Conviction and the cure
My pastors have been preaching through Exodus, and just finished ten weeks in the ten commandments. They have done an incredible job of helping us to feel the weight and glory of God’s holiness; but without letting us forget that the law sits on the bedrock foundation of the gospel (“I am the Lord your God, who brought you . . . out of the house of slavery”), and that our reading of the law absolutely must be infused with gospel hope.
Yet it is still so tempting for me to hear such a message and nurse my conviction, without really going any farther. Perhaps I resolve to change some things, but in reality my ears are tuning out the very gospel hope and power that are the only way I can possibly move beyond conviction. Mark Lauterbach critiques his sermons on this point, but we should also critique our listening — are our ears tuned in to savor conviction, or savor the gospel:
Is conviction of sin the measure of a sermon? … I used to notice that people would give me the most response to a sermon that was the most demanding. “Oh Pastor, that was such a wonderful sermon, I was so very convicted.” Should I have found this encouraging?
[But] while conviction is a gift to us, it is always conviction to lead people to the cross. I know the arguments about people needing to be slain by the law — and agree that awareness of need of forgiveness is crucial. But if I leave them there, I have not been faithful to the Savior. Conviction should drive people to the cross — and they should leave with hope toward the Savior.
We want to welcome the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and repent, but we shouldn’t get off the bus there. Our conviction should drive us to look upward to our Savior rather than inward on our sin; the gospel is our only hope and power for forgiveness and for real change.
How do we make that something more than a mantra? How can we practically seize this gospel power to change? Here are some regular practices that can strengthen our faith and empower our obedience; please comment to add more:
- Regularly recount the gospel to ourselves, thanking God that our sins are completely forgiven and that we approach him clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
- Regularly acknowledge that whatever success we have in obedience is a gift from God.
- Regularly pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to change, knowing that this grace and help will surely be given to us because of the cross.
- Remind ourselves of the reasons that we should obey. Regularly feed our souls with these truths as a way of provoking joyful, grateful, faith-filled obedience:
- God is my creator, and he is good; he knows what is best for me.
- True and lasting joy are only found in God and in pleasing him; these idols that I cling to cannot compare to God’s glory and beauty and goodness and joy.
- God has saved me from condemnation and wrath, and my gratitude at this precious gift should overflow in obedience.
- God is my loving father and I should reflect his character.
- Christ has purchased my very life with his blood and I should reflect his character.
- The Holy Spirit indwells me and empowers me to reflect Christ’s character.
- Read books that fuel our appreciation for the gospel and our love for God, such as Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel For Real Life, C. J. Mahaney’s Living the Cross Centered Life, and John Piper’s When I Don’t Desire God (download, purchase).
Crossposted to Reflections on Upchurch