September 14, 2011

Responding to conviction

The police said that this outcome was unheard of; a child abductor returning a boy to his home, safe and unharmed, but it happened this week. Speculation abounds concerning why. This morning’s news says this person has now been arrested so he may give his reasons. However, I suspect he brought the child home because he could not bear the pressure in his own heart.

The family of this little boy attends a Christian church. No doubt they were praying. Besides that, hundreds of people have been praying for them and their child, even for the person who went into their home and took him from his bed. And God answers prayer.

When an unsaved person is the subject in a bombardment of prayer, God’s answer can be to deeply convict them of sin. This is done by the Holy Spirit. While some people might shake off a mild version, deep conviction usually produces drastic results. A few may even commit suicide. Some will try to make amends for what they have done. The desired result is that the person falls on their knees before God, confessing their sin, repenting and crying out to God for forgiveness.

David was one of the latter. While God called him a “man after my own heart” this did not mean he was perfect. However, when he sinned, he hated it, which is like God. Here is what David says about forgiveness and the effects of deep conviction.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:1–5)
I don’t know if the man who took that little boy felt the heaviness of God’s hand on him, but I would not be surprised. Why else would make a convicted child molester turn from his plans and instead do what thousands of praying people were asking God for? What would make such a person change their mind?

I know the power of conviction. It can be an almost oppressive sense of being wrong, of doing wrong. Because I also know the blessedness of forgiveness and having my sin covered, I know what to do with conviction. It requires confession and abandoning the sin, going a different direction. Because I am in Christ, I know that God forgives me.

God has shown me His power to redeem and turn me around. Because of that, conviction is one of His guides for my life. When I err, I usually know what I did and what I need to do about it, but sometimes the conviction is there and I am not sure. For this I can also go to God and ask Him to clarify. Is this some sort of false guilt (one of Satan’s tricks) or is it real? And if it is real, what did I do?

Verse 6 from this psalm says, “Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found.” This tells me that going to God is a good idea, but also hints to quickly do it. If ignored, conviction can deepen, but that sense of guilt can also be pushed to the back burner. Instead of the forgiveness and freedom that come with confession, it becomes a dull ache in the heart, like a lump that should not be there. This lump of unconfessed sin has damaging effects on the whole person. Health can fail. Energy wanes and lifelessness takes over. The weight of it produces relationship problems and even confusion. As David learned, it is far better to talk to God about sin than let it drain my vitality.

Lord, I don’t know about that child abductor’s motivations, but I do know that he needs You. Everyone does. We all sin, perhaps not as he did, but the degree of sin is not the issue. With You, sin is sin. We all do it and we all need forgiveness and cleansing. I pray that for him and for others caught in the web of sin, but also under the power of conviction. Show them the way of confession and the power of Your forgiveness. Release them by Your mercy and grace.

I also thank you for teaching me the blessing of forgiveness and justification. This happens to all who call upon You, regardless of what they have done. Your goodness astounds me each day. I am so thankful that You have lifted the weight of sin from me, putting it on Christ who was able to take and conquer its punishment on my behalf. Because of Him, those who come to You with sin are incredibly blessed with forgiveness and the promise of spending eternity with You.

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