As we walk of a life of Christian repentance, being confronted with the Realities of who God is and adjusting our internal and external world accordingly, we must learn to hear the voice of conviction from the Holy Spirit and distinguish it from the voice of condemnation which comes from the Enemy. Yesterday’s post was not particularly helpful in establishing that distinction, so I thought a follow up post would help.
Holy Spirit fills a multitude of roles within the Christian’s life. Holy Spirit is Teacher, Comforter, Helper, Counselor, and Advocate. Holy Spirit also convicts us of sin (John 16:8) and helps us repent accordingly. But if Holy Spirit is the one that convicts us of sin, doesn’t that mean He is out to get us and make us feel guilty? No, it doesn’t.
When a criminal is convicted of a crime, it means that a case has been convinvingly presented which shows that he or she has broken the law. This is what Holy Spirit does – He brings to our awareness the fact that we have indeed broken God’s Law in some way. The appropriate response at this point is to repent – we have been confronted with new Reality (internal change of heart/mind) which ought to lead to a change in behavior (external appearance). There is no need to beat yourself up or play the event over and over in your mind. Rather, confess your sin and God, who is faithful and just, will forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
However, when we sin, the Enemy tries to convince us to listen to his voice rather than Holy Spirit’s. The process starts out similarly, we become aware that we have broken God’s law and fallen short of His standards for us. However, rather than bringing us to a place of repentance and confession, the Enemy wants to bring us to a place of guilt and condemnation. Condemnation goes one step farther than conviction, it prescribes a punishment. That punishment tends to make us feel worse and worse, we circle the drain, abuse ourselves with thoughts of ‘how could you?’ or ‘Again? Why can’t you get your stuff in order?’. We begin to feel distant from God, certain that He is angry and wrathful over our sin, and take it upon ourselves to suffer punishment until we have atoned for our sin. Many Christians believe they should feel like a terrible person when they sin, so the Enemy deceives many of us with distressing ease.
I’ve found that knowing the difference between conviction and condemnation helps stop me from going along with the Enemy’s plan. Another thing that helps be recover a right perspective is to remember the words of Isaiah 53, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The reason Holy Spirit convicts us but does not condemn us is because the punishment that would rightfully fall on us as sinners was, instead, placed upon Jesus at the Cross. To punish us now would be unjust, because Jesus intervened and took our place.
I hope this clarifies the role of Holy Spirit in the process of conviction, confession and repentance. Holy Spirit makes us aware of our sin, comforts us with the promises of Scripture, helps us confess to our Heavenly Father and advocates for us once we have been washed and restored to right standing with Dad. The conviction of Holy Spirit always draws us closer to God, He never drives us farther away.
As always, thank you for reading.