I’m going to say something here that may come as a shock to most Christians and may even be offensive to others. God is NOT in the “behavior modification” business.
I can see some of you now staring wide-eyed or feeling a certain sense of unease about what I have just written. The fact is, God, through the Holy Spirit living in you is in the “making you like Jesus business.” Too many well meaning pastors and church leaders today, albeit with subtlety and very sincere, caring intentions use the words REPENT (which I wrote about in my previous blog), CONVICT (which I am writing about now), and CONFESS (which I will write about in my next blog) as sin management techniques. These three words are even considered as ministries of the Holy Spirit and are always attached with guilt, shame, and the looming cloud of God’s judgement. So what I have learned in all of my Christian life is that this is the “good news’ of the gospel and what the disciples were so passionate about. Really? These three words actually seem to be used, no matter how subtle, as weapons in sin management. I’m going to repeat…God is not in the sin management business…He is in the making you like Jesus business. How does He do that? He does it with the good news of the Gospel of Christ…GRACE! This is what the disciples were so passionate about. GRACE, as I mentioned in my previous blog, is supernatural. It isn’t logical. You can’t figure it out. Yet, it works and yes it makes me more like Jesus. Attempting to manage sinful behavior by teaching Christians that we should jump through spiritual hoops by feeling convicted (sadness. sorrow, guilt and shame), and then repenting (quit sinning) is WRONG WRONG WRONG! This didn’t work in the old testament and it doesn’t work now!
We looked at the word repent in my previous blog. Repent is the greek word “metanoia” which means to rethink or think again. This word is used today in Christian circles as a method of using your will power to turn away from your sins, practice the spiritual disciplines in order to perfect your flesh so that you can be acceptable to God. That isn’t good news. That is terrible news for those of us (and that is everybody) who can’t quit sinning by using our own flesh. The word convict is the greek word “elencho” and it means to “be convinced”. Convict is used today in our churches as a terrible word! To be convicted, in most Christian minds, is to feel shame, extreme guilt and condemnation. Are you kidding me? This is good news? This is no different from the Old Testament!
Did you know that in the new testament, the word “convict” is used only once? That’s right one time…John 16:8,9. The Holy spirit’s ministry regarding conviction is to convict (CONVINCE…NOT CONDEMN)) the world of sin. That’s right, convince the world of sin. What about Christians? Does the Holy Spirit convict us of sin? No, He doesn’t. When we were heathens in the world the Holy Spirit already convinced us of sin. Now, we believe in Jesus! Yayyyy!
Uh ohh…what is the Holy Spirit’s ministry in my life now that He has convinced me of sin? The answer? Simple. His ministry is to convince me of righteousness. (John 16:10). Through faith and believing in the supernatural power of the Gospel of Grace which IS the good news…the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to make me like Christ! I mentioned to a Christian just recently that the Holy Spirit convicting Christians of sin is never mentioned in the new testament and then added that the Holy Spirit does not convict (convince) Christians of sin. Her answer was, “Well, it may not, but I suspect He probably does.” uhhmmmmm…..Really?
I readily admit, I am now convicted! Yes, I am CONVINCED that I am becoming the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Am I perfect at it? I’m laughing now and I believe God is too. God knows that He already convinced me of sin so He knows that He doesn’t have to do it again. I stumble through life trying to believe and live in the impossibility of GRACE, but I know that is where I will become more like Christ. I do know that I am much more free now that I have been released from shame, condemnation and guilt. I absolutely refuse to allow shame, condemnation or guilt to occupy my mind. These things aren’t going to change me at all! I realized that God my Father did not create us humans with the capability of dealing with guilt. That is why He came and took our sins away. I don’t have to feel guilty anymore. Sin is gone. It no longer exists. When I am sitting at the supper table with God, He will eat and laugh with me and have a good time! He will reach over and tell me “I Love You” , show me where He carved my name in His hand and then gladly give me the keys to the kingdom and never once mention my sins or my good works.
The word convict? We Christians need to quit using it as a punching bag to make our behavior acceptable before God. We Christians are taught that the best Christians are the ones who are the most honest and transparent about their sins and the ones who are driven at being successful at the spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible reading, etc. etc. There is nothing wrong with the spiritual disciplines, but if you are living by spiritual disciplines without GRACE, you are cursed and a living testimony of the walking dead. I’m sorry (actually I’m not), but the best Christians are those that are the best receivers. The best Christians are those that are good at receiving Grace. Grace is hard for us to receive because it seems so impossible. But, the truth is, Grace is what changes us. Grace is what makes us like Jesus. Grace is the good news! Turn to Jesus and His GRACE.