1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.
There is no gentle way to put it, the conviction of sin stings; it is supposed to. God gives us the Holy Spirit for a very specific purpose, to guide us on our journey of sanctification. He is our Healer, our Strength, our Teacher. He loves us unconditionally and will remain with us beyond the end of times.
But just like all good teachers must do by the mere nature of their role, they give us a bad grade when we fail a test. In the case of terrestrial teachers they may in fact influence our ability to learn by not fully understanding how each individual learns best, but our Heavenly Father is perfect love, has perfect knowledge, and knows us intimately. He meets us where we are and He knows what we need, when we need it, and how to deliver it perfectly.
Our spiritual test will never be over till that magnificent day when we meet Him face to face. Whether we find ourselves in a mountain-top experience as a result of good choices and passing a trial, or suffering in pain over a failed opportunity to learn and grow, neither has any bearing at all on how much God loves us.
If our walk with God was supposed to be all lovey dovey feel good all the time we would get all A’s all the time. But we are sinners, and we must face the bad grades of rebuke and trials that come from poor choices and work harder to improve on them.
Some Christians live their faith out thinking now that we are in Christ we can go on living any way we want. Well we can’t. God does not negotiate on righteousness. We will be judged by the condition of our hearts, the works of our lives and the level of our righteousness.
Romans 2:6-7 He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
We must make the critical distinction in our hearts that we are not obeying God to earn love. We are born again and yes we are given new life by His grace alone.
It is true that in our ignorance as an unrepentent blind sinner life was easier, for once a Christian gives His life over to Christ and is taught the truth of love and righteousness we are called to be transformed and live a life that is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord.
Romans 12-2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
That’s not easy! God understands when we fall short, but He will judge those who stop picking up their cross daily and make a concerted effort to become more holy and pleasing in His sight every day. It is our efforts, our struggles, not just our desires that He sees. It is great to be convicted, but it is quite another thing to act, to be transformed by those convictions.
1 Thessalonians 4:2-7 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification:that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
For those like me who struggle with lust it must be dealt with. The world bombards us with sexual images and seductive advertising and lustful literature (50 Shades of Gray comes to mind; mommy porn). America has become no better than Sodom and Gomorrah spending billions of dollars on pornography, sex terms being the #1 search terms on Google, alternative lifestyles being taught in our children’s schools and the attempted destruction of marriage and family values in the court systems throughout the world.
1 Thessalonians 4:8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
God knows we are weak, but that is why he gave us the Holy Spirit, so in Him we can be strong. If we find ourselves repeating any form of conscious sin it is a matter of life and death.
We must deal harshly with conscious rebellious sin (addictions, compulsions, deceptions, denials) in this life or God will deal with it harshly in the next.
1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
The concern on my heart is not that we can travel too far away from God’s grace and forgiveness, but to share the conviction in my own life the critical distinction that God saves the repentant heart. To become complacent in our sin, to say that “God understands” and not change our ways and using weakness as an excuse is to give up the fight, is to throw away the very gift He is giving us. The cross sets us free so we don’t have to suffer in our sin any longer.
As I heard Joyce Meyer say not long ago, [paraphrased] “if we find ourselves stuck in the muck of childhood trauma and suffering years later over it, it is because we choose to, not because we have to“. Jesus died on the cross to atone for those sins, sins of others and our sins.
Yes it can take time to heal, but it so easy to assume the role as victim. If you want to know more about this, just ask me, I’ve done it very well for 30 years without even realizing it.
God came for the broken sinner so we could be transformed, renewed, born again, to live as His new creation. Jesus did not die so we could feel better about our sinful nature, but that we could overcome it. Forgiveness for past sins is the gift none of us deserve, but we grieve the Spirit every time we consciously choose to sin.
If our child continuously brought home D’s and F’s, or gets caught shoplifting over and over, do you love Him any less… no. But do you not ache over their poor choices, would you not do anything in your power to help them see the error in their ways, would their actions not come with consequences if their behavior continued. God loves us and His love comes with righteous judgment and rebuke when necessary. If we don’t want to feel guilt over sin, stop sinning.
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
We have free will and the choice is ours whether we want to bask in His glory or bake in His judgment. Both responses come from the same unconditional love He has for us. He loves us, do we love Him?
John 14:21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me, And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
For the person who acknowledges his sin and does everything in his power to be renewed there is strength, hope, and victory to be had on the journey; with that comes forgiveness and grace beyond description. But for those who sit in a pew each weak and claim to know Christ but whose life has no reflection of Holy Spirit within there should be cause for concern.
There is no harder or darker heart than the one that can listen to the Truth each week and yet not feel convicted over their own sinful nature. If we ever believe that we have moved beyond conviction then there can be no further sanctification, for our conscience filled with the Holy Spirit is God’s relentless prodding to push for greater victories, for His glory alone.
2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
Granted no two people’s walk will be the same, however God’s word has a specific purpose which is the same for all, a transformed life equipped for good works.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Conviction and rebuke is not something to rail against, it is something to be embraced. We can find great joy when we are called out by trusted brothers and sisters in Christ, for with awareness of our sinful nature should come the willingness to humbly admit it, face it, and by relying on the power of Christ in us we will be victorious to overcome it each time temptation arises.
Proverbs 13:1 A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
My prayer today brothers as always is that we take the time to listen to God’s quiet voice before it becomes an unavoidable hammer to the heart. God is always pushing us toward deeper water, greater heights, more profound life changing faith.
It is His convictions that carries us further down the road which He destined for us before time. Let us walk that road today, together, encourage one another with joy in our hearts and a song in our step, for we are loved beyond measure.