How does the Spirit convict us? “Through the law,” says the mixed-grace preacher. “It is by God’s law that we are convicted. When you sin, the Holy Spirit will remind you of God’s holy commands and show you the way to go.”
The mixed-grace preacher says the law shows us the way of life. Yet Paul said the law ministers death (2 Cor. 3:7). Something doesn’t add up.
The mixed-grace preacher describes the Holy Spirit as a Spirit of law, but the writer of Hebrews said he is the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29). Again, something doesn’t add up.
I have heard people say they were convicted of sin while reading the law and that this caused them to run to God in repentance. These experiences testify to the true ministry of the law—it helps us recognize sin and our need for grace. But the law is not the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Grace does not minister law to you.
The ministry that brought death, … was engraved in letters on stone… If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! (2 Cor 3:7-9)
Look into the mirror of the law and you will feel condemned, every time. That’s what the law does. It points out your faults and failings. But that is not what the Holy Spirit does. That is not the more glorious ministry that brings righteousness.
When you sin it takes no faith to look into the mirror of the law and agree that you made a mess. It takes faith to listen to the Holy Spirit and agree that in Christ you are as righteous and holy as he is! This is the good news that turns sinners into saints. This is the startling revelation that empowers you to go and sin no more.
The scriptures declare that we are not under law, but grace. This means we do not need the law to teach us how to live. But without the firm rule of the law, how will we please the Lord? How will the Holy Spirit set us on the straight and narrow? Or to use a recent example I read on Charisma News, how will we know it’s a bad idea to steal from Walmart?
How does the Spirit of grace convict us?
A law-conscious preacher defines conviction (elegcho in John 16:8) as fault-finding and rebuke. But an interpretation of conviction which is more consistent with the Holy Spirit’s gracious character is expose, or bring into the light.
How does the Holy Spirit convict us? He does it by turning on the lights, not to shame you (Jesus carried your shame), but to show you the way to life. Ian Thomas described it like this:
The Holy Spirit is like a man with a lamp entering a dark and dirty room, and what you have learned to live with in the dark becomes repugnant in the light.
Think of Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3). By his own account he was chief of sinners. Then the lights went on and he became a different man.
We need a new covenant definition of conviction, one that does not emphasize your badness but God’s goodness and grace.
The simple fact is the Holy Spirit will never convict you of your sin. When you sin, your conscience may condemn you, the law will condemn you, the judge and jury may condemn you, the religious may condemn you, and the devil will certainly condemn you, but against the chorus of condemners stands the sweet Holy Spirit who defends you and draws you to grace.
The Holy Spirit’s conviction has nothing to do with your sin and everything to do with God’s grace. It’s not about the bad thing you’ve done but the good thing he wants to do in you right now.
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