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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Thursday, February 05, 2009
Conviction Of Sin, Faith, and Repentence, And The Assurance of Salvation.
The Holy Spirit convicts man of sin.

That being the case, I have heard people (even pastors) say that conviction of sin is an indication that one is a genuine believer - that conviction of sin is the witness of the Holy Spirit that testifies to the genuineness of one's faith.

I would like to spend a few moments talking to that idea.

The non-believers heart is like ice that freezes into a hardened, rebellious lump. When the Holy Spirit shows the hardened heart of a non-believer that it has sinned, the hardened heart rejects the condemnation. It may feel bad, even remorse, but not because it agrees with its condemnation - rather it feels remorse because it disagrees with the condemnation: Why should I be condemned by this? It is not fair! Oh - I wish I had never done that, because now I stand condemned... Who is God to say that I should be condemned for this!?? God is wrong to condemn me. I made a mistake, but I don't deserve condemnation!

Now, I am attempting to congeal into a single thought a rather complex web of conscience, spiritual pressure, and real-life application - so bear with the clumsiness of my example. The point there was that any remorse a non-believer feels in this situation is the remorse of a condemned criminal who is forlorn only because they they believe their condemnation is unjust.


The believer's heart started out like any other non-believer's heart (for every believer was at one time a non-believer), but on the day God chose to save them, God melted their heart of ice to tears, as it were. It was this melting that allowed the Holy Spirit's testimony about their sin to not only condemn them, as it does in the heart of all men - but also to agree with God in that condemnation. To agree that they deserve hell and that God is just in sending them there.

You see, repentance is a work that God produces in us in order that we may see ourselves as justly condemned sinners, and this for one purpose: that the good news of the gospel would find purchase in our heart.

The believer agrees with the Holy Spirit's conviction because God opened his heart to do so - he believes because the seed was sown in soil that God Himself made ready. The non-believer contends with God over the conviction of condemnation, and that is the big difference.

I don't like to, and I don't think it is proper to, speak of the "Witness of the Holy Spirit", or rather to reduce the witness of the Holy Spirit to this idea that He convicts us of sin, since He convicts the world of sin, and not just believers. I wouldn't want to use the distinction I make here either, as thought God meant for us to be assured of our salvation by how we feel about our sin - since our hearts are desperately wicked, and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9);

The witness of the Holy Spirit is best described in John 3:8 - the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, as vague as that may sound. Yet just as I am assured that the wind is there by hearing it in my ears, feeling it on my face, and watching the grass bend and the trees sway, and the dust swirl - so too I am convinced of the Holy Spirit's testimony concerning my eternal state when I see the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in my life - the opening of my eyes to truth, the desires of my heart that run contrary to the flesh, the hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the deep hatred for all sin, the loving chastisement of the Father, and the profound answering of prayers again, and again, and again. All these combine to give insurmountable testify to me that there is a spiritual reality to my faith that I alone, cannot deny. Others may deny it of me, but I cannot. It is as personal and profound as my own identity, and though I may suffer doubt as anyone, yet I cannot deny the work of God in my life - I cannot deny the presence of God in my life.

Sin, and the devil be rebuked! Let's stop telling people that mere conviction of sin is a sure sign of salvation, and train our people to know what conviction is, how it works, and how it differs between believers, and non-believers, and especially, how it differs from the genuine assurance that God gives us as we walk with Him.

Labels: , ,

posted by Daniel @ 11:51 AM  
3 Comments:
  • At 10:38 AM, February 06, 2009, Blogger Mitch said…

    Dan,

    I have a question about the heart. You wrote here that we should not be assured by our feelings because the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful.

    Now my question is was a believer given a new heart? If yes, then is this new heart desperately wicked and deceitful as well?

     
  • At 11:53 AM, February 06, 2009, Blogger Daniel said…

    Mitch,

    That is an excellent question, and I am glad someone asked it.

