Yesterday I promised to tell you about the day that changed everything. If you haven't read yesterday's entry, "Convicting of Judgment," please do that first, and then come back here.
I'd been a "Christian" for decades. I may have looked fairly good if people didn't look too closely, and I could truly say I wasn't guilty of any of the big outward sins (you know, I didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't cheat on my husband, that sort of thing). Yet I had no real victory over the sins that I did indulge in, no love for God Himself, no joy or peace in tribulation, no signs of the Holy Spirit at work in my life.
In fact, I pretty much loved me, myself, and I, and any sin that served me. My sins may have not been on the "Comfortable 21st Century American Christians' Big Bad No-No List," but they reeked in God's nostrils.
Well, I guess I can't say that there were no signs of the Holy Spirit at work. As I've said before, the Spirit was working on me. But the best way I can think to describe it is that He was working on me from the outside, not yet from the inside. And any time that I had the good sense to wonder if I really was saved, I would pray with an unspoken attitude that said, "I hope God will be reasonable, do right by me, and make sure I'm really going to Heaven." My head-knowledge would have known better than to say something like that, but my heart lived there.
That changed one night.
I lay in bed feeling the Spirit's conviction about my love for my sin. He seemed to be peeling off layers of denial and opening my eyes to the depth of my depravity. After a while my soul sank down with the knowledge...no, the certainty that God would be absolutely within His rights to condemn me eternally. He would be just if He did so. I truly deserved no better.
I didn't just think this in my head. I felt it in my heart.
How do I know it was the Spirit, and not just a self-generated guilt trip? Well, in addition to all of the previously discussed differences between conviction and guilt trips, there was also this:
For the first time, true faith dawned.
You see, when the Spirit showed me my own hopeless depravity, He also showed me Christ's mercy as my one and only hope. That was one of the most wonderful gifts the Spirit has ever given me. I felt, for the first time, the preciousness of God's grace and mercy. Whereas before I had intellectually assented to some facts about Christ, on this blessed night I threw my helpless soul completely onto His mercy, knowing that if He didn't catch me, I would fall into the inferno.
That leap in my heart was saving faith.
He caught me, and nothing has ever been the same.
I can't tell you how long ago that was, because I seem to have lost all ability to judge the passage of time. But it couldn't have been more than a few years ago.
And what about now?
I still have weaknesses for sins. Satan still has the ability to pull the wool over my eyes. And I know that I have a long, long way to grow. BUT...
My insides feel different. My priorities are changing. Old bitternesses are healing. Loyalty to God is growing. I feel a newly-budding desire to love others. Sin's grip on my affections is loosening.
God is at work. And when He decides to do something, He does it. Who is going to stop Him? So while I have a long way to go, and I know I won't "arrive" while I'm on this earth, I feel ever-increasing confidence in what He (not I) will do.
Not everyone will have the same salvation experience. If we did, then each of us should have had a blinding light strike us, like what happened to Paul (Acts 9:3). Of course that's not the case. But there are certain things that will be a part of every true Christian's life. And among those will be the Spirit's work of conviction about sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
Christians, let's never shy away from speaking the truth in love, even unpopular truths about such things as sin or judgment. Remember God's warning to Ezekiel (Eze. 3:18-21). You might even want to memorize it. The Holy Spirit is the one who applies such truths to people's hearts, and He may even do it as a result of something you've shared. You will not lose your reward.
To those of you who may not be believers, my prayer is that God will grant you the precious gifts we've been discussing in this series, and will bring you to the point of receiving the very greatest that He has to offer...the gift of Himself.
(Photo from Stock.xchng by Scyza)