When God corrects you, He doesn’t shame you; He draws you to His heart.
Jesus’ famous parable of the “prodigal” vividly portrays what healthy conviction of sin looks like when the young son “came to himself.” After squandering his inheritance in “wild living,” the younger son found himself penniless in the midst of a famine. Desperate to survive, the young Jewish man did an abominable thing when he took a job feeding pigs (which were unclean animals to the Jews). As he slopped the swine, he realized he was so hungry that he was actually envious of the hogs. At least the pigs had pods to eat.
Look closely at the prodigal son’s motivation for returning home. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’” (Luke 15:17–19, ESV)
Watch the process of true conviction. First, the son recognized the poverty of his life. When he “came to himself,” he recognized that if continued, this course of life would lead to utter destruction.
But it wasn’t the brooding over his sin that brought him home—it was the knowledge of his father’s wealth compared to the poverty of his sin-induced predicament that began his thought process of repentance. He decided to admit he was not worthy to be called his father’s son.
Why is this statement of unworthiness an expression of healthy conviction rather than toxic shame?
It’s simple. Conviction always moves us back to the Father.
To say, I am not worthy, so I will stay away from my Father, is shame. To say, I am not worthy, but I will go to my Father, is conviction.
There is an awareness of unworthiness that doesn’t leave you feeling doomed but hopeful. When you’re convicted by the Holy Spirit, there is profound hope of a new and better way. If you ever hear a voice telling you that you’ve messed up so much that you should stay away from the Father, rebuke it! God loves you and wants you home. And that’s the Gospel!