That Which Convicts

So Russ Hutto wrote this post yesterday, where he explained how he was playing a gig out, and the other musician (who professed to be a Christian) felt that he had to "explain" why he was playing secular music. Russ was wondering why the man felt he had to explain himself. What followed was a lively discussion on the topic.

It got me thinking. A lot of the comments, including mine, mentioned "conviction." So I started thinking: "When did we Christians get all this guilt? Weren't we supposed to be freed from guilt by the Work of the Cross? Now, as I've mentioned, I grew up an Irish Catholic. No one does guilt better than New York Irish Catholics. But why do we feel so bad about mundane things?

The root of the problem, as it were, is in the Gospel of John, chapter 16, which reads: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." So there you have it.

When doing a study of Scripture, it is a necessity to figure out what the author actually said, in their own words. To do this, it's good to use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. (I use my trusty e-Sword.) Looking up the passage in question, we see that the word "convict" is rendered from the Greek word elegcho, which means literally "admonish: - convict, convince, tell a fault, rebuke, reprove." So Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that one job of the Spirit is to let us know when we are doing something wrong.

This is not meant, however, to bring guilt. The Bible is clear that "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. " (Rom 8:1-2) So if this conviction is not meant to bring condemnation, then why do we feel so lousy when we do something wrong? Why do we feel lousy when we do something that is not so wrong? Doesn't the Bible say all things are lawful? In fact it does, but read the whole thing: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify." (1Cor 10:23)

You see, there can be debate over some things. Now the Ten Commandments, they are set in stone. (punny, I know...) But things like what music to listen to, to drink or not, to get tattoos or not, to worship on Saturday or Sunday... these are things that we each need to seek God's will in for us. For some, listening to non-Christian music is fine. For others, it's a stumbling block. As it says in Phillippians 2, we need to all "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."

Remember also, God holds us to our words. If I say that secular music is not for me, that I think all music should lift up God; then I go an pop in an Aerosmith cd, the Spirit will remind me of my words. I didn't have to say it, but if I did, I'm accountable for it. So maybe the man in question had said something, testified to something, preached on something about worldly music. And now, he was being reminded of that.

Readers, the conviction of the Spirit is not meant for guilt, but to gently remind us of the way to God. It's like a TomTom. The direction is there, gently prodding, more if we ignore it. But He should be a welcome friend to you. After all, the word used by John for the Holy Spirit is parakletos. Catholics refer to the Spirit as the Paraklete. (No, not parakeet. Like I've never heard that one!) The word literally means "An intercessor, consoler: - advocate, comforter." Where's the guilt in that?

Save the guilt for when you cheat on your diet....


  1. Great encouragement man. The conversation is still raging on this morning. Definitely given me a lot to think about. About why he felt the need to explain. About why I was bothered by it. About my desire to be flexible in the future. Good stuff. Thanks for the link!

  2. Good stuff man ... def. a difference between "conviction" of the Holy Spirit, and guilt.

    For the Kingdom,
    Fred McKinnon


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