Recent events have led me to dwell once again on what conviction is and why I first wrote this article several years ago for a friend’s blog. It is my hope that while I deal with my own and find joy in it, you too, my beloved reader, will find your joy as well…
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
We live in an age where the thought of conviction, let alone chastisement for wrong doing is frowned upon. Sneered at even. If you dare mention that it is good and proper for someone to feel remorse over a sin, you may be called unloving. Heartless even. Consequently, if you so much as sniff at the idea that an individual’s conduct may be indicative of an unconverted heart, you may find yourself run off. I would argue that it is moments like this where we need to pursue discovering joy with the person in the grip of conviction.
However, I wonder if these things are indicative of a deeper problem. What I am curious about is whether this problem stems from a failure to understand how joyous something like conviction truly is. What we are used to dealing with in our culture is comforting the person who seems to be laden with conviction. A true believer is broken over their sin. Furthermore, when this brokenness sets upon them we should leave them to it. Our end isn’t to prevent the feeling of conviction but to push them to discovering the joy of it.
I do not mean to imply that most people who are entrenched in sin and begin to show the effects of their brokenness are coddled. What I mean to say is that we often mistake brokenness for repentance and seek to lift these people up out of the depths of their despair. Usually, what is needed, is for these grieving souls to be left to their despair.
King David and Uriah
Bear with me for a moment with this thought. Consider King David and his sins. He looks out and sees Bathsheba bathing conspicuously on the roof of her husband’s home. He allows temptation to turn to the sin of lust. As a result, that lust leads to adultery. That adultery builds into even greater deception as Bathsheba bears the child of her sin with David. David plots to mask his duplicity by sending for her husband; Uriah. Uriah is a faithful friend and loyal commander. David assumes that Uriah will be as overcome with desire as he was. Uriah proves the better man. His loyalty to his king at a time of war outweighs his rightful desire for his wife.
David cannot bear being made a fool of, even if no one else is aware of his sin. In his anger and fear of being exposed as a philandering cheat and betrayer of friends he plots to have his faithful warrior friend eliminated. This man who has slept outside the door of his palace awaiting word from his king is placed in the thick of the worst combat. Uriah is slain and David rushes to marry Bathsheba to cover his sin. God’s anger is kindled against David, a man after God’s own heart.
King David and Nathan
In 2 Samuel 12 God sends the Prophet Nathan to David (by no coincidence Nathan means gift of God). Nathan relates a story to David of a man who takes severe advantage of his neighbor. When David reacts in indignation Nathan points at the king and says:
“7You are the man! Thus, says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”15 Then Nathan went to his house.”
David Discovers Joy
After this David retreats in despair and brokenness. His servants attempt without success to coax him from his depression. David remains inconsolable and eventually his child dies as God promised. David immediately gets up and begins to conduct himself normally. His household is bewildered. David seems to be discovering joy. He eventually pens the immortal words of Psalm 51.
A Psalm About Discovering Joy
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.”
What Discovering Joy in Conviction Looks Like
While in the middle of his conviction David speaks in terms foreign to us today. He cries out to hear joy and gladness while experiencing the worst thing a parent could experience. Moreover, that pain is compounded; the death of his son is a result of David’s sin against God. While he is still in the despair he cries out to be upheld and to have the joy of his salvation restored.
He never asks for his sorrow and brokenness to be lifted. He does not ask to be made happy. How could he? Subsequently, in verse 17 he reveals the depth of understanding that he had.
David shows us why he was called a man after God’s own heart. David new that God wanted broken and contrite hearts when His people sin against Him.
Look I am not talking about being giddy and gleeful during brokenness. I am pushing against that here. The last thing the Church needs today is a bunch of Tigger Christians running around. You know the types I am talking about. They are the ones, that no matter what is happening around them they cannot be dissuaded from plastering a fake smile on their faces. They act as if nothing phases them. Also, they don’t stop there.
These folks won’t rest until everyone around them is doing the same. This isn’t realistic, nor is it biblical. These are the people that when they come across another believer in the midst of despairing over their sin that do everything they can to cheer the person up. Furthermore, they remind them that God does not want sad followers. These Tiggers remind everyone that the world does not need to see our frowns but our smiles. Many just can’t seem to grasp that brokenness and despair and contrite hearts are godly responses.
Tiggers seem to forget that Matthew 5 teaches us that those who mourn are blessed and they will be comforted. This isn’t mourning over the loss of a loved one. This isn’t sadness over a rough spot in the road that is a product of living in a sin cursed world. This is mourning and agonizing over sin. This is being grieved deep in our souls over the myriad acts of treason that any of us may be prone to on any given day. Christ is relating to us that while we are feeling that sorrow, that conviction, we are in a good place. A place that offers us comfort and should bring joy amid our sorrow.
The Cause of Discovering Joy
Yet, what is the wellspring of that joy? It comes from knowing that He is before the throne of His Father making constant intercession for us according to Hebrews 7:25. There is joy in our brokenness over sin. We know our hearts have not been so completely hardened as to leave us without hope. This is more than a mere concept. It is apparent throughout scripture.
Sin, in the believer, leads to conviction. Failure to respond to the Spirit’s leading in this leads to a slow and gradual hardening. The harder the heart becomes the more turmoil and pain in the believer. This constant pressure has a cumulative effect. Subsequently, the genuine convert will eventually break. They belong to Christ, so they must. However, the longer this goes on in them the worse the fall.
This isn’t easy for me to talk about. I am one often fraught with feelings of despair over my security with Christ. There are moments where I am convinced that there is no way I can truly belong to Him. However, it is in those moments that I often find myself experiencing reassurance from God. He reminds me that He holds me safely in the grip of His hands. It is not that I hear personally or audibly from Him.
However, He does speak to me, to all of us, in His written Word. We know that the promises of Holy Writ are such that we will never be cast out. That if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us those sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He will not lose any of us because we have been given to Him. We were promised to Him as a reward for his suffering from before the foundation of the earth.
The Conclusion of Discovering Joy
They bring us godly joy amid godly sorrow that leads to godly repentance…
Moreover, the solution for us during this joyful conviction is the same as the solution for the unbeliever condemned by sin. It is the cross of Christ. He hung there for our sin. It was nailed there with Him because it was placed on Him on our behalves. Therefore, if He could endure the cross for the joy that was set before Him, then discovering joy amid conviction should be a beautiful duty for us…
Soli Deo Gloria!