Today the Christian Church celebrates the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. One of the great tasks of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin, but frequently this conviction of sin is confused with Satan’s accusations and lies.
So how do you tell the difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the accusations of the devil? First, the Holy Spirit brings clarity, but the devil brings confusion. The Holy Spirit brings light; the devil brings shadows. The Spirit points out black and white sins that Jesus died for. The Devil brings what-ifs and maybes and might-ofs, vague worries and fears. As a general rule of thumb, a Christian should give a guilty feeling about a minute, honestly asking the Lord to show you if there’s something to put right. And then move on. This is not giving yourself a pass. This is assuming the goodness of God. If there’s something you need to know, He’ll show you. Second, the Holy Spirit is the comforter. The devil bring endless condemnation and fear. But the Spirit brings peace and joy.
The way things work, some of you haven’t confessed a sin in several years and you think that must be the comfort of the Spirit when it is actually the apathy of the devil. And on the flip side, some of you have been running on the confession treadmill for the last three years panting and sweating, and you think that is the comfort of the Spirit when it is actually the affliction of the devil. So it really is a risky thing for a pastor to give an exhortation on this topic. Apathetic Christians are tempted to hear the words of comfort as affirmation of their apathy, and afflicted Christians are apt to hear exhortations to be tender toward the Spirit as affirmation of their affliction.
The only thing that breaks through both is the grace of God. So hear this: salvation is all grace. There will only be happy beggars in Heaven. Some will arrive having confessed sins for many years and find that they only confessed a tiny fraction of what Jesus died for. Others like the thief on the cross will have barely confessed one. But real grace always brings us to God, and therefore it is our joy to lay aside every weight.