If you spend enough time amongst born-again-Christians, who believe in the infilling of the Holy Spirit, at some point you will hear the phrase.
‘The Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin’.
It is a commonly held belief and teaching that it is the Holy Spirit who points out our sins, thereby causing us to seek forgiveness. And if this perception is challenged it is met with fierce resistance, as though it were a foundational doctrine that should be defended at all costs.
Even as you read this, some will be wondering why even raise the issue? You’ll be thinking, ‘Of course it is the work of the Holy Spirit to point out our sins, it says so in the bible’.
You’ll probably be surprised to find that there is in fact only one direct passage that mentions the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin, the linchpin of this belief is based on Jesus’ exaugural sermon as he prepares the disciples for the forthcoming crucifixion. Jesus tells them not to be sorrowful, as he will send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit who will never leave them.
In the middle of this sermon Jesus says.
John 16:8 ‘When He [The Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement.’
That’s the passage that we base this belief upon, there is no other.
This is the point at which many of the great and the good have stopped and preached sermons on the judgemental work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of both the saved and the unsaved. We have believed this and lived our lives accordingly; at best swinging from joy at the intimacy of our relationship with God, to pain, from the sharp rebukes we have felt at the pointing out of our sins. In short we have had a dysfunctional relationship with God, never really being able to be at peace with Him; ever aware of our failings, always knowing that we never quite measure up.
But there is more to John 16:8, here is the complete train of thought.
John 16: 8-11 ‘When He [The Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you will see Me no more; of judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged.’
The conviction that the Holy Spirit comes to bring; is the conviction of not believing in Jesus.
This is the – falling short of the mark – the Holy Spirit is bringing conviction to in our lives, and not a reminder of the daily failures we all experience.
Of righteousness because Jesus is the Holy Son of God.
Of Judgement because Satan – the thief, liar and murderer now stands judged and condemned.
With a thorough study of John 14-16 it is very clear that the Holy Spirit is not sent to convict people of general day to day sins. Rather it is totally the contrary, the names of the Holy Spirit are:
Friend, Advocate, Comforter, Helper, Counsellor, Redeemer of the accursed, Paraclete, and an Intercessor to be with us forever, Romans 8:26-27.
Not the convicter of sins as many have been taught to believe. The Holy spirit was sent to remind us of the works and the nature of Jesus and to convince us of who He is; Jesus the Son of God, John 14:26.
So why then do we feel the weight of our failings in the presence of God?
I propose that the mechanism of conviction is as if you were covered in dripping sticky mud, you then suddenly find yourself in a pristine white room with plush white carpets. You would not need anyone to point out the filth you are covered in. This analogy is what happens when we encounter the holiness of God.
It is the Presence of Holiness, the proximity of God’s Holy Spirit within us compelling us to be holy as He is.
We see this very clearly in Isaiah 6:5 ‘Woe to me!’ [Isaiah cries]. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’
The absolute holiness of God reveals the corruption in his life.
No one spoke to Isaiah, there are no convicting judgemental words, he had no indwelling Holy Spirit; yet before the presence of God, in despair he knew the condition of his existence was an affront to the purity of God, deserving of nothing less than death. In His mercy God offers Isaiah peace in the form of the burning coal, as the coal touches Isaiah’s lips he is cleansed of his sin. Isaiah’s iniquity is taken away and his sins are purged.
However, unlike Isaiah we have received someone better than a live coal. For we have the Holy Spirit who is a seal, the recognition of our cleansing now and forever, Ephesians 1:13-14.
By giving us His Holy Spirit we are beyond animal sacrifices and live coals, our cleansing comes from within. All this having been made possible by the blood sacrifice of Jesus.
Do we fail and fall into sin? Unfortunately, yes we do.
But we need to remember that Christ is in us. He doesn’t take a vacation when we sin, Jesus comes right along with us for the ride, and his blood forever speaks of our redemption.
So quickly confess your sin, be free of it, do not dwell on it, do not return to it. Remembering that you are the righteousness of God through Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:21. And the Holy Spirit is always directing us towards Jesus our saviour.
So to be clear, the one who accuses the children of God of our sins is not the Holy Spirit, rather it is Satan himself who is called the accuser.
Revelation 12:9-11 King James Version (KJV)
‘And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.’
As a final note.
I would like to encourage you to draw near to God, as he rejoices over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 says ‘The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.’
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