Sunday, June 25, 2006

Biblical Persuasion

“Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Rom 14:5b)

Biblical persuasion involves the mind, not the heart or feelings. Let’s look closely at what Paul is saying in verse five of Romans fourteen. First, this admonition is to “every man,” not just the more intelligent among us. People who refuse to think, refuse to grow and are never quite sure of anything. Second, there is such a thing as half-hearted persuasion; therefore, Paul insists that we, as believers, must be “fully persuaded.” Third, the directive is to every man in particular. You being fully persuaded in your mind will not suffice for me, and vice versa. Every man (and woman) must be fully persuaded “in his own mind.” Fourth and last, as I have already said, Paul does not hesitate to tell us that spiritual matters should be settled in the mind.

If we consider the heart and mind to be one and the same in Scripture (as many do), there is no problem here. But if when speaking of the heart, we are referring to those emotions that are so easily influenced by non-Spiritual stimuli, Paul puts far less emphasis on “appeals to the heart” than we are inclined to do. Granted, there are many times in the Christian life when our hearts should be stirred and our emotions moved. In fact, if this is not the case, one is justified in questioning the sincerity of someone’s profession of faith. I say this not on the basis of personal experience only, but because it would seem to me that holding a perpetual lid on the indwelling Spirit of God would be like trying to cap a gushing oil well!

What I am asserting, however, is that when it comes to making judgments in the Christian life (as Paul is addressing in this chapter), genuine persuasion must appeal to, and eventually take place in, the mind. Paul always used reasoning to affect persuasion (Acts 18:4); and reasoning takes place in the mind. This did not mean that Paul was stoic or hard-hearted. On the contrary, he acknowledged a love and concern for his “kinsmen according to the flesh” that moved him to the point of wishing himself “accursed from Christ” if that would insure their salvation (Rom.9:3). But he did not use his own agony of soul as a tool of persuasion when he witnessed to them. Spiritual decisions are too important to be determined on sympathy or affections.

The message for us from this verse in Romans is two-pronged. If we want to influence this world for God and righteousness, and if we seek to bring men and women to a truly saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, His Son, we must persuade them in their minds and allow the Holy Spirit to generate the New Birth within them. He alone has been commissioned as God’s “woo-er.” And, by the same token, we must not allow ourselves to be dragged by our heartstrings to a decision that cannot withstand the light of Scripture. A sanctified mind trumps a soft heart every time, when it comes to Spiritual discernment. And I can tell you in all sincerity that what I have shared with you today is something of which I am “fully persuaded” in my own mind.

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