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If we mute or ignore the “conviction alarm,” we delay our response time to fix our transgression. In the worst of cases, if we do not respond at all, we can do irreparable harm to our souls. To not experience or react to conviction is to be susceptible to spiritual hardness (1 Timothy 4:2; Hebrews 3:7, 4:7).
As you might imagine, if there were no conviction for our transgressions, it would be like cutting your arm and not feeling it. Though the concept of “guilt and conviction” feels terrible, it would be far worse if you felt nothing at all. Nobody wants to feel bad about what they did, but which is worse: pretending there is nothing wrong or being aware of a problem?
Even the natural (non-Christian) people can know when they are doing the wrong things, per Paul’s teaching in Romans 2:14-15. Christians have an additional sensibility to sin because of the convicting power of the Spirit of God. See Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19.
God’s standard is the Bible. We call it the law, truth, precepts, and principles. (Read Psalm 119) The Scriptures instruct us on how to live our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It’s also called the canon, which means the rule. The Bible is a perfect picture that we can view to learn how to order and live our lives.
In addition to God’s Word, He also gave us a conscience, which acts as an inner voice. Your conscience is the “moral thermostat” that sends “ethical signals” to let you know if you’re living inside or outside of His standard, the Bible. Whether a believer or non-believer, we are not in the dark about living a moral life (Romans 1:20).
The word “conscience” comes from Latin, which means “co-knowledge.” The Father gave humanity a “voice” to guide us. Of course, when you toss sin into the mix, things can go sideways quickly. Sin acts as a dulling agent, which desensitizes a person from feeling biblical conviction. When this happens, your soul begins to drift from God’s good intentions for you.
The conscience and God’s Word work in concert. For example, when I break one of His moral laws, my conscience sends me an alarm to let me know about it. At that moment, I have to make a decision. Will I respond positively, which will lead to repentance, or will I ignore the signal?
Repentance is God’s plan for me to find immediate relief, which is the portal to the ultimate restoring of my relationship with Him, and with others (if I have sinned against them). My response to conviction is a confession: I “agree with God” that I have done wrong, and I want to do something about it. I am acknowledging my mistake, misdeed, misjudgment, or whatever I want to call the violation of His Truth.
Confession puts me on the same page with the Lord. At this point, God will freely forgive me of my sin based on the death of Christ on the cross. In this scenario, guilt, conviction, and confession serve a fantastic and redemptive purpose in my life; they permit me to be a free man again.
According to 1 John 1:9, we learn the valuable truth that if a person confesses his sin to God, the good Lord is faithful to forgive the transgressor of that evil act and cleanse him from his unrighteousness. The way the Lord does this is by placing the sin on Jesus.
The real test is whether or not you believe this core gospel truth. Do you accept what Christ did on the cross as sufficient to pay for the sin you have committed? I’m asking if you believe the gospel. This juncture in your spiritual life determines if you will choose to reconcile with God and possibly others.
Some Christians struggle with the fact that they do not have to do anything to be free from their sin. They believe that “restoration and release” from their sin must cost them something. Some call their lack of doing something cheap or easy grace. What they do not understand is that it was not cheap at all. Their sin cost Christ His life.
The Father executed His Son on behalf of a sinful world. Someone had to pay, and that person was Jesus Christ. If you do not accept God’s plan for forgiveness, your only option is to step into the place of God, to become “a god,” a redeemer of your sin.
Rather than you accepting God’s plan for your salvation and sanctification, you put yourself in the place of the Lord. You are the one who decides where, when, and how you will experience forgiveness. Do you see the problem with this heretical theology?
To not accept God’s forgiveness is to make a mockery of the cross. In such a case, the Father’s punishment of the Son on the cross was not enough for you. This error in judgment makes you a legalist, a person who must do something in addition to Christ’s payment.
Sin against God is an infinite crime against an infinite being. Thus, the infinite Father had to punish the infinite Son for our infinite crime. The infinite Savior paid the infinite price for our infinite sin. When someone breaks the law, the lawbreaker does not determine the payment. There has to be a judge who determines the cost of the crime. In this case, the Lord was the Judge, and the determination was that the cost was infinite.
If you are not willing to accept the infinite payment, which was the punishment of the infinite Son for an infinite crime, there is no hope for you because there is nothing you can add as payment for your sin. I trust what I’ve said here is clear to you. Christ is enough to cover your sin, no matter what the sin is. Your transgression is not more significant than God’s ability to script out a plan that He says is enough to pay for what you did wrong.
To believe otherwise is to elevate your sin and your plan to “pay for your sin” higher than Jesus’s work on the cross. The Father put His one and only Son on the cross as the payment plan for sin. There is nothing else for you to do but believe. My question to you is straightforward: Do you believe the gospel?
I trust you don’t miss the ironic interplay happening here: conviction was the “bad feeling” that led you to the cross, and it is the cross of Christ that gives you your best feeling because of the freedom and power of His unmerited (unearned) and unlimited (infinite) forgiveness.
Though the Lord places the gospel on the “lower shelf” of our lives so anyone can see and grasp it, not every person accepts it or lives in its freedom. This article is not about all of the possible counter-arguments or every person’s struggle with guilt, conviction, confession, and forgiveness, but only one thing: will you believe the gospel?
But I do want to highlight a few of those other issues, perchance they are part of your struggle, so you can do more reflective study. If you do struggle with some of these issues, please find someone to help you work through them.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).