Through my years with the Lord, I have learnt many new things. Yet I find, again and again, that there is still more I do not know! My God is so vast in who He is, His love so great, and His understanding so deep. Yet, God dares to share some of His incredible insight with us and it draws us more into Him. In my own testimony, I remember some glorious times, and also, some tough mountains I’ve had to climb. At various times, I remember thinking back to some of these times – if I could conquer that mountain with the Lord, nothing is impossible. Then, the next mountain comes along and I founder at the bottom temporarily, until God strengthens me in my inner being once again. Now, I find myself at the beginning of another challenge, but one which promises a rich reward should I overcome. How should I overcome? I remember that God has overcome the world, and I am His beloved child.
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is Son of God?” [1 John 5:4-5]
What does all this have to do with conviction? Well, I’ve written a lot about “no condemnation”, but not much about the conviction of our souls in faith, and the conviction of our hearts in God’s loving discipline. This week, my church began a series on Romans 8, and the meaning of “no condemnation” struck me in a new way. I know identity, I know God’s faithfulness, and I know His lovingkindness, but because I have journeyed through so much with Him, I sometimes forget that it’s not me, it’s all Him. The lines get blurred because I remember everything I have overcome. Yet, it was never by my own will or my own power, but it was God at work in me, and through me – God’s sustaining grace and strength in my life. I realised this – God’s conviction reveals our weaknesses to bring us into God’s strength, but sin’s condemnation uses our weaknesses to tempt us away from God.
I saw yet another thing – how God was again teaching me a new spectrum of emotion, and how to steward it. Which is easier? To be persecuted for God’s Name, to endure physical hardship, or to grow through the Lord’s good discipline? Neither is particularly easy. Yet, in thinking of the first two scenarios, I see how easily we can cry out to God. When we are being disciplined in character for God, do we always cry out to Him? Do we recognise His hand at work in our lives? When the Lord convicts, it requires change and the pain of this change is easily outweighed by the reward of our growing likeness with Christ. Conviction is powerful! I do remember some hard times where the Lord convicted me in my spirit in such a way that greatly changed me. It always came with tears, submission to God, partnership with people of God, and a breaking of chains. When the process was completed, I was always thankful, joyous and felt like a path of greater freedom in the Lord had been opened.
So, how do we approach conviction in our heart, soul and mind?
The Heart of Conviction
Two questions come to mind here:
- Who do you believe?
- What do you believe?
A third question results from the answer of these two – to whom or what do we yield to? The Spirit of the Lord says one thing, and our flesh says another! There is war in the spiritual and physical realms and we are right in the midst of it. In Romans 7:19, Paul shares this, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” I have felt this to a certain extent at various times, but there is a particular time when I fall down in the powerful revelation that truly I am sinful in nature. At this time, in my weakness, I have to choose who to believe – the Spirit of the Lord who reminds me of God’s grace, or the Spirit of the Law who condemns my shortcomings.
I remember one particular moment, driving along the road when I suddenly recognised and distinguished the voices of conviction and condemnation. Right then, driving along the road, I rebuked that condemnation and declared my identity as a beloved daughter of God. Aloud, I declared the faithfulness and loving-kindness of my God, and I choose to believe His words about my identity and my life. Every time God has disciplined me, He has also encouraged me. Sometimes, it is just in the small gifts He gives – winning a little prize draw, or a kind stranger passing me a free ticket for a good park in a busy area. God knows me well, and He never fails to make sure I know how much He loves me, even when He points out some weaknesses. In fact, it is because of His grace that God points out our weaknesses. How can we ever be strengthened in character if we cannot see what needs to be strengthened? When God shows me a weakness, I can come to Him and give it up to Him. His light makes known all things, and His grace heals all things.
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” – [1 Corinthians 4:5]
The heart of conviction is love, and the first step to understanding the conviction of God is to understand how He desires to make us whole in Him. We do not have to be afraid of God’s light because when we come into the light, we are healed and made whole.
- “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.” – [Isaiah 55:2]
- “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – [John 1:4-5]
- “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – [1 John 1:8-9]
The lyrics of Hillsong’s “You” remind us of how God’s grace is made know to us in our weakness. Are we willing empty ourselves out before God, and let Him touch every aspect of our lives?
“(verse 1) Invading all my weakness
You wrapped me up in grace
The worst of me succeeded By the best of You
(verse 4) Lord, make my life transparent
Your life in mine displayed
And let every earthly glory Go back to You”
Let our hearts be tender and vulnerable before the Lord, to let His light shine into every part of our lives and to bring us fully into the light of His fullness in love and in character.
