I don’t like being confronted with my failures.
Because of this, I tried to avoid conviction for a long time. I’d justify my sin and make excuses: I’m not really that bad most of the time. I’m getting better. I’m overthinking the situation anyways. But no matter how many excuses I could conjure up, I’d always end up facing the reality that I still fell short, that I was still a sinner. Conviction was just a harsh reminder of my failure to get better. What good could come from that?
But as I studied the Scriptures, I began to see that they do not treat conviction as something to be avoided, but rather as a gift from God that draws us closer to Him. While conviction does reveal our sin, it also reminds us that Christ has saved us from that sin and that through the Spirit we too can overcome.
Conviction Leads Us to Repentance
We cannot turn away from what we do not know, and conviction introduces us to our sin. Through conviction, we begin to see clearly what hinders our walk with the Lord and know what to repent of. It can be a difficult experience, but sometimes we need the pain that comes with it so that we actually turn away from our wrongdoings.
Paul makes this clear in his second letter to the Corinthians. He talks about how he does not regret sending a previous letter that caused them grief because, he writes, “your sorrow led you to repentance…” (2 Corinthians 7:9). Even though the Corinthians went through a difficult period when confronted with their sin, Paul assures them that their sorrow is good because of where it leads. He writes, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Conviction is similar to that godly sorrow. As righteously painful as it can be to know that our sin goes against God, we must remember that righteous conviction does not intend to keep us in that pain. Conviction starts us on the journey toward repentance. More than a guilty conscious or condemnation, conviction serves as a hopeful reminder that the Spirit still moves in our lives and the humbling reality that we still need Him to.
Conviction Humbles Us
Because of the confrontation with our failure, conviction can lead to either humility or shame. While both are possible responses to our shortcomings, they are not the same thing. Shame stays focused on the failure. It sees only the brokenness. Like the worldly sorrow Paul writes about, shame brings death with it and does not come from the Lord.
Humility, on the other hand, comes only from the Lord in conviction. It looks sin in the eye, bears the guilty weight of it, but remembers Christ’s goodness and grace. In humility, we do not ignore the truth of our sin, nor the guiltiness that comes with it, but within those realities, we hold tightly to the Gospel: that the perfect Jesus saves broken people. We worship more because we do not dwell in that confrontation of sin; we celebrate Christ’s victory over it and rejoice in His goodness and grace.
Conviction Brings Clarity and Grace
Conviction brings clarity to the evils of our sin. Shame comes from an awareness of our actions without really seeing why what we did was wrong in the first place. We feel bad because we did a bad thing. The only reason to stop is that you now understand that it is bad. Conviction shows us why it is.
Conviction reminds us that our sin as a condition, not merely an inability to follow the right rules. It causes us to see the goodness of God’s Word and plan, completely changing our posture toward sin. We begin to see our need for change and the possibility of that change offered by the Spirit.
This revelation of our sin is an undeserving gift for the Christian. For without the Spirit of God, we cannot see how wrong we actually are. In His goodness and grace, he reveals to us our shortcomings not to keep us down, but to help us grow. The feeling of conviction that comes from a powerful sermon or a time in prayer and the Scriptures should not lead us to shame. It should lead to passionate, heartfelt repentance and a worshipful celebration of the God who reveals our sin. Through Christ, we are able to die to the sin we now see, and He has made it possible to rise with Him.