What Does Conviction Really Mean?

I often hear people say that they heard a sermon and it really convicted them.  When we think of the word convict (or conviction of sin) we tend to equate conviction with guilt.    In Bible study the other night our pastor said that the Holy Spirit’s job isn’t to heap guilt on us.  That got me thinking and I began to dig around to find out more about it.

John 16:8 is where we find the passage that talks about the Holy Spirit convicting the world.  “And He (the Holy Spirit), when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness, and judgment.”  The definition of convict in this sense is “to place the truth of the Gospel in clear light*”.

Jesus provides examples of this throughout His ministry.  Two stories come to mind rather quickly.  One is from John 4 where Jesus meets the woman at the well.  In talking to her He shares with her about the Living Water He can provide to her.  He doesn’t berate her for her lifestyle, but offers her a change of life that only He can.  We could say he “brought to light” her need of a Savior.  The other story is found in Luke 19 and tells of Christ’s response to Zacchaeus.  Being a Roman tax collector, Zacchaeus’ reputation was less than stellar.  The system of tax collection by the Roman’s “was open to abuse and extortion was common*”.   Upon seeing Zacchaeus, Jesus didn’t respond by calling him out for the corruption he was involved in.  He called him down from the tree so He could go to his house to stay.  Again, Christ shows love and the response of the sinner was to accept His salvation and turn from the path of sin he was on.

If Jesus didn’t heap guilt on sinners to receive the gift He came to die for and it isn’t the Holy Spirit’s job to heap guilt on us, then it sure isn’t our job to heap guilt on each other.  An old saying often comes to mind.  “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”.  Maybe the next time we feel like being critical or pointing out the sin in others lives, we should choose to show love instead.  It may just be what ends up turning their life around!

*Charles Ryrie

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2 Responses to What Does Conviction Really Mean?

  1. Linda McCain says:

    Very good insight.

  2. Nanette Kraus says:

    Love this post! So true, and yet it’s so much easier to point the finger at others to relieve ourselves of some of our own guilt.

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