Restoring People’s Sense of Sin
Robert Wurtz II
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:7–8 NKJV)
Conviction of sin is above all the Holy Spirit’s work, but it is also the Law, Jesus, the conscience, and the preacher’s work (Luke 3:19, John 8:9, James 2:9, Revelation 3:19 ). The Greek word is elegcho and it’s translated as “tell fault,” expose, convict, convince, and reprove. The saints at Ephesus, Titus, and Timothy were all instructed by Paul to (more or less) “Convince (elegcho), rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV)
In 1927, the late renowned Greek scholar A.T. Robertson commented that “conviction of sin was the most needed task today for our complacent age.” He went on to say that “Some scientists and psychologists (Freudians and behaviorists) seem bent on destroying man’s sense of sin.” That was almost 100 years ago!
When God’s word is not preached, consciences are seared, and society invents clever ways to explain away the troubling feelings that people experience when they sin, it is no wonder that lawlessness abounds. The very fact that iniquity is normalized in 2121 demonstrates how far we have drifted since 1927.
Restoring man’s sense of sin is dangerous business. Why? Because the enemy is determined to enable people to enjoy and celebrate sin rather than be convicted of it. Anyone who stands in the way of this objective is shamed, ridiculed, or attacked. As a result, there is no surplus of Christians willing to work with the Holy Spirit in awakening people’s sense of sin.
Before we see the Holy Spirit’s conviction impact society, we must have people with convictions and principles. We need God to raise up men and women who have moral convictions like shafts of steel that don’t allow them to bend to the shaming, ridiculing, and attacking they will face. History is replete with people God used powerfully to preach His word and change the trajectory of a rebellious society. But, unfortunately, society attacked nearly all of them in some way or another.
A Sinless Society
Satan wants the world to believe that nothing is sin, and if that doesn’t work, he wants to desensitize people to the consequences of the gross iniquity that dominates our times. So he’s replacing conviction with celebration and the fear of judgment with triumphant jubilation. He affirms abominations and repudiates righteousness. Why? Because he knows his time is short.
In Romans 10:14, Paul wrote, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14 NKJV) Whether it was at Athens or standing before Roman leaders, Paul was fearless and followed in the footsteps of John the Baptist. He never told people, “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” When preached to rebellious people, this type of message aids the enemy in his quest to stifle the convicting operation of the Holy Spirit.
“Now as he (Paul) reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” (Acts 24:25 NKJV)
Paul preached a message that frightened Felix. The KJV says, “Felix trembled.” When was the last time you heard a message preached that frightened the lost? Out of Paul’s mouth went a firey word, yea, he loved the people. He loved them enough to tell them the truth. He loved God enough to obey his calling and preach “John the Baptist style” repentance (Acts 26:19-23).
When God was moving prophetically in 1 Corinthians, people came under great conviction (elegcho) of sin (1 Corinthians 14:24). As the saints prophesied, God convicted sinners of their sins. The unbelievers were forced to acknowledge that God was among them. Did God only move in the New Testament era? No! There are historical accounts of people smitten down with conviction of sin during the First and Second Great Awakenings. But that is not the objective or expectation today. Why is that?
Willing to Obey?
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose (elegcho) them.” (Ephesians 5:11 NKJV)
“Those who are sinning rebuke (elegcho) in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.” (1 Timothy 5:20 NKJV)
“Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict (elegcho) those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9 NKJV)
One of God’s qualifications for leaders is the ability to preach a convicting message (Titus 1:9). Are we willing to follow Paul’s directives to Titus, Timothy, and the church at Ephesus? These were all instructed to (more or less) “Convince (elegcho), rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV) Understand that Paul preached in harmony with the operation of the Holy Spirit, and he wanted those he trained to do the same. The message of the minister and the operation of the Holy Spirit have to match.
If the Holy Spirit wants to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment, we can’t preach a message that comforts people in their sin and expect them to repent. Instead, we must get in step with the Spirit. Through boldly preaching His word, we must work together with God to restore people’s sense of sin.