Conviction of Sin

The Conviction of Sin

Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. (2 Kings 22:11)

Young King Josiah came to throne when the leaders and people of Judah were spiritually compromised and corrupt. As he took an interest in God’s temple, they found the Book of the Law – what we would call many of the books of the Old Testament – in the temple.

When they read God’s word to the king, it did a spiritual work in King Josiah. It was not merely the transmission of information; the hearing of God’s word impacted Josiah with spiritual power.

Conviction of Sin

When Josiah heard it, he tore his clothes. This was a traditional expression of horror and astonishment. In the strongest possible way, Josiah showed his grief on his own account and on account of the nation. This was an expression of deep conviction of sin, and a good thing.

Revival and spiritual awakening are marked by such expressions of the conviction of sin. Dr. J. Edwin Orr, in The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain, recounted some examples from the great movement that impacted Britain and the world in 1859-1861.

In the town of Coleraine, Northern Ireland, a schoolboy was under so much conviction of sin that he couldn’t continue on in class. From the ministry of another boy in the class, he found peace and returned to the classroom immediately to tell the teacher: “I am so happy: I have the Lord Jesus in my heart!” His testimony had a striking effect on the class, the teacher peeked out the window and saw boys kneeling in prayer all around the schoolyard. The teacher was so convicted that he asked the first converted boy to minister to him. Finally, the whole school was in such a state that pastors came and ministered to the students, teachers, and parents, and people received ministry at the school until 11:00 that night.

A high-ranking army officer described the conviction of sin in his Scottish town: “Those of you who are at ease have little idea of how terrifying a sight it is when the Holy Spirit is pleased to open a man’s eyes to see the real state of his heart… Men who were thought to be, and who thought themselves to be good, religious people… have been led to search into the foundation upon which they were resting, and have found all rotten, that they were self-satisfied, resting on their own goodness, and not upon Christ. Many turned from open sin to lives of holiness, some weeping for joy for sins forgiven.”

This conviction of sin is the special work of the Holy Spirit, even as Jesus said in John 16:8: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin.”

The conviction of sin never feels good, but it leads to something good: forgiveness of sin and getting the life right with Jesus Christ. Don’t despise the conviction of sin.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 22

Dear Racist...

Dear Racist….

Dear Racist...

Dear Racist…

I know that is a provocative beginning, but I really want to say some things to the racist.

Racism can be seen in actions, but it is rooted in the heart and the mind, and I can’t read your mind – so I’m not here to diagnose your racism. I would like to communicate three main ideas, even though so much more can be said – so please judge me by what I say, much more than what I have not said here. Also, I say this to everyone – to every Christian, to every atheist, to everyone who believes in another religion or doesn’t think about religion at all. Here’s what I want to say:

  1. Your racism is a sin that you must repent of.
  2. Jesus Christ loves you – the racist – and He willingly sacrificed His life out of love for you.
  3. Because of what Jesus did and continues to do, you can be forgiven, transformed, and restored.

Let me spend some time talking about each one of these points.

First, your racism is a sin that you must repent of. I know that racism has several definitions, and people speak of racism in many different contexts. Here is the definition I will use: Racism is to judge others purely by their race, or to judge them first by their race, or to judge them mostly by their race, instead of as individuals. Racism is also to mistreat others based on their race, or to take pride and glory in your own race.

I don’t know if you think your racism is a sin – something that misses the mark of God’s will and our ultimate good. Maybe you think your racism is justified, and you give reasons based on what people of this race did to people of that race and so on. Maybe you aren’t guilty of the sin of racism. I can’t know that as I speak to you in a video, and I probably couldn’t know it even if I spoke you face to face. But to whatever extent you judge others purely by their race, or judge them first by their race, or judge them mostly by their race, that makes you guilty of racism. It’s especially true if you mistreat others based on their race, or if you take pride and glory because of your own race – to whatever extent those things are true, you are guilty of the sin of racism.

It’s important that you know why this is a sin. It is NOT a primarily a sin because the dominant culture thinks racism is an offence and a disgrace. It’s very hard for us to do, but we should not base our thinking on what the dominant culture thinks. As Romans 12:2 says, we should not be conformed to the world – the dominant culture – but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. At this point of time in the western world, “racist” is about the worst accusation you can make against another person. There are very, very few people who proudly proclaim themselves to be racists, because if they did, they would be strongly rejected by the dominant culture.

In general, racism is thought to be shameful and to disqualify a person from acceptance in the wider community. This is one reason why people are quick to accuse others of racism – because it is a powerful accusation. I’m sure there are some people who are not racists who are accused of it; and there are no doubt others who are in fact racists who are never accused of it. Even though our culture doesn’t use the word “sin” very much, racism is today considered to be a sin by the dominant culture – when in the past it was much more tolerated and approved of.

