The THM Prison Ministry often visits with inmates who believe because they have been “convicted” by man’s court this is somehow the final word. Because of being convicted in man’s court they cannot have a personal relationship with a Holy God … that somehow they have been “too bad”.
We will define the word “convicted” as “to find or prove to be guilty.”1 This is one of Satan’s greatest lies perpetrated on men and it is so powerful that it sets a barrier between man and God that is wrongly believed to be impenetrable. The interesting thing is this not only impacts men who are incarcerated but many men in the free world as well. They often say “My past has been too bad for God to be able to forgive me.” or “You don’t know the things that I have done.” and “God could never forgive me of those things.” Isn’t it amazing how we try to minimize the power of the God that created our universe? God’s Word gives us very specific instruction regarding this issue in the following passage:
“But now righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” 2
You see man’s court can only enforce man’s law but there is coming a time where man will no longer be the judge. There is a time coming where the Creator of the Universe, the God of all things, will sit in judgment. This is the court with which we should be most concerned. If a man is convicted by this court then he will be eternally separated from the Holy God who not only created him but provided a way through Jesus Christ to return to fellowship with Him.
So how is it that we are compelled to consider this personal relationship with Jesus Christ that God offers through His gift of grace? Paul tells us:
“But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” 3
Instead of “convicted” we are now talking about “conviction” that is brought about by the intervention of the Holy Spirit. We will define the word “conviction” as “the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth.”4 The Holy Spirit comes into our lives and as a result we receive “conviction” that leads to an understanding that a man cannot earn righteousness on his own but he needs someone with the capability of paying his sin debt no matter how small or how great it may be. Remember, in God’s eye’s it is all the same (sin is sin and Romans 3:23 tells “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”).
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” 5
Without this personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a man will receive what is described in Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” It is through this conviction that we realize that we have fallen short of the glory of God and if we were given what we have “earned” it would go beyond physical death and would include spiritual death. This spiritual death would mean eternal separation from our Heavenly Father.
While “conviction” plays a vital role in our salvation, it continues to play an equally vital role in our spiritual growth and maturity as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is through this desire to seek out the truth that we learn what it means to truly die to self and take on the likeness of Christ. Through our conviction from Jesus Christ we learn to grow in our confidence in Him and this confidence leads to greater and greater reliance upon Him.
“You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” 6
So why is this conviction so important? Because it is conviction that lets us know when we have allowed something to interfere with our “right relationship” with our Heavenly Father. Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we could do something sinful and have no guilt reaction unless we got caught. Then we would only have remorse for getting caught … not for committing the act. Conviction, through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, leads us to recognize our wrong doing which leads to a desire to confess our sins and repent (meaning turn away from). It is conviction that helps us follow the passage that says:
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 7
Conviction leads to confidence and the Prophet Jeremiah tells us “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.8”
So if conviction leads to confidence and confidence leads to a man being blessed. To be blessed God’s men must open themselves to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in every aspect and every part of our lives. Paul provides a great summary when he wrote
“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 9
So, are you living your live as “convicted” or under “conviction?” It is not over until God says it is over. If you seek the conviction of the Holy Spirit and allow it to move in your life as only God can do, then conviction can be a wonderful gift that can lead to salvation and spiritual growth.
There is coming a day when God will be sitting at the judgment seat and in this final day in court being “convicted” has grave and eternal consequences. So the choice is yours … you can choose to accept a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. He forgives all your sin and through Him the payment is made on your behalf by His sacrifice on the cross. Or you can choose to ignore the Holy Spirit’s conviction and accept the consequence of eternal separation from the God that created you. My prayer is that you will choose wisely and accept the grace and mercy readily available to those who call upon the name of the LORD for salvation.
Holy Spirit, I pray that You will bring God’s men under Your conviction. Guide and direct us so that we fulfill the role God has planned for each of us. Give us wisdom, discernment and courage to be the Godly men the world so desperately needs right now. Allow us to live out our conviction to you Father in such a way that men desire to have what we have found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. AMEN.
(1) Merriam-Webster online dictionary, 2012, An Encyclopedia Britannica Company
(2 Romans 3:21-31 All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV 1984 translation of the Holy Bible
(3) Romans 5:15-17
(4) Merriam-Webster online dictionary, 2012, An Encyclopedia Britannica Company
(5) 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6
(6) 2 Corinthians3:3-5
(7) 1 John 4:16-18
(8) Jeremiah 17:7
(9) 2 Corinthians 5:6-15