How I Know I’ve Sinned

I finally decided to  write a response to an ongoing and long-going conversation with Quester in the comment section of his post: “Sizing up the fence.”

And since I haven’t been in the posting mood, I thought I could cheat by putting what I wrote here for you to read.

When you are done, I’d love you to comment about how God convicts you of sin!

An aside: Please know that I do appreciate all the prayers sent our way (see Still Dealing with Stuff). It’s a strange time in our lives. Not sure what God is up to. Feels like not much, but, then, that’s when all the action occurs… I’ll write more about it later…

Onto the post:

Hi, Been going through a rough time and just didn’t feel like posting, reading, or responding. But now I will.

I realized that what I was writing about conviction and guilt wasn’t “truth” in the absolute sense, but an attempt to put into words my own feelings and experiences. In fact, John 16:8-11 says that the Holy Spirit’s job is to convict of guilt. So, guilt is part of conviction.

What I was expressing was my own experience. In MY life, when I feel bad about myself and guilt and shame and crap and all that I expressed earlier, I know that it’s not from God. It arises from within, from training I likely received early in life and via the world.

God’s conviction, in MY life, is something different; it’s clean and quick. Like a sword piercing soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12-13). It isn’t about coming home to me or even being what God wants me to be (as you express), but it’s deeper, an instantaneous awareness of both how greviously I have sinned (a sense of the treason) and how much I have been relieved of the sin. It feels wholly God-oriented and also releasing. It’s usually not about me, but about Him, an understanding of how I’ve been completely self-centered, and, a release from that slavery. It’s a sense of the truth in the face of a lie I have held onto subconciously for years.

Sometimes it’s in little things and sometimes it’s momentous and turns my life in a new direction (like when I understood for the first time how proud I was to think I could be a “good” person or that God really had to be the Lord of my life or when I got “grace” and saw that I would never have to pile up good works to make God happy with me, but that He had taken care of all that and accepted me as I was on the basis of Christ’s life).

All of this is subjective and I am sure others experience it differently, so it is really hard to communicate to another. The other night in my small group we were talking about Hebrews 4 and how when we worry about, dissect, analyze, and focus on our sins, it’s like picking up a stick and flailing about. Joshua didn’t take the Promised Land with sticks (well, maybe trumpets, but not sticks!). When God deals with our sin, it’s with the Sword. It’s clean and quick and often very quiet, like an ick and an aha and a phew at the same time.

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5 thoughts on “How I Know I’ve Sinned

  1. Sorry for my silence, Longing. It’s been a painful month for me, and I’ve been offline, for the most part.

    I think that part of my problem with your presentation of the difference between conviction and shame is my own tendency to dwell upon my sins and fail to forgive myself (or accept forgiveness) for them. This makes it hard for me to even imagine conviction without guilt. I think I see, now, what you are expressing as the purpose of the law.

  2. I actually read a sizable part of your conversation with Quester on the blog you linked to. I think you did a great job of expressing yourself, and I understood what you were saying and trying to express.

    Not too long ago, a conversation like that would have been much more interesting to me. I think I would have had a lot to add to it. But I don’t know. I’m in a very different place right now in my walk with the Lord. If I felt like God wanted me to engage in such dialog, I would. I’m trying to learn the difference between doing something because God is showing me to do it, or telling me to do it, or providing the desire to do it, versus me doing something just because it’s my habit to do, and I’ve been conditioned to do it. Just to clarify, I’m not saying that God isn’t telling you to engage Quester in that conversation. I’m just talking about me, and my walk.

    Regarding the subject you’re discussing here, I have recently had a bit of a shift in how I view sin and conviction, that is not the same as I used to experience it. I’m to the point that I pretty much accept that “whatever is not from faith is sin”. The simple trust in and reliance upon my Father for every aspect of my existence is faith. Everything else is sin. I know this makes it sound like sin is everywhere and in everything, and dominating much of my life, but it doesn’t mean that at all. As I sit and eat a delicious meal, my heart considers thankfully the goodness and kindness of God. As I enjoy the sunlight shining on my face, I think with a joyful heart of Him who makes that sun shine, and is the true source of Life and Light. He gave us our lives, and the world around us, and family and friends that currently surround us, to be enjoyed, and walked in with Him.

