Friday, February 27, 2009

"Would God Convict Me of Sin?"

Bill’s considering Christianity. He hears Christians say, “God is convicting me of ______?” (insert any vice). He’s told that the Holy Spirit convicts them of sin. To Bill, “conviction” is a negative word, and yet Christians make it sound like they’re glad for it. So he asks, “If I became a Christian, would God convict me of sin? And if so, what is that like?”

There is only one place in the English Bible that I know of, where the Greek word “elencho” is translated as “to convict.” Jesus said:

“ When He comes (The Holy Spirit) He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, and righteousness and judgment: In regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
John 16:8-11

This verb “elencho” is translated elsewhere in scripture as “to show,”“to expose,” or “to rebuke.” It is almost always exposing the guilt of someone’s sin. But look at whom Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit will be addressing. When it comes to convicting of sin, it is “because men do not believe in me.” He’s convicting unbelievers of sin. Unbelief in the Christ is serious because:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12

The Holy Spirit continues what Jesus was doing His last three years on earth. Here Jesus was about to be crucified, reconciling men with God, and the Holy Spirit would now continue to show unbelievers that they had sin, so that they could repent. Conviction is an act of kindness on God’s part. And to believers Jesus promises that this “Counselor” (Holy Spirit) would also convict believers in regard to righteousness, because He was going where we cannot see Him.

Those following Him could see Him. Unbelievers would be convicted of sin. Believers, having confessed their sin and turned, are now following Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness, so we can walk His way.

If you think I am saying that Christians do not or no longer sin, you are totally going to miss the point. That is never in question:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
1 John 3:8

Jesus chose to take my sin from me to the cross, to receive the death that I deserved. Christ separates believers from their sin, so that we may belong to Him. This is what holiness is: Separated to belong to God. I’m not tripping over my halo here. But thanks to Jesus, I’ve crossed from death to life, from sinner to saint (sanctified one). To follow Him, the Spirit convicts us of righteousness.

He convicts us both of His true righteousness, while also exposing our self-righteousness (which is really no righteousness at all). Jesus on earth, often exposed, rebuked, and showed religious people, that their “righteousness” was not at all God’s righteousness. He calls His followers to go out into all the world. You just know with our track record, that a lot of what we will do, thinking it will be so godly, is going to be gross, self seeking, misguided by the success patterns of the world, or simply of our own making and not the Lord’s. He exposes our self-righteousness, showing us His heart in each matter, or rather, “His righteousness.”

The reason Christians get so excited about being “convicted” is because we have already chosen to follow Christ. We are eager for Him to transform us into what we are called to be. He has made us to be “the righteousness of God.”

“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

I often have to ask God, “How am I the righteousness of God?” I sure don’t see it when I see my failures. Ha! But now I’m missing my own point. It isn’t about what I think I am. I’m who God says I am! Each conviction or exposure, or revelation of His righteousness compared with my self-righteousness, offers me opportunity to repent and be changed. He makes us into who we are to be. What is not to love?!?

I have a lot to learn! But I can’t stay down about it. If feeling condemned or accused when convicted, it is not my Heavenly Father condemning me. Christ took all my shame and guilt of sin upon the cross and dealt with it there! If any accuser comes to bring me down, God and I have already talked. Praise Jesus, we’re cool!

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense –Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."
1 John 2:1

Jesus died for the sins of the world. He has told His followers to go and teach others everything that He has taught. God wants all people to know Him and to receive salvation! If someone doesn’t believe, His Spirit will show these their sin, so they can be rid of it. If any come to faith, The Spirit shows these His righteousness compared to their own unrighteousness, so that they may continue rightly in heart and deed. When He convicts us, He is answering our prayers! Christians want conviction! We have asked for it, because we ache to be transformed by God:

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.”
Hebrews 12:10

Some have referred to “The Counselor” as a coach. Hmmm. That is more than my concordance indicates. But when you consider today’s usage of the word “coach,” it may be a good illustration to use.

The word for Counselor here is “Parakletos,” in the Greek. The Holy Spirit. The verb related to Parakletos is “paraklesis.” This can be translated as to: comfort, appeal, console, exhort, greatly encourage, or urgently encourage.

Now I get to pull out the athlete analogy. It’s a guy thing. Even Paul did it! (See: 1 Corinthians 9:24-26) So indulge me as I lean back, look up, and try not to fall out of my chair:

My high school soccer coach was the very best. Kids going through the soccer program in Junior High hoped to be coached by him in high school. He sometimes would show us films of the world’s best teams, to show us what He wanted us to play like. He ran soccer camps in the off-season, training us under professional players. Pre-season he would have our high school teams play older college teams for practice, to bring our game to a higher level than our high school league played. He’d cheer when we did well, and when we did something wrong, he’d show us what the right thing was to be doing. Whenever he saw someone who was athletic in school, he would suggest they try out for the soccer team. That’s soccer evangelism. To those of us already committed to playing soccer for him, he didn’t often have to tell us when we were doing wrong. We would know, because we listened to him eagerly, wanting him to be able to count on us for games. When he showed us what he wanted us doing and how, that became part of our lives. That’s soccer righteousness. We were one team.

I don’t ever remember him having to say to me, “Harv! Doofus! What did you do it like that for? Read the play book again!” Nope! That is what a lousy coach says. (And I’ve had those before too). Instead he would say, “When you don’t pass the ball, you get trapped with no way out. Pass the ball! That is what you have team mates for!” And then I’d probably have to do a lot of give and go drills to practice passing the ball. This was tiring, but good for me. I never worried about being cut from the team, because he and I knew that I was determined to do it his way. He was my coach.

And that is where I’ll end the analogy. The Holy Spirit is so much more than a sports or life coach! But when it comes to the conviction of sin, this analogy works.

So there you go: Believers love conviction because God is bringing us where we need to be in heart and deed. It makes sense that the Counselor would do this work in us. Jesus said of Him:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.”

John 16:13

He loves the unbeliever by convicting them of their sin. And he guides the disciple into all truth, which includes convicting them of righteousness. Either way, it is because He loves us.