True, godly conviction is a sweet gift of liberty guiding you back to the Father.
In Jesus’ famous parable of the two sons, the younger son squandered his inheritance in rebellious living while the older brother remained at home dutifully “slaving” on the family estate. When the younger son became impoverished and hungry, Jesus said, “He came to himself.” It’s a beautiful picture of the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The pig slopping rebel remembered who he was—a son of a gracious father.
The rebellious son had brought scandal upon his family and knew he wasn’t worthy to be called a son. But he wanted to go home. That’s what the conviction of the Holy Spirit always does—it makes us want to go to our Father.
The sweet conviction of the Holy Spirit brings you remorse for your wrongdoing, but it isn’t designed to make you condemn yourself. It’s meant to draw you homeward. It’s entirely possible to feel great sadness over your sin while, at the same time, feeling utterly hopeful.
The moments of deepest conviction of sin in my life have been accompanied by the greatest awareness of the love of God. When you know that God has seen you at your worst and still has His arms open toward you, you have discovered the essence of the Gospel. The younger son comes home and falls into His father’s arms and into the celebration of the whole community.
Meanwhile, the older brother stews outside the celebration as he murmurs his bitter claims of self-righteousness. If the younger brother is a picture of how the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, the older brother is a picture of how shame binds the heart.
Shame isolates. Shame rejects celebration. Shame can’t accept the Father’s affection.
So the older brother misses the party despite all his dutiful conformity. And the scandalous, undeserving younger brother eats lamb chops from his father’s grill. That’s the difference between shame and conviction. And that’s the Gospel!