Why Does the Holy Spirit Convict Us of Sin?
For several weeks we’ve looked at our natural tendency (at least for some of us) to practice spiritual self beat-downs. For some reason we do this thinking that God approves or somehow enjoys this process. The facts as they are related in Scripture, though, do not support this thinking. In order to make this point I want to ask a very simple question – and then seek to answer it from how God has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. Here is my question, “Why does God the Spirit convict us of sin?” And in a follow up question to that one we should ask ourselves what is God wanting to accomplish by doing this. What exactly is He after or even what is the end-game in conviction?
We all know that we do things wrong. We sin. There are times when we sin that we either don’t realize it at the time – or worse – we deceive ourselves that what we did is not that bad. Whatever the case may be with sin – the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of our sin. We’ve seen that very clearly in previous studies. But what is the Spirit’s goal in bringing conviction. If we looked at the way that some of us practice a subsequent spiritual self beat-down, we might think that God’s purpose is to bury us under a mountain of guilt. That guilt is then meant to stimulate a period of condemnation, devastating accusations of every kind, followed by a period of somehow “earning” back our place with God as we seek to do a lot of good things. Those kind of choices do not deliver us from sin – in fact they usually lock us into more guilt, condemnation, and often a feeling like no matter how many times we confess or do more godly things – we just won’t measure up to what God wants from us.
What does God want from us! For those who have gone on one of these extended guilt trips – not enjoying the ride or the sights – we wonder why we have to go. We also wonder, like the proverbial kid in the back seat, “Are we there yet?” What might be shocking to learn is that the one driving on these ventures into the darker regions – is not God. God does NOT want this from us. He has a purpose in conviction – and extended guilt is not one of them. You might want to note that I said “extended guilt,” because guilt is part of His purpose in conviction. Let me explain.
When David confessed his sin with Bathsheba (along with his pitiful attempt at a cover up – which only led to more sin) he used the following phrase in his Psalm 32 confession to God. “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.” Psalm 32:5-7 (NASB) Let’s take a look at what we can learn from David.
First, we do see that David admits to his sin. He said he acknowledged his sin – he didn’t try to hide his iniquity – and he confessed his transgressions to God. That is pretty thorough on David’s part. He agreed with God (what acknowledged means) that he missed God’s mark. When David said this he was stating plainly that God has standards, absolute ones, and that David clearly did not live up to them. Second of all David admitted that he wasn’t going to hide his iniquity. This is an interesting phrase. David had tried to cover up his sin for so long – but now he was saying that he was willing to bring his sin out into the light and deal with it entirely. The word for sin here is telling too. David speaks of his “iniquity.” This word speaks of sin as particularly evil because it means to twist or deliberately pervert something. Here it refers to perverting and twisting God’s purpose for sex and marriage. Finally, David said that he confessed his transgressions to God. The word “confess” means to cast toward and it represents the picture of David casting his sin before God – admitting it and bringing it fully into the light of God’s presence. He does this with his “transgressions,” which refers to rebellion. David states that his actions were done in rebellion to God and His ways and Word.
Once David has confessed his sin, note what he says is God’s response. “And You forgave the guilt of my sin.” God desires us to feel guilt over our sin. The fact is we are guilty! But once we deal with sin as David did – God forgives the guilt of our sin. It is comforting to know that the word used for guilt is the same as the word iniquity earlier. The evilness of our sin is what God forgives and carries away from us. So, we see that one of the major purposes in God bringing conviction is so that, as we confess it completely, He can take away the feelings of guilt and condemnation.
David then turns others who will read this and offers godly counsel to them. He speaks of calling out to God in times of trouble – in times when we feel like we are in a flood of waters – drowning in our guilt and overwhelmed by our sinfulness. Even in a flood of great waters (read here – our deepest and most devastating moments of sin) God will prevail and will be heard. If you don’t believe that part you might want to remember the depth of David’s sin – or maybe even Jonah’s (which did involve drowning in literal water as well as great rebellion against God). His counsel is for us to pray to God – to call out to Him – to come to Him humbly confessing our sin. Spiritual self beat-downs are useless in these situations. They will actually keep us from God – as well as keep us drowning in our guilt and self-condemnation. Go to God is David’s counsel!
David says one more thing here in Psalm 32. He says that as we come to God in this way, God will surround us with songs of deliverance. God’s purpose in all this is not a beat-down – but a deliverance. The conviction of the Holy Spirit will yield songs of deliverance. There will be an encircling of our lives and hearts with songs that speak of how God delivers and rescues us from sin and from sin’s unkind rule of our lives.
What does God want from us when He convicts us? He wants us to acknowledge and see our sinful choices as He does. But then He wants confession of that sin. Once that is accomplished and we confess our sin, rebellion, and evil – He desires us to KNOW forgiveness and deliverance from that sin. He wants us surrounded with marvelous songs that tout His grace and His gospel which has won for us such amazing things. May we learn to receive these things as precious gifts of His grace – not resisting them – but embracing them and rejoicing in our most gracious God and His wonderful love for us.