Andy Stanley, Pastor at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, preached a sermon a long time ago that has stuck with me. It was on the Old Testament book of Daniel and he challenged us to be people of conviction, not preference. His main text was Daniel 1:8, where Daniel and his friends decide that it’s wrong for them to eat the king’s food that has been offered to pagan gods. It’s a conviction. Not a preference.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine that he drank. –Daniel 1:8a
Let me ask you a question. Have you made up your mind about anything? Have you made up your mind in moral and ethical issues that are gray areas? In any area of your life, have you made up your mind that regardless of the consequences you will not compromise?
That’s a conviction. Making up your mind. Resolving.
On the other hand, a preference says, “I know this is wrong, but I’ll do it anyway.” We may even be thinking at the time, “I’ll just ask for forgiveness afterwards.”
It would be easy at this point to fall into legalism. We can resolve to never do _____ again—that would be a conviction. Does that mean we’ll never do _____ again? No; and it would be an error to think that we can, in our power, never sin again, which is essentially what we’re saying if we say “I’ll never do _____ again.”
I used to struggle with verses like Romans 6:12—”Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” I would read that and think, “I still sin, what’s wrong with me? Sin isn’t supposed to be part of me anymore.” Then, years ago, I heard a sermon on this verse and the word “reign” came popping out at me—it’s not that sin is eradicated from our lives, it’s that it doesn’t sit on the throne of our lives. In other words, our lives should not be characterized by sin.
And so, I think that’s what Stanley is talking about. When we resolve, make up our minds to not sin (essentially what he is saying), it’s not that we won’t go there again. It’s not that we won’t sin again, it’s that our lives will not be characterized by sin.
One final thought. Stanley asks us: “Have you made up your mind in moral and ethical issues that are gray areas?” In a culture that wants everything to be gray, it’s hard to be a person of conviction, who sees things as “black or white.” I encourage everyone reading this to be such a person.