“No trial is so hard to bear as the sense of sin in (our soul). If Thou shouldst give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sins, or to have them burned away with trial, give me sanctified affliction.”
(Unknown Author from the Book “The Valley of Vision)
What is this inward sense of sin spoken of by the author of this quote? What kind of a man would choose affliction instead of the ability to live in pleasure, if given the choice by God? The person who would choose affliction is a one redeemed through the death and resurrection of Christ. This person regenerated by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8), receiving Christ’s finished work by faith, having repented from their former life and walking in Christ’s love and commands– wants nothing more than to be in pleasing to God and enjoy His presence. This essentially is the heart of Paul’s desire communicated to us in Philippians 3:10 “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection of the dead”.
The redeemed of the Lord, having this desire, are equipped in their new creation life (II Corinthians 5:17), with a supernatural awareness of anything that will hinder their desire to please God and enjoy His presence. This blessed equipment and alarm system is not a thing but the person of the Holy Spirit.
We understand that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8-11), but we often forget what He does in our redeemed lives. In those who follow the Christ, He brings to remembrance the all the things that Jesus has said (John 14:26), and leads us into all truth (John 16:13). This is for the purpose of our obeying the commands of Christ, which we desire to do in order to please Him; not for salvation sake (which comes to us by grace through faith), but because we love Him more than life (John 14:15).
The Holy Spirit is also the One who makes God’s call to be holy as He is holy, a reality in our lives. This occurs as we submit to the commands of Christ, we behave as we truly are before God, holy and set apart for Him alone. How this works in our life can be seen in a very popularly recited proverb, that we much need real time practice in…
(Proverbs 3:5-7) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
This is the most wonderful way to live, because it takes us from living by a moral code, into living by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. Although many would speak of the difficulty, I suggest the difficulty is only in our lack of discipline to listen for His real time leading.
Lets be honest, we like to make our own decisions; which gives us a sense of pleasure as we figure our way out of trouble or into blessing. When that “appears” to be the case, we can pat ourselves on the back, in our supposed sufficiency, but for the redeemed of the Lord we must shun this type of thinking. We are to know with the apostles “in us, that is our flesh dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:8) and “we are not sufficient in ourselves to think anything goof comes from us, but our sufficiency is of God, who has made us able…” (II Corinthians 3:5-6)
As we once more consider the quote above, concerning the revelation of sin in our lives and the lengths we will go to for it’s removal, we discover another action of the Holy Spirit in the believers life: to make us uncomfortable through conviction, when we sin. The reason for this action is that sin, even in the life of the redeemed, separates us from the presence of God in relationship. This occurs because sin grieves the heart of God, being an obstacle to His blessings and love in our lives (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2-3). When that separation occurs, or is about to occur, the Holy Spirit will reveal the grief of God, and we begin to feel a sense of agony. We are grieved at offending the one we love more than life.
Normally we would consider the word agony, one to be avoided at all costs, but in relation to knowing our sin, it is one of the highest blessings. You may be thinking, “Say what”, but remember God’s convicting us of sin is not for the purpose of punishment; it is for the purpose of further the life of Christ in us. Conviction is not to make us feel like losers, but loved–Not to bring condemnation of our character, but be used as be used as a tool to draw us nearer to LOVE, because God is LOVE. This is why a saint of God would rather go through sanctified affliction, instead of choosing to live in pleasure; for in their lives there is no greater joy than being loved by God and loving Him back.
Sadly, we have sought (in a generalized pattern) to remove all the “uncomfortable” in many fellowships, so people will want to be in Church. It is for this reason, we have “Big Game Dinners” so men uncomfortable with “religion” will see we are as cool as any other organization, and support gluttony. This is why we have movie nights, in order to draw in younger generations, who simply need to know God loves them and so do we. It is for this reason we do outreach of all shapes and sizes, because “they will never want to know what we know, unless they know that we care”. This is why churches have become play houses for “sanctified entertainment”, because why should the devil have all the good leisure? We have taken up the paradigm that we do not want the lost or saved to feel uncomfortable, because then they won’t stay in or come to our churches. We ought to be more concerned about whether they are IN Christ are REMAINING in Him.
This faulty thinking is why we are not seeing supernatural transformation in those “being saved”; because they are no convicted of sin, but merely assenting to the salvation track spiel we “strategically” place in our outreach. This faulty thinking is also why we are often ineffective in making disciples, because speaking on the dangers of sin, or how we are to be holy, how we are to walk in the leading of the Holy Spirit, makes people uncomfortable. It is time we confess and repent of our fear of man, because being led by and feeling uncomfortable by the Holy Spirit of God is of the highest order of Blessing from our Savior. This sense of sin, is essential for our walking with God.
Knowing the dangers of sin and the need for conviction, redeemed of the Lord would rather choose sanctified affliction over being comfortable, in order to draw nearer to God. When was the last time you were led by the Holy Spirit? When was the last time you grieved over sin or a disobedience toward God?
Understand I am not suggesting this uncomfortable burden should be continual or even consistent at all times. We are to be walking in the righteousness of the Christ life with more proficiency daily (II Corinthians 4:6). Yet considering the last time you felt that conviction, and what did you do with it, will indicate where you are heading in the future To treat it sin merely as a mistake covered by grace, is to be doomed to repeat the sin. To treat is as an intrusion into your relationship to God, with potential to separate you from His blessing and presence is to be on the road to being wholly sanctified (I Thessalonians 5:23). Let’s treat sin as we should, an offense to God and a blessing killing bullet with our name on it.