Stiff-arming God when we need Him most

June 20, 2011

Doctrine, Sin, The Holy Spirit


Even though I have been saved to new life, justified by the blood of Christ, and am currently being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, I still sin. I don’t want to, but I still do it anyway. If I were to be brutally honest with myself, I would have to admit that at times I actually choose to sin. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes,

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13

As encouraging as this verse may be, it also illustrates my previous point. I choose to sin. It seems that the moment after sin has run it’s course in my life I become acutely aware of the “way of escape” that was provided to me. No matter how many times I replay that moment in my mind, the result is always the same. I saw the way of escape and instead of taking it I chose to sin. In this moment there are two forces, with drastically different outcomes, attempting to influence my response to this sin. One is conviction, and the other is condemnation. At times it can be difficult to tell the difference.

Condemnation is defined as the state of being declared reprehensible, wrong, or evil, and in regards to the Christian’s sin it is straight from the pit of hell. Satan is described in Revelation 12:10 as being the accuser of the brethren. When we sin, the enemy is there whispering in our ear how wrong it was for us to have done that. How evil that sin was. How reprehensible we must be in the eyes of God because of it. This inevitably leads the Christian to believe that they are unable to return to a place of intimacy with the Father. There is a general feeling of needing to clean ones self up before drawing near to the Lord again. The end result is that in the moment when we need Him most, we hold God at arms length. In doing so we compound the problem in two ways.

  1. We are most prone to sin when there is a lack of intimacy with God. The longer we hold Him at arms length, the more apt we are to repeat the offenses that caused us to withdraw from Him in the first place.
  2. By attempting to clean ourselves up before turning to the Lord, we are effectively attempting perform for ourselves what only the blood of Jesus is able to do on our behalf: Cleanse us of our sin.

This puts the Christian in a tailspin, stuck in a downward spiral of sin and condemnation, refusing to accept restoration of intimacy with God.

Conviction on the other hand is defined as the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth, and is the work of the Holy Spirit. This work is two fold.

  1. The Spirit convinces us of the error of our ways. He points out our sin. God does not hide our sin from us. Instead He works through our sin to reveal how much we need Him. In this we see the second half of the Spirits work through conviction.
  2. True conviction compels the sinner to admit the truth in its entirety. This means that we admit not only the problem, but the solution as well. It is only through the cross of Christ that we are cleansed of our sin.

The end result of this admission is that we are drawn to the foot of the cross in true repentance. Where condemnation causes us to keep God at arms length, conviction turns us towards His open arms. A desire for repentance and restoration of relationship are the defining characteristics of conviction.

We see the battle between condemnation and conviction portrayed in John 8:1-11.

A woman who was caught in adultery is brought before Jesus. The scribes and the Pharisees, looking to trap Jesus and undermine His message of grace, refer back to the Levitical law which commands that such a woman be stoned. Surrounded by her accusers, this woman feels dirty, ashamed, and most certainly condemned. In answer to her accusers Jesus says, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” As He stoops and begins to write in the dust, one by one her accusers walk away. Left alone with the woman Jesus asks, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. From now on sin no more.”

The accusers could not stand before the Lord, and so it is with the enemy. We see clearly in the response of Jesus to this woman that God does not condemn us. Feelings of condemnation always stem from the accuser. In Jesus’ last words to the woman we see a conviction leading to repentance. “From now on sin no more.” Jesus doesn’t overlook the sin. He acknowledges it as what it is, convincing the woman of her error. Then He calls her to repentance, to turn from her sin and sin no more.

The most important thing is simply being able to recognize when we have been caught up in condemnation. If we are unable to see it, we are unable to turn from it. So the question is, what do we do when we are feeling condemned? Turn to the Lord. It’s as simple as that. There is no multi-step process that we must go through to lift the feelings of condemnation. Just turn to the Lord and His open arms.

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About Brandon Cantello

Husband to Nicole, Lover of God, Dependent on the Spirit, Passion for His Church. My name is Brandon. I love Jesus. For more visit My Blog

View all posts by Brandon Cantello

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