But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
- – Romans 3;21-24 (the Message)
“Conviction of sin is best portrayed in the words —
“’My sins, my sins, my Saviour,
How sad on Thee they fall.’
“Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man. It is the threshold of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict of sin, and when the Holy Spirit rouses a man’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not his relationship with men that bothers him, but his relationship with God — ‘against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.’ Conviction of sin, the marvel of forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven man who is the holy man, he proves he is forgiven by being the opposite to what he was, by God’s grace. Repentance always brings a man to this point: ‘I have sinned.’ The surest sign that God is at work is when a man says that and means it. Anything less than this is remorse for having made blunders, the reflex action of disgust at himself.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I used the Message for the passage in Romans 3. I finally finished reading all the Message on the day that I wrote this, so I thought it fitting. We have all sinned. We need to come to Jesus, but these are empty words until the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin.
As a Presbyterian, the idea of predestination and members of the elect comes into conversation from time to time, not often. For those outside the Presbyterian church, probably 99+% of Presbyterians, by virtue of membership, have no clue – regarding the concept of predestination. For me, the discussions of predestination versus free will have been interesting, but unsatisfying.
One pastor that I dearly love explained to a class one time that souls are predestined. If we choose with our free will to deny Jesus, the soul that God had intended to save in us would pass to someone else. Nope. Not buying that one.
A pastor did say once that if he were a general and he could study the Book of Life, he would place all the elect-but not yet saved on the front lines. They could not die because they had not accepted Jesus yet. It would be an invincible army.
But joking aside, as a true believer, it becomes a struggle reconciling free will with being an elected chosen child of God before time began. There is Scripture to back that up. For example, Jeremiah was chosen before he was born (Jeremiah 1:5).
But Chambers seems to explain the conviction of sin well. It is a miracle as described by Eric Metaxis, in Miracles. And as Chambers describes, it is quite rare.
For me, it was a year-long torment. Looking back on that time, I cannot think of any choice, any act of free will, that I could eventually make except for a total surrender to Jesus. The Holy Spirit was that relentless. I look upon people who had been like me, always going to church. They say that they have always been a Christian, yet they do not know of this soul crushing conviction of sin. It causes me to pause, and pray for them.
As Chambers finished the quote above, there is a vast difference in conviction of sin followed by repentance and, on the other side, feeling remorseful, for, during a brief moment, you got a glimpse that you might not be as perfect as you think that you are.
In my recent studies on the subject, I have had two feelings challenged within me regarding evangelism. The first is that in dealing with family members that reject Jesus, I would get angry, frustrated, etc. I would cry out to God that it is inconceivable that they just don’t get it, but it is the Holy Spirit that produces this conviction within them, not me. I cannot be calm and watch people that I love go down the road to Hell, but God is sovereign and I am not. I need to combat those feelings within me.
The other feeling regards when dealing with the general public – people that I do not have a vested interest in, other than God made everything. Why feel defeated when people hear what you have to say or read what you wrote without accepting Jesus? Tim Holman, the beard with a blog, said a few months ago that this feeling of defeat is not warranted. The process from hearing the word of God to the point of salvation requires a lot of steps, a lot of things must fall into place. If step 10 is salvation (for example), we can feel victory for helping someone get from step 3 to step 4.
All of it is in God’s hands anyway.
At the start of the Chambers’ quote, he quotes an old hymn, fifty years old when he quoted it over 100 years ago. Jesus came to earth to perform a mission, to save us. Why did we need saving? Our sin. The entire hymn deals with that. The first words of the hymn are what I felt when the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sins. They had a hold on me, unable to look up, unable to see, other than seeing Jesus, who died for me.
My sins, my sins, my Savior!
They take such hold on me,
I am not able to look up,
Save only, Christ, on Thee;
In Thee is all forgiveness,
In Thee abundant grace,
My shadow and my sunshine
The brightness of Thy face.
My sins, my sins, my Savior!
How sad on Thee they fall;
Seen through Thy gentle patience,
I tenfold feel them all;
I know they are forgiven,
But still, their pain to me
Is all the grief and anguish
They laid, my Lord, on Thee.
My sins, my sins, my Savior!
Their guilt I never knew
Till with Thee in the desert
I near Thy passion drew;
Till with Thee in the garden
I heard Thy pleading prayer,
And saw the sweat-drops bloody
That told Thy sorrow there.
Therefore my songs, my Savior,
E’en in this time of woe,
Shall tell of all Thy goodness
To suff’ring man below;
Thy goodness and Thy favor,
Whose presence from above
Rejoice those hearts, my Savior,
That live in Thee and love.
– John S. B. Monsell, My Sins, My Sins, My Savior
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.