    I can actually sin by doing a “good deed”, if it’s not done from faith. I understand the function of the law as a schoolmaster to help point out what sin typically looks like as fruit in a person’s life, but have no interest at all in lists of Do and Don’t. I have concluded that it’s all really much simpler than we tend to make it. Jesus paid the full price, my sin and shame are no longer mine at all. Now I am in close relationship with my Father daily, and my old sin nature is no longer me, but is more like a dead body strapped to my back. It’s there, I’m aware of it, and too often I buy into the lie that it’s me — but it’s not. It’s my old nature, truly separate from the new me that God created at the moment of conversion.

    If I’m sitting in a dark room and want to be able to see, I can’t fill buckets with darkness and carry them outside a little at a time. I can’t touch darkness, or move darkness. When I turn on a light, the darkness is just gone. I didn’t rid myself of the darkness by dealing with it directly at all. I simply let the light “displace” the darkness. Likewise, if I spend minute by minute throughout the day sincerely asking God to be with me at this minute, help me right now, lead me and show me, and trust that He is, then I don’t find myself focusing on the sin nature in me. I get to the end of the day and realize that I wasn’t having to focus on avoiding sin or resisting sin or trying to overcome sinful behavior by some sort of impulse modification. Instead, I was simply reflecting the character of Him who had my full attention and focus throughout the day.

    So Fruit of the Spirit is what a life looks like outwardly when this moment by moment trust and relationship is dominating my existence. I don’t make the fruit by reading each item on the list in Galatians 5 and saying “I need to be more peaceful, and more patient, and…” etc. by self-effort. I simply trust Him expectantly, obey the gentle guidance I feel moment by moment, and the fruit naturally follows.

    The cycle of sin and shame that I was taught to feel had me thinking that I had to keep sinning, feeling guilty, repenting and asking forgiveness, resolving to do better next time, and then starting the cycle all over again. And wondering why not much was changing in me. Accepting the “once for all sins” nature of Christ’s death as discussed in Hebrews, and the full truth of “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” of Romans 8 has gotten me out of that cycle altogether. I don’t strive to stop sinning — I’m learning to invite Him right alongside me even at the moment I’m tempted to sin, and even when I do sin. I’m no longer separated from Him by that sin, and He knows better than I do how weak and gullible I am, and that I keep going back to nourishing that dead body on my back. I’m certainly not fooling Him — He already sees and knows the wrong desires of my heart and sin nature. So the only person I’m playing pretend with is myself, when I think I can “keep a little sinful fun set aside for myself over here in this private box”.

    Walking with Him is my heart’s desire, and because of the freedom Jesus purchased for me, I can and will walk with my Father. As I walk with Him, I trust Him to transform me into someone who no longer walks in sin. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

  3. The great singer/songwriter John Prine has a line in one of his songs that goes – “Steady losing means you ain’t choosing what you really think is right.”

    For faith purposes, I translate this as – “When things consistently go wrong in your life, you may just be doing the wrong things.”

    It’s not 100% accurate, but always worth considering.

  4. A friend and co-worker introduced a devotional to me that was probably the catalyst for me understanding the depth and seriousness of my own fallen state. The epiphany came while reading a daily devotional concerning the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). More specifically however was that out of curiosity, I had backtracked a few verses to Galatians 5:16-21 and read in black and white that I was not living by the Spirit. It was like being hit with a ton of bricks, right there in my face, was my life described to me.

    Even though it wasn’t “technically” in a Bible, I would still say that it was the Word of God that convicted me.

    Grace and peace be with you.

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