Conviction – a powerful emotion we have to handle carefully
Conviction. It is the word used to describe a judgment handed down from a court on someone who has been charged and indicted as ‘guilty’. It can also be used to describe the core values in a person’s heart – knowing right from wrong, etc. But, it is also what you and I go through when we do something we know is wrong (conviction over our sin, in general or specific) – something goes off inside of us, and grabs us and shakes us, and we are overcome with a sense of healthy guilt that should inspire us to confess and correct what we did that was wrong – some do, some don’t. But, even still, conviction over sin is a powerful motivation – it causes some to so completely change that they are amazingly and refreshingly different from how they used to be, while others, it drives them to become more rebellious, drink more, do more drugs, live up life – find any way they can to run from the ‘little voice’ inside them.
The connotation of that word that I’m using here is most often used when referring to our conscience and our inner understanding of what’s right and wrong, because God has written His 10 Commandments on our hearts. It shows itself in the bodily response when we here that ‘little voice’ in our heads (conscience in general, Holy Spirit in those who are God’s children) say ‘what you just did is wrong’, and then we get nervous, look around to see if anyone is watching, though we cannot easily shake the ‘caught’ feeling… - I’m sure we can all visualize that quite well! So, with that said, let’s look briefly at some Biblical examples of those who responded well to conviction and those who didn’t, that way we may be able to grow in our own proper response to it when we recognize it.
In Genesis, the conviction in Cain’s heart caused him to get angry (a normal reaction), but then instead of getting it right, Cain did this: “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance [face] fell. So the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’ Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him…”
~ Genesis 4:4-8
** Notes: God did not play favorites here, Cain (in pride) just didn’t give his best to God. In addition to that, Cain then decided that he would rather murder his own brother than confess his own pride and rebellion against God. This is not the only time this happened in Scripture, and there are many examples of it. So, let’s look at a few more, to see if we can learn more.
“And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him…”
~ Luke 15:28
** Notes: again, we see pride and conviction, which comes out in the words of the brother of the ‘prodigal son’, showing that he was not serving his Dad out of a pure heart, but with self-centered motivations.
“’Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.’ Then His disciples came and said to Him [Jesus], ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’… Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.’”
~ Matthew 15:11-12, 14
** Notes: Jesus’ teaching was so clearly exposing that God does get excited about things done in His honor without the right heart, a heart that wants to please Him. This teaching exposed the hypocrisy of the religious teachers of Jesus’ day, and they didn’t like that, for they said basically you can do whatever you want, as long as you keep these rules, and apparently also taught something that helped people easily excuse their bad attitudes – but, though the people liked this type of teaching, it was wrong. And Jesus, God-in-human flesh, clearly said so. The religious leaders, rather than humbly admit that they had it wrong, and that God is/was right, they instead got ‘offended’. That’s stage one.
An example of stage 2:
“But the Pharisees said, "He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.’”
~ Matthew 9:34
** Notes: Simple tactic – convince those who are hearing good preaching that the preacher is a liar and just sounds good. This happens quite often with the clear preaching of God’s Word, because we, humans, prefer to dodge and push away conviction, rather than correct the problem of our rebellion.
“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?”
~ Matthew 22:18
** Notes: Here we see again, same tactic – different angle. Here we see the hypocritical teachers tried to catch Jesus on a contradiction in His words. Why? Because, they rationalized within themselves, that if they could just prove that He did sometimes contradict Himself, then they could dismiss His convicting teaching and go on with their hidden rebellious ways. The problem? They were talking with God – in person. He, unlike them, never lies, never temps someone to sin. So, did they trap Him with His Words? Nope. But, they did get themselves in more trouble, as shows later on. And, btw, this is just one example of their craftiness to try to ‘disprove’ the Preacher rather than confess and forsake their sin. That is, as I see it, stage two – try to dismiss the preacher to excuse sin. So, let’s look at the next stage – this is really where the choice of repentance or rebellion shows up – 2 results.
“Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.’”
~ Matthew 26:3-5
** Notes: Again, the same choice as Cain showed – murder the one who is speaking the truth and calling for repentance, and a growth in obedience to God and His Word. Not everyone gets to this point, but many at least think about it, and the movies help them to plan and/or fantasize about it, as well. Getting revenge our way is always wrong.
But, there is another choice/result to this same conviction… let’s look at the other pattern.
“And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’”
~ Luke 24:32
** Notes: That is what the 2 on the Road to Emmaus said after talking with Jesus, right after His resurrection, and they did not recognize him for a while, but talked with Him and listened to His teaching. When you and I find a preacher of God’s Word who is teaching God’s Word clearly and growing in obedience to Him, God’s Word burns within us – it hurts, it brings conviction, it races our heartbeat, it expose the things that are wrong in the activities of doing what is ‘right in our own eyes’. God’s Word burns. If we are listening to someone and there is no or little conviction, we are not hearing the Word of God clearly taught, no matter how good they sound – they are not teaching the whole counsel of God’s Word. And, when we hear the clear Word of God and are under conviction, we had better not reject that conviction and continue in our rebellion, because if we harden our hearts too far, He not walk with us, until our hearts are tender toward desiring to please Him again.
“Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate [set apart], says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’”
~ 2nd Corinthians 6:17
I should also note here that when we feel the best about us, and our ‘self-esteem’ (pride) is built up and we have a boastful confidence in ourselves – we need to watch out, for that is the most unholy feeling we can ever feel. But, when we feel guilty and unworthy of His love and grace, and want to correct our wrongs (from a genuine heart), that is the most holy feeling we ever have. As we can see, our culture has it backwards. Satan’s system is backwards, and we need to always keep that in mind.
As I hope you can see, the best solution (here and in eternity) is daily confession, repentance, honesty before God, humility – willing to learn, and a growth in self-control to suppress our wrong rebellious wants and heart-attitudes.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
~ 1st John 1:9
** Notes: We cannot make Him a liar, but when we try to, we prove that we are the liars and He is blameless, holy, and upright.
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
~ Acts 2:37-38
And I think that is a fitting passage to wrap up on, for it captures both the honest humble response, and then, the next step of what we should all do, especially when we see clearly God’s gracious correction and our rebellious wants/desires/motivations/words/actions.
Till next time, let’s keep growing in hunger and thirst for His Word, humble obedience to Him, and in boldness and clarity in effectively proclaiming and explaining His truth to all who will hear us.
a growing servant/life-slave of Jesus, SH