Conviction Of Sin
By Oswald J. Smith
There is one thing that was always prominent in the great revivals of past days – a deep and a true conviction of sin. And it is one of the vital elements that is lacking today.
Where there is genuine conviction of sin it is not necessary to urge, coax or press in the energy of the flesh; sinners will come without being forced; they will come because they must. Those who go home from the meeting unable to eat or sleep because of deep conviction do not need to be coaxed and urged to seek relief.
In the modern campaign the evangelist calls upon people to accept Christ, and rightly so. But oh, that we could hear sinners calling upon Christ to accept them! People take salvation today in such a cold, formal, matter-of-fact, business-like sort of way that it appears as though they are doing God an honor in condescending to receive His offer of redemption. Their eyes are dry, their sense of sin absent; nor is there any sign of penitence and contrition. They look upon it as a manly thing to do. But oh, if there were conviction! if they came with hearts bowed down, yea! broken and contrite, came with the cry of the guilt-laden soul: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" – came trembling, with the burning life and death question of the Philippian jailor: "What must I do to be saved?" – what converts they would be!
If we are to get Holy Spirit fruit, God must prepare the ground; the Holy Spirit must convict of sin before men can truly believe. It is right to tell people to believe when God has done His work in their hearts, but first they must feel their need. Let us wait until the Spirit of God has done His part before we say: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Let us first see the signs of conviction as in the case of the Philippian jailor. And when their anguish is so deep that they are forced to cry aloud: "What must I do to be saved?" then we will know that they are ready to be exhorted to trust and exercise faith in Christ.
J. H. Lord has written: "There is another Gospel, too popular in the present day, which seems to exclude conviction of sin and repentance from the scheme of salvation; which demands from the sinner a mere intellectual assent to the fact of his guilt and sinfulness, and a like intellectual assent to the fact and sufficiency of Christ’s atonement; and such assent yielded, tells him to go in peace, and to be happy in the assurance that the Lord Jesus has made it all right between his soul and God; thus crying peace, peace, when there is no peace.
"Flimsy and false conversions of this sort may be one reason why so many who assume the Christian profession dishonor God and bring reproach on the church by their inconsistent lives, and by their ultimate relapses into worldliness and sin. Sin must be felt before it can be mourned. Sinners must sorrow before they can be comforted. True conversions are the great want of the times. Conversions such as were common once, and shall be again, when the church shakes off her lethargy, takes hold upon God’s strength, and brings down the ancient power. Then, as of old, sinners will quail before the terror of the Lord."
Would we think of calling a doctor before we were sick? Do we urge people who are well and strong to hasten to the physician? Does the man who is swimming well beseech those on the shore to come and save him? Certainly not! But let sickness come, and at once we feel our need and a doctor is called. We know that we require a remedy. When we feel ourselves sinking below the surface, and realize that we are drowning, we will, then, soon call for help. And oh, the agony through which we pass as we find ourselves going down and know that unless someone saves us, we are lost and must perish!
So it is with a perishing soul. When a man is convicted of his lost condition he will cry out in the bitter anguish of his heart: "What must I do to be saved?" He will need no urging, no coaxing; it is a matter of life or death to him, and he will do anything to be saved.
It is this lack of conviction that results in a spurious revival, and causes the work to come undone. It is one thing to hold up the hand and sign a decision card, but it is quite another thing to get saved. Souls must be brought into clear and abiding liberty if the work is to last. It is one thing to have hundreds of professed converts during the excitement of the campaign, but it is another thing to come back five years after and find them still there.
John Bunyan understood it well when he pictured Christian with his great load of sin on his back, and described his exercise of soul until he got rid of his burden at the foot of the Cross.
God has placed His own value on His Word. He calls it a "Fire," a "Hammer" and a "Sword." Now fire burns; a blow from a hammer hurts; while a cut from a sword causes real pain. And when His Word is proclaimed in the power of the anointing it will have exactly the same results. It will burn like fire, break like a hammer and pierce like a sword, and the spiritual or mental pain will be just as severe and real as the physical. And if not – then there is something wrong either with the messenger or the message.