“Being convicted by the Holy Spirit is like being nibbled to death by a duck.”
I’m not sure who penned this powerful quote, but it’s one example of how the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to deliver us from sin.
Conviction of sin isn’t a popular topic for a blog post, but this spiritual phenomenon is oddly comforting. Feeling uncomfortable when we sin is evidence that the Holy Spirit lives inside us—and that’s grounds for celebration.
Before I was a Christian, I could sin and it didn’t bother me. I’d feel an occasional pang of regret, usually when I got caught, but for the most part, I enjoyed my sin. After all, if sin wasn’t fun, why would anyone do it?
Sometimes I’d feel guilty. Other times I’d wish I hadn’t done it, usually when I experienced the negative consequences of my wrong choices. My conscience might sound a weak alarm when I stepped precariously close to a danger zone, but I could usually rationalize it away.
When I surrendered my life to Christ, however, I gained a powerful ally—the Holy Spirit. In ways I can’t explain, this third person of the Godhead went to work in my life. Like Molly Maids the day before my in-laws came to visit, the Holy Spirit went to work cleaning my spiritual house.
The first thing the Holy Spirit pointed out was the music I listened to. Those words glorify extra-marital sex, drugs, and drinking. Do you really want to fill your ears with that?
Then He pointed out my skimpy bathing suit. And some of the books on my bedside table. And the TV show I loved to watch every Friday night.
That first sweep through my spiritual house as a new believer was a deep clean. He got rid of a lot of the big uglies. In the years since, he’s continued to point out areas of my life that are contrary to his best for me.
Anger? Doesn’t accomplish God’s purposes. Fear? Cannot coexist with faith. Apathy? Lukewarm is nauseating. Selfishness? Consider others as better than yourself.
What I find especially interesting is how, when I dig in my heels in rebellion and am unwilling to change, I only hurt myself. The very things I cling to are the same things that make my life miserable.
King David experienced this as well, and describes how awful we feel when we are disobedient to the Lord. He lists 11 symptoms of sin sickness in Psalm 38:
1. The sharp conviction of sin. “Your arrows pierce me deeply” (v. 1).
2. A feeling of profound heaviness. “Your hand presses me down” (v. 1).
3. Physical weakness. “There is no soundness in my flesh”(v. 3, 7). “I am feeble and severely broken” (v. 8).
4. Sickness. “. . . nor health in my bones” (v. 3).
5. The feeling of carrying a heavy load. “My iniquities . . . like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me” (v. 4)
6. Physical and spiritual injuries, possibly the consequences of sinful choices. “My wounds are foul and festering” (v. 5).
7. A disturbed spirit. “I am troubled” (v. 6).
8. A defeated heart. “I am bowed down greatly” (v. 6).
9. Deep sorrow. “I go mourning all the day long” (v. 6).
10. Gastric distress. “My loins are full of inflammation” (v. 7).
11. Inner turmoil. “I groan because of the turmoil of my heart” (v. 8).
This list is a sobering wake up call to the fact that sinful rebellion carries more consequences than just the results of our actual sin. I’ve experienced many of these symptoms when I’ve chosen to ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit when He points out an area of sin in my life.
When I stubbornly hang on to my pet vice, I'm miserable.
I have difficulty praying, because I know my sin stands between me and God. I avoid reading my Bible, because God’s Word continues to call me to repentance. I feel anxious, fearful, and guilty. I’m less likely to talk about spiritual things with others, because I know it would be hypocritical. And my sleep is disturbed.
Why, oh why, do we resist the Holy Spirit when all he’s trying to do is make us more like Christ? The more Christ-like we become, the more we’ll experience joy, peace, patience, satisfaction, and spiritual fruit. It’s a win/win scenario. He cleans the junk out of our lives and replaces it with treasures.
If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms I’ve listed above, maybe it’s time to examine yourself to see if there’s sin in your life. If there is, confess it quickly and accept God’s generous offer of forgiveness and restoration.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Then, once you’ve confessed and forsaken your sin, allow the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead to transform your life (Rom. 8:11-13).
Relief is only a prayer away.