    I the prophet in Ezekiel 11:19, to be speaking of Christ's coming to Israel and replacing the law of Moses, "And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh," The them in this passage I understand from the context to be refering to Israel - all of Israel will share the same "new heart" - Christ. The heart of stone (the law) will be replaced with a heart of flesh (Christ). We see the same language again in Ezekiel 36:36.

    In Psalm 51 David asks God to create in him a clean heart which I take to be a reference to repentance, and therefore do not confuse with the Messianic prophesies of Ezekiel.

    Thus the language of "new heart" or "clean heart" in scripture is typically referring, either to the coming of Christ to Israel as a whole, or to an act of individual repentance.

    For that reason, let's use the language of the New Testament - which speaks of a new creation...

    In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."

    This new creation was that which God raised up with Christ and is that "new" part of us that is presently seated with God in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (c.f. Ephesians 2:6)

    This new creation is every bit ours by ownership, but we do not possess it yet because it is not a part of this creation, but part of the subsequent creation that is to come to us at the end of this age. Which is not to say that it doesn't exist yet - I don't mean subsequent in that way - I mean only that it does not flow out of (as the rest of creation does) the six days of creation, but was a latter day work of God. This creation is corrupt, and everything in it. That creation is not corrupt, and is not part of this creation.

    That can be confusing at first, I suppose, but think it through. If we recieved the new creation into this corrupted one, it would be corrupted by the very first sin we sinned after receiving it.


    No, we who were formerly dead in our tresspasses and sin, now have a new, eternal life - a life that scripture tells us is hid in Christ Jesus, and not carried around with us in this corrupted shell. We receive that life when Christ returns, or we die.

    That life is not part of this creation, but is a (the) new creation.

    Thus, when we become believers we truly do enter into an inheritance, - a new creation - and are even given a guarantee of that inheritance in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit - and we are right to speak of that inheritance in the present tense since it belongs to us already, but we must be careful in doing so not to blur the line between what we own and what we presently and experientially possess.

    The new creation is not a new heart, for Christ is Israel's new heart - what we have is a redemption promise - an inheritance that is ours and presently waiting - but we hold this great treasure in earthen vessels which themselves remain corrpt.

    Having new life, we are encouraged to walk in harmony with what is already true of us in Christ, but we cannot do so because we have no frame of reference in our sinful flesh - that is why we have received the Holy Spirit. It is His ministry to convict us of sin and of righteousness so that we may walk in accord with what is already true of us. It is the influence of the Holy Spirit that causes us to desire true righteousness.

    Yet the Holy Spirit does not replace the heart of flesh that still, and ever remains in us - He just begins to influence us in spite of it.

    That is why we are encouraged to walk in the Spirit (as opposed to walk in the "new creation" or in the "new heart") and not in the flesh.

    I think what happens is people hear of the "new heart" in Ezekiel, and confuse that with the "New creation" in the NT - and to make matters worse, they then confuse the new creation with the convicting work of the indwelling Holy Spirit - so that they say, "I used to have a deceitful heart, but now I don't, now I have a new heart" - because they have first misunderstood references to a new heart, second, misunderstood where the new creation is, and what it is, third, they mistake the convicting work of the Holy Spirit for this "new heart" - and finally they haven't stopped to consider that their own experience demonstrates clearly that although they have godly desires, these desires happen alongside wicked ones.

    I am pretty much convinced Mitch, that the heart was, is, and will always be in this creation, desperately wicked, and deceitful above all else. I don't think salvation replaces this wicked heart with a new, perfect heart, rather salvation brings into being a new heart that is ours now, and will be our possession when Christ comes or we die.

    Does that make sense? It is sort of a lot all at once.

     
  • At 4:22 PM, February 06, 2009, Blogger Mitch said…

    It makes sense, I'm just not sure I agree about the heart and spirit. I will try to think on it and will get back with you later this weekend.

    Thanks

     
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