The Soul of Conviction
Some time ago, I wrote about being “Cut to the Heart” (https://lostnowfoundk.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/cut-to-the-heart/) I was reminded about this as I thought about the soul of conviction because conviction cuts us to the heart. To be convicted of something is to fully and wholly believe it – it is deep-rooted in us. What is it that we can be convicted of?
1. Conviction of Faith
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This is from the NKJV, but other versions refer to faith as the “conviction” of things hoped for. In other words, Hebrews described a faith that believes in a coming hope, and the reality of things that may not be seen. What are these things? I believe it is hope it Jesus and recognition of His works. As Colossians 1:15-16 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” There is more to conviction of faith than belief in salvation through Jesus Christ – faith works in all aspects of our lives. Romans 14:14-23 gives an example of a time when believers in Christ were divided about a particular way of living. They disagreed about whether eating one thing or another was unclean and displeasing to the Lord. Here, Paul suggests two things – (1) That we should walk in love with one another, and be careful not to stumble each other by what we do, and (2) that each one should also have his own faith, or understanding so that we each know God personally and know for ourselves what pleases and displeases Him. We should, of course, still have teachable hearts to be instructed and corrected in the way of the Lord, but faith is personal and it is our own. We cannot depend on someone else’s faith.
“Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy if he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” – [Romans 14:22-23]
2. Conviction of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment
In order to have conviction of faith, we first need to have conviction of sin. This is NOT condemnation of sin, but an understanding of our own sinful state ALONG WITH revelation of God’s grace and loving forgiveness. Conviction of sin, righteousness and judgement comes by the Holy Spirit
“..And 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 see Me no more; of judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged.” [John 16:8-11]
What does this all mean? Jesus gives an explanation in the verse above. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin because all are sinners, but in Christ, our sins are washed away. He will convict the world of righteousness, as Christ lives within us. Jesus is not currently walking the earth in His human form as He did back then, but He left the Holy Spirit to make known to us the things of God. So, the Holy Spirit convicts us of righteousness as He shows us what is pleasing and holy to the Lord, giving us instruction of how to walk in the way of the Lord. Finally, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of judgement, reminding us that Jesus is coming back again and in that day, every one will be judged before God. Whether we anticipate this, or fear it depends on whether we allow our hearts to be convicted first of sin, and of the grace of God, and of instruction so that we can walk in obedience to the ways of the Lord.
The Mind of Conviction
What is our mindset in dealing with conviction from the Lord? I have three things I strive towards as I recognise conviction in my life.
- Acknowledge God’s discipline
- Remember God’s mercy
- Walk in fellowship and accountability
Firstly, in dealing with conviction from the Lord, we need to acknowledge God’s discipline in our lives. God is not a strict schoolmaster, watching our every move, and waiting to punish. Nor is He a push-over who lets everything slide. No, God is true, honest, and just. He desires holiness, and He helps us faithfully and lovingly to attain to His holiness. Sometimes this requires refining through the fire, and in these times, God is firm, yet gentle in His discipline. He never ceases to support up and speak with us because He does not forsake us! We need to understand the holiness of God, but also understand how approachable He is. When He disciplines us, we need to recognise His hand so that we can speak with Him, and in partnership with the Holy Spirit, continuously turn our heart towards Him. The Bible is filled with many accounts of people’s lives – King David, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Elijah, Esther, Miriam. God loved these people, and He disciplined them. It wasn’t always easy, but in recognising the discipline of the Lord, these people were able to journey and grow in their relationship with the Lord.
[Proverbs 3:11-12] – “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Secondly, we need to remember God’s mercy in the midst of His discipline. I love Psalm 86, when David cries out to the Lord and declares His mercy.
“Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me;
For I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!
Be merciful to me, O Lord,
For I cry to You all day long.
Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, I lift up my soul.
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.”
– [Psalm 86:1-5]
Remembering God’s mercy in such times causes us to turn towards Him, and when we turn towards God, He lifts us up so we can overcome.
Finally, we have fellowship and accountability in the body of Christ for a reason. We can encourage, exhort, challenge and support one another in the Lord.
“And we urge you, brethren, to recognise those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no-one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” – [1 Thessalonians 5:12-15]
Conviction, if we recognise and respond to it, can be powerful. It gives us opportunity to draw closer to God, and makes our weaknesses strong in Him. May we welcome the Holy Spirit’s conviction and be continuously moulded more in the image of our God.