My first job was in a grocery store. I was a bagger for a couple of years before I was promoted to the meat department. This is where I encountered my first jerk of a boss.
He was a perfectionist in every sense of the word. Every shelf had to be stocked fully and perfectly. He was quick to point out the smallest flaws, and he regularly did so in front of others. I’m pretty good at not making mistakes once I learn something, but there were more than a few times he berated me in front of employees and even customers.
The thing is that as soon as you were off the clock, he was the nicest guy in the world. I remember one day we got out early, and he invited me and a few others to shoot pool in the pub next door.
He bought me a burger and chatted me up. But I couldn’t reconcile the two sides of him. One minute he was the meat dictator and the next he wanted to be best buds over burgers.
I couldn’t do it, so I just started making excuses any time he wanted to do something out of work. I knew if he was a jerk to me at work, he really couldn’t be that different anywhere else.
Conviction of the Holy Spirit
It’s been hard for me to picture the Holy Spirit as anything other than the sin police.
All my life I was taught that Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin. In my mind I pictured this ethereal spirit floating over my shoulder, watching me steal a magazine from work (yeah I did it, don’t judge me!).
I know He does other nice things like comfort and teach, but honestly I’ve had a hard time reconciling that with the sin cop. In my mind, He was there making sure everything was in order and just waiting to convict me as soon as I made a mistake.
But what if Holy Spirit doesn’t convict us of sin? What if we’ve misunderstood Him all this time?
There are two key verses that are referred to when it comes to the subject of Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. The first one is John 16:8-9:
“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.”
The other one is in 1 Thessalonians 1:5:
“Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”
But wait a minute, convict and conviction are two totally different words.
The verb convict means to prove or declare guilty of an offense or to impress with a sense of guilt.
The context of the noun conviction in Thessalonians is more accurately translated “assurance.” That’s a big difference. It’s not a verse you want to hang your hat on.
Stop Feeling Guilty
When I looked at this for myself, I’ll be honest, I didn’t believe it. How could so many people be wrong? My whole life I’ve been taught the Holy Spirit brings conviction when I sin.