Convicting Clarity

According to the Bible some practices are more profitable than others during the assembled worship of a church. Paul emphasized the value of prophetic utterance over tongue-talking in 1 Corinthians 14. He esteemed speaking “to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (verse 3). Such profit requires intelligibility, using language with discernible meaning communicated to minds outside of the speaker’s. Such manifestations build up the church (verse 12).

What is edifying clarity for the church is also a convicting clarity to unbelieving visitors.

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Corinthians 14:24–25)

Truth, like light, reveals hearts, and the clarity brings conviction, possibly consolation in Christ, but not comfortability. The outsider–one outside of Christ, not a part of the church–is convicted, accountable, exposed, and humbled as God’s Spirit works. This reaction enables him to confirm that God is present.

An unbelieving guest may or may not hear more than one voice, but he should be able to watch the response of the church to truth understood. The believers’ hearts are exposed and they humbly fall on their faces to worship God. The outsider is convicted by seeing the insiders convicted.

Our weekly confession of sin is part of our corporate witness. When God is really among us, we are not running from conviction and accountability but rather responding to it. A whole church falling on their faces will be a potent proof of God’s presence.

Thankful for Conviction

There is no app to download for any smart phone that proves if a person has been born of the Spirit or is walking in the Spirit. There’s no buzzer, no siren, no spinning light that shows the Spirit’s presence in an individual’s heart. So is it possible to know? Yes.

One signal, not the only one, but one signal of the Spirit’s work is conviction of sin leading to confession. In Ezekiel 36, God promised to send His Spirit and put new spirits within people. One effect of the Spirit’s work is that people will remember their evil ways and their not good deeds and “will loathe [themselves] for [their] iniquities and [their] abominations” (Ezekiel 36:31). In a similar way, Jesus, speaking to His disciples, promised to send the Spirit who, among other things, would convict the world concerning sin (John 16:8).

Without the Spirit there may be misery in sin, but there won’t be conviction of its offensiveness before God. Without the Spirit there won’t be confession of sin to God or others, but rather attempts to hide and rationalize it. Without the Spirit there won’t be acknowledgement of sin, nor any effective impulse to turn from sin. Whole-hearted conviction, open confession, and real repentance are only possible by the Spirit.

He is, after all, the Holy Spirit. His work includes opening our eyes to see sin, stabbing our consciences to loathe sin, and refining our tongues to taste the sweetness of holiness. Our weekly corporate confession depends on the Spirit’s work. If your sin weighs heavily on you and you find relief in confessing it, be thankful for that conviction. That’s a sign that the Spirit has given you life.