I say this make a point. Dear Racist: I do NOT call upon you to repent of racism because our dominant culture says it is a sin. In fact, that may be one of things that makes racism attractive to you. You may be attracted to racism because it goes against the dominant culture; it is one way that you resist being forced into the mold of the culture. Without at all approving of your racism, I understand the impulse of resisting conformity to the mold of the culture. It gives you an identity and a sense of meaning – you think you exist to stand against such things. That’s why I do not say, “Your racism is a sin you must repent of” because the culture condemns racism.

No, I say “Your racism is a sin you must repent of” because God says racism is a sin. The things God says are sin and things the culture says are sin may sometimes overlap, but something is not fundamentally wrong because the culture says it is sin. Something is wrong because God says it is wrong, and in the Bible, God says racism is wrong. Now, I know that some people think the Bible is racist – I want to keep this article short, so I won’t get into that – but there are lots of great resources out there that answer that accusation. I’ve been studying and teaching the Bible for 40 years and can honestly say that what the Bible teaches against racism, both in principle and command.

In principle, we are all descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve. We are all made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 9:6). As Acts 17:26 says, And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth. When God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16), He did it for all of humanity, for people of every race. Because of these and many, many other Biblical reasons, racism is wrong for everyone, Christian or not.

In command, we can simply go to what Jesus said was the second greatest commandment: to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). If you treat your neighbor – which Jesus specifically defined as those of other races or ethnicities (Luke 10:25-37) – if you treat your neighbor as you want to be treated, you won’t be racist.

So if you are not a Christian – you are an atheist, or have another religion, or have no interest in religion at all – please know that you will one day stand before Jesus Christ as the judge of all things, and if you have hated your neighbor because of race, God will hold you to account for your sin of racism (among your other sins). If you don’t repent and deal with it now, God’s judgement on your racism and your other sins, especially your sin of rejecting God’s rescue in the person and work of Jesus Christ, will be part of your torment forever in eternity.

Yet the Christian has even more reason to reject racism – because Christians truly are all one in Jesus Christ, transcending the barriers of race, and class, culture, and gender. There will be people from every tribe and tongue and nation around God’s throne (Revelation 5:9), and it won’t be segregated according to race. So, if you are a Christian and you judge others purely by their race, or judge them first by their race, or judge them mostly by their race – you especially need to repent. If you mistreat others based on their race or take pride and glory because of your own race – you especially need to repent. Remember Galatians 6:14: But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We boast in Jesus, and never in our race. As Christians, we have love and grace and declare the dignity of all men and women because they are made in the image of God, and we also feel a special kinship to fellow disciples of Jesus Christ.

Which brings me to a second point: Jesus Christ loves you – the racist – and He willingly sacrificed His life out of love for you. The dominant culture may hate you, the racist. You may even take pleasure in the fact that the dominant culture hates you! Whether you like what the culture thinks about you or do not like it, the truth remains: Jesus Christ loves you, the sinner. He doesn’t love you because of your sin; His reasons for loving you are found in Him, not in you. But God is rich in love and mercy, and Jesus Christ came to save sinners – including racists. He doesn’t want you to remain in your racism, but He loves you so much that Jesus willingly sacrificed His life out of love for you.

When I say that Jesus willingly sacrificed His life, what I mean is that at the cross, Jesus put Himself in the place of guilty sinners (Romans 5:8), and it was as if He said to God the Father, “Judge Me for their sin. Put their guilt and their shame and the judgement they deserve on Me.” Jesus did this for His people, and He did it regarding all that God considers sin – whether the culture approves those sins or hates those sins.

Dear Racist: Jesus loves you so much that we could say that He said to God the Father, “Take their sin of racism and put it on Me. Treat Me as the racist, and pour out Your holy wrath on Me for that sin. I will take it and bear it.” Again, I’m not talking about the wrath of the culture, but the wrath of God. Jesus carried it and satisfied it, and He did it out of love.

My final point is this: Because of what Jesus did and continues to do, you can be forgiven, transformed, and restored. What Jesus did on the cross was so far-reaching that it has the capacity to forgive every sin ever committed. But it only effectively forgives the sin of God’s people – those who come to God humbly, knowing they need to be rescued, and trusting in Jesus for their rescue – not trusting themselves in any way, but trusting in who Jesus is and what He did for us, especially what He did at the cross (His death for us) and at the empty tomb (His resurrection).

When we come to Jesus in faith and repentance, there is forgiveness – even for the racist. I say “faith and repentance” on purpose, because they go together. You can’t truly turn to Jesus unless you turn away from your sin, including the sin of racism. When we put our trust and love in Jesus in this way, we receive the gift of new life – and God continues His work in is, making us more and more like Jesus Christ. The changes don’t all happen at once, and they will never be completed on this side of eternity – but there should be some evidence of real change.

When we are made new people in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t automatically change our habits – our habits of thinking and our habits of doing. But as we continue trusting in Jesus, living for Him, and doing the basics of the Christian life, we will become more like Jesus, even in our habits of thinking and doing. God can forgive and transform the sinner, including the racist.

