Saturday, October 25, 2008

Convicting of Judgment

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this interrupted series based on John 16:8, we've talked about recognizing Gavel2Image via Wikipedia the true ministry of the Holy Spirit versus counterfeits. We've talked about how He convicts the world of sin and of righteousness.

Today we continue this series with the fact that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment.

I guess that means He wouldn't be welcome in most places, including in many churches.

That may also mean that this blog will be unwelcome on some computer screens, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. Why? Read what God said to the prophet Ezekiel in Eze. 3:18-21.

When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.

There are warnings to be given, and there are severe consequences for those who refuse to give out that warning when they should. But there can also be joy in this message, and it's infinitely precious.

The fact is, before we can appreciate the good news, we've got to come face-to-face with the bad news. (More on that subject here.) So here's some of the stuff that's hard to read, coming from the mouth of none other than our Lord Jesus.

"Whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. 5:22)

"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matt. 7:19)

"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment." (Matt. 12:36)

"The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 13:41-42)

To keep this entry from getting too long, I'll stop there. But if you want to read more, just hover your mouse over these verse addresses: Matt. 5:28-30, Matt. 7:21-23, Matt. 18:23-35. They're not a complete list, but they give the idea.

When Jesus spoke those words, crowds of people stood around and listened. And since those words were written down, countless millions have read them.

For some people, these words have led to disdain for Christianity. They have rejected it as harsh and unloving.

For some it has led to rejecting certain portions of Scripture, while continuing to accept the parts they like. (And they fail to realize that the parts they like become grossly distorted without their missing counterparts.)

For some it has led to fearful legalism, the desire to protect themselves from God's judgment by jumping through religious hoops of some kind.

For some it has led to a healthy fear of the Lord, repentance, forgiveness, faith, and love.

What makes the difference?

It's the Holy Spirit. He convicts the world of judgment. And the key word there is "convicts." It's a heart-work, not the mere delivery of a message. The heart change required to respond properly to God is a precious gift, to be received with thanksgiving.

I speak from very personal experience. I grew up in the Word, enjoyed memorizing it from an early age, and often shared my Biblical insights with others. Yet I had the uncomfortable awareness, down in dark corners of my heart, that no supernatural transformation had ever taken place in me. Sometimes, when I would be expounding truth to others, my heart would tug at me. That hasn't been your experience.

When I read Biblical warnings of judgment, I usually reacted in a purely academic fashion. Nothing emotional. After all, I "believed," so none of that applied to me. If I did respond emotionally, it would either be with avoidance, resentment of this 'judgmental God," or the uneasy feeling that I needed to do better so I could feel reassured.

Then, finally, came the day that everything changed. I'll tell you about that next time.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts, or what is your story? Please leave a comment by clicking on the underlined "comments" link below.

(By the way, it has come to my attention that some people were unable to post comments earlier in the week. I had recently made a change in how Blogger handled comments, and evidently it wasn't working. I have changed back to a different setting now, and hopefully that has fixed the problem. If you tried to leave any comments and weren't able to do so, please feel free to try again.)

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