction in the life of a Christian. If you are a believer that is feeling guilt and shame, it's coming from a source other than the heart of God.
3. You Can't Confuse Punishment with Purifying.
The methods that God uses to convince us that He has a better alternative than our sin are not always pleasant and that often leads us to the incorrect conclusion that we are being punished. But there is no longer any punishment required to pay for my sinful deeds.
However, God loves me so much that He wants to teach me the best way to live. He wants to instruct me with His wisdom so that I will enjoy the abundance of the Christian life. That is discipline.
There is a huge difference between discipline and punishment. Punishment is payment for a crime and Jesus has already paid our debt in full. Discipline is simply instruction; teaching; purifying; the process of removing potentially harmful tendencies from our lives.
If you never separate the concepts of punishment and discipline, you will never live out of your complete freedom in Christ. Sometimes it may "feel" as if God is punishing us, but the reality is that Jesus has already endured all our punishment. God is instead purifying us to remove the potential for disaster from our lives. He will be faithful to work in our lives, but He does so with great love and concern for our well-being and not out of anger over our disobedience.
Never let a belief that's based on traditional teaching get in the way of the radical change the truth can make in your life! Surrender your right to be right and just watch what God begins to reveal to your submissive heart and mind. You will come to love His truth with a passion and you will defend it with boldness.