Sometimes when I hear racism discussed in our dominant culture, it sounds like it is the unforgiveable sin. The idea often seems to be, “once a racist, always a racist – you can never really be forgiven and transformed regarding this sin.” You need to know that this is not how it is in the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ, in who He is and what He has done for us, especially what He has done at the cross – Jesus brings forgiveness and begins transformation in all who believe and repent.

What does it look like to be a forgiven and transformed racist? One great example is John Newton, the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” He was in the shipping business and transported African slaves across the Atlantic – I guess you could say he was racist. Yet in a terrible storm, in fear for his life, he believed on Jesus and repented of his sins – and was truly converted. He eventually quit the slave business, and as a pastor he had a big influence on a man named William Wilberforce – the man who was instrumental in outlawing slavery in the entire British Empire. That’s both forgiveness and transformation. John Newton is just one example; there are countless others, and hopefully more every day.

Dear Racist: Let me end by simply repeating my three main ideas:

  1. Your racism is a sin that you must repent of.
  2. Jesus Christ loves you – the racist – and He willingly sacrificed His life out of love for you.
  3. Because of what Jesus did and continues to do, you can be forgiven, transformed, and restored.

Receive it today with faith and repentance – and let’s make a better world together.

taking aim

Taking Aim

Dear Pastor, Preacher, or Bible Teacher –

Happy Day-After-Pentecost! I pray that today and all this week you can walk in the power and the strength of the Holy Spirit. We need it more today than ever.

Today, just a short thought from Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:9:

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent,
to be well pleasing to Him.

taking aim

You’ve heard it before – “when you read a ‘therefore,’ find out what it is there for.” Before verse 9, Paul drew attention to eternity; being absent from our body and being present with the Lord. In light of that, we have an aim – and that aim is to be well pleasing to Him. Since what we do right now has eternal consequences, our goal must persistently be to please God.

This is our aim, whether present or absent. We can’t do anything right now about pleasing God when after this life we are absent from these bodies and present with the Lord. That day has not yet come. Yet we can do something about pleasing Jesus right now – when we are absent from His immediate presence and present in these bodies.

As far as we know, there are some opportunities for pleasing God that we will only have while we are present in these bodies. When we get to heaven, there will be no more need for faith, no more need for endurance through trials, no more need for courage and boldness in telling others about Jesus. Now, while we are present in these bodies, is our only opportunity in all eternity to please God in these areas.

So, take aim – make it your bold goal to be well pleasing to Jesus. The people liked your sermon – but was it well pleasing to Him? Your social media post got a lot of likes – but was it well pleasing to Him? Those movers and shakers in your church are pleased, but is it well pleasing to Him?

Take aim, dear servant of God! Remember what Alexander Maclaren said: “You report to headquarters. Never mind what anybody else thinks of you. Your business is to please Christ, and the less you trouble yourselves about pleasing men the more you will succeed in doing it.”

Blessings to You in Jesus’ Name – David Guzik

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God's Word

The Power of God’s Word

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it…. Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. (2 Kings 22:8, 10)

2 Kings 22 starts the story of Josiah, one of better kings of Judah. In his time there was a wonderful repentance and revival in Jerusalem and all of Judah. These verses show us that it started when they found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.

God's Word

It’s sad to think that they ever lost God’s word – that it has to be found. According to Deuteronomy 31:24-27, there was to be a copy of this Book of the Law beside the ark of the covenant, beginning in the days of Moses. The word of God was with Israel, but it was greatly neglected in those days.

It was so neglected that 2 Kings 22:8 has to tell us, he read it: It seems remarkable that this was even worthy of mention – that the high priest found the word of God and a scribe read it. That was news worth writing about!

Better yet, Shaphan read it before the king. We see that the word of God spread. It had been forgotten and regarded as nothing more than an old, dusty book. Now it was found, read, and spread. We should expect some measure of spiritual revival and renewal to follow.

Through the history of God’s people, whenever the word of God is recovered and spread, spiritual revival follows. It can begin as simply as it did in the days of Josiah, with one man finding and reading and believing and spreading the Book.

Another example of this in history is seen in the story of Peter Waldo and his followers, sometimes known as Waldenses. Waldo was a rich merchant living in the 12th century who gave up his business to radically follow Jesus. He hired two priests to translate the New Testament into the common language and using this, he began to teach others. He taught in the streets or wherever he could find someone to listen.

Many common people came to hear him and started to radically follow Jesus Christ. He taught them the text of the New Testament in the common language and was rebuked by church officials for doing so. He ignored the rebuke and continued to teach, eventually sending his followers out two by two into villages and marketplaces, to teach and explain the scriptures.

The scriptures were memorized by the Waldenses, and it was not unusual for their ministers to memorize the entire New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament. The word of God – when found, read, believed, and spread – has this kind of transforming power. Read it and believe it today!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 22