Psalm 51:10–12; 139:1–18, 23–24; Romans 8:26–28; 1 John 3:19–20
When we accept Jesus, receive his grace, and surrender to the Holy Spirit, we become more aware of our sin and disobedience. This is because the Spirit convicts us of our sin (John 16:7–13; 2 Corinthians 7:9–10). This type of conviction, this sense of guilt, is not a bad thing; rather it is God being a good Father to us, to let us know we’ve messed up so we can repent and receive his gracious forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Condemnation = bad, the work of Satan; Conviction = good, the work of the Holy Spirit.
As we learned the second week of our study, we need to know the full extent of the IOU in order to forgive. The same is true in reverse; we need to get a grasp on our own IOU in order to fully receive God’s forgiveness. The Spirit helps us realize our IOU, repent, receive forgiveness, and then work to remove that area of sin from our lives. Here, many well-meaning church folks can get in the way of God’s transformational work in a person’s life by deputizing themselves as junior holy spirits and convicting people of their sin (judging the person, not the sin). They decide which sins are most egregious and therefore must be dealt with first, and then demand that the person clean up their act if they are to be loved, drawn closer to Christ, and discipled. The result is people feeling condemned and further distanced from God. Sometimes we do this to ourselves, choosing the sin we hate worst and wanting to change it first, then trying to do so in our own power. Good luck! There’s a reason that the first step in a twelve-step program is admitting you can’t solve your problem or change on your own.
The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, is the best Jenga player ever. I hope you know the game Jenga. It’s played with a stack of wooden pieces laid three across in rows, one on top of the other in alternating directions. Players take turns pulling a piece from the stack and replacing it on top. The game ends when someone knocks the tower over. Jenga is a good metaphor for our lives, though you need to imagine a tower with wooden pieces of different sizes and shapes, some with red Xs. We want to pull out the biggest block with the most obvious red X on it. But our efforts to do so only collapse the tower. Lives crumble under the weight and pressure of trying to remove that piece from the tower.
Of course, we can’t pretend like there are no red Xs in our lives, but neither can we try to sanctify ourselves or surrender authority for the process to the more judgmental folks in our churches. Instead, we need to allow the Spirit, who knows exactly which blocks to pull, lead us in the lifelong Jenga game that is our spiritual journey toward sanctification.
Ask God to reveal to you what area of your life he wants to work on with you next. Also ask him to reveal any relationship in which you are trying to play the role of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life rather than support what the Spirit is already doing with that person.
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