I have a faulty conscience – not that it doesn’t work, but that it works overtime. When I was a school and the headmistress was making those announcements about needing the girl who pushed the old lady on bus no. 37 to confess I always wanted to confess even though I walked home from school. I would make a terrible spy – under interrogation I’m sure I would break down and confess all sorts of things I never did. So with my heightened conscience I have never been particularly comfortable with the idea of the Holy Spirit role in convicting us of our sin. This last week I have been thinking about it a lot with Pentecost. (Pentecost sermons are here).
John 16:8-9 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me.
I read this and thought to myself surely I have enough guilt in my life. But on close inspection I have been wrong about this passage. The word convict has a negative connotation in my head – I think of people being convicted of some heinous crime and being thrown into prison to rot. But the meaning here is not to condemn and we have been promised that this won’t happen.
Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Instead this word convict can mean ‘to reprove’, ‘to convince’, ‘to reveal’, ‘to expose’ but also ‘to set right’ or ‘to point towards repentance’. The work of the Holy Spirit is not to condemn me, but to point out the right path or to challenge me to repent.
Calvin Miller states, ‘Malicious truth gloats like a conqueror. Loving truth mourns that it must confront and show a brother his error. Malicious truth struts at its power. Loving truth weeps to find that the correction it inspires may for a while cause great pain. Malicious truth cries ‘Checkmate, you are beaten!’ Loving truth whispers, ‘I correct you with the same pain you feel. But when the pain is over, we shall rejoice that honesty and love have been served.'”
Thank you Lord for the Holy Spirit who does not gloat over my weakness, but longs to steer me towards you.