One night I was working late in my office when Chuck called.
“Dad, did you have a talk with Heidi?”
“No, Chuck, why do you ask?”
“Well, she just called and asked my forgiveness for some harsh things she said to me and I wondered if you made her do it.”
“No, I didn’t”
I hung up the phone and went up to Heidi’s room. She was lying in her bed quietly weeping. Heidi, what’s wrong. “O, my sin.” She said. “I am a sinner. I am selfish. God put me on earth to serve other people and to tell other people about the Jesus, but I am selfish. I just feel like such a sinner.”
I prayed with Heidi and assured her of my love. I encouraged her to cast her sin upon the Lord. “That is why Jesus died. It’s good that you feel guilt. It is a very good thing. It is a sign that you are spiritually alive and healthy.”
She was weeping and grieving over her sin, but I went back to my study with a great joyfulness in my heart. It was a very happy day for me. There is little that is more important than having a tender heart over sin. It is a sign of spiritual vitality. It is a very good thing. I could see that God was working in my daughter’s heart and O, how glad it made me to see such clear evidence of spiritual life in her.
The convicting work of the Spirit is one of God’s greatest gifts. Guilt is the pain of the soul. How confused our culture is about this. Even in the popular church, in the evangelical subculture, our thinking about guilt is foggy. Our theology of guilt is weak and even dangerous. Confusing grace with license we have not seen guilt and conviction as the rare gift that it is.
One evening I was trying to prepare to preach and the little boys got into a scrape. I was irritated because it interrupted my preparations. I wanted them to be quiet so I could work so I threatened them with discipline. At the time Wes was probably only six or seven years old. I called him into the room and looking up from my computer screen I told him not to fight with his brother. He looked at me coldly and was not outwardly moved by my chastisement.
I said, “Look, Wes, stop fighting. I’m trying to get something done in here and I can’t think with you fighting. Now, go back to your room and be quiet.”
He left. I called him back and said, “Wes, close the door so I can think.”
He closed the door and the room got quiet but I could not think. I went back to my work but I couldn’t concentrate. I realized I was more irritated with the boys for interrupting my work than I was concerned for their souls.
It bothered me that Wes didn’t seem to manifest any concern over his misbehavior. Finally I just got on my knees and prayed, “O, God, forgive me for being irritated with the boys instead of taking time to love them and train them. Please make Wes feel guilty for his sin. Please don’t let him have a hard heart over sin. He is so young. I pray that you will help me appeal to his conscience until he sees that he has sinned and that sin is a serious thing.”
I called Wes back it the room and closed the door.
“Wes, did you hit your brother?”
“Were you kind to him?”
“Did you speak harsh words to him?”
“Do you think you hurt his feelings?
“Do you think it pleases God when you hurt your brother?”
“No,” he answered.
“Wes, Buddy, do you love Danny?”
“Don’t you think it would be good to admit that you have sinned and to ask God to forgive you? Don’t you think it would be good to ask Danny to forgive you too?”
I looked into his eyes to see if there was any evidence of conviction in his heart.
His little lip began to tremble and he feel down to his knees and began to pour out his little soul in prayer. Tears came freely then. I put my arm around his little shoulders and he just sobbed and cried out tender words of repentance.
When he went back to make things right with his brother joy flooded my heart. I was so happy, so pleased to see evidence of the work of God in his little soul. It made me joyful to see him grieve over his sin.
That must be the way the Heavenly Father feels when the Spirit works in my heart in conviction and I see the ugliness of my sin and I am grieved over it. He must be delighted to see his son broken with a spirit of repentance.
The convicting work of the Holy Spirit is such a valuable thing. How we should thank God that he works in our life in bringing us to conviction of sin. Think of the destruction sin could quickly do to all that is dear to us if the Spirit was not faithful to convict us. He whispers conviction early and faithfully continues to prod us until we are forced to deal with the sin that threatens all that is beautiful in our lives.
We should thank God for his conviction. We should long for the stirring presence of the Spirit working in the hearts of his people in conviction. The convicting work of the Spirit is a great blessing, a valuable gift and a sweet mercy from God.
When the Holy Spirit has come he will convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. (See Acts 16:8f) For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin. (Psalm 38:18)
Kenneth L. Pierpont
Riverfront Character Inn
March 29, 2004