Note: Below is an excerpt from Jeff Kennedy’s soon to be released book on the Holy Spirit: Father, Son, and the Other One ~ Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Transforming, Empowering Reality in Your Life. Jeff’s book is Francis Chan on steroids! I highly recommend it.
I don’t know why my wife and I did this, but the first year we owned our home we made no effort to change the batteries in our smoke alarms. I discovered that when the batteries got low on the disc shaped alarms that they would sound off a little chirp, reminding the homeowner that it’s time for a new battery. We spent about a month just ignoring the occasional chirp from the alarm in the kitchen. But after a while it was beeping every two minutes.
So, I took the fire alarm off the ceiling, walked downstairs to the basement, and I stuck it in the laundry room. That worked for about an hour until I realized that I could still hear the alarm chirping from every room in the house. Then I took it out to the garage and stuck it on a shelf. That bought me a solid hour or two before I realized that I could still faintly hear it…
I was starting to lose it.
So, I went out to the garage and angrily buried the alarm in a box and covered it with some old guitar magazines. I briefly glanced over to my workbench where I kept my duct tape. Then, I finally came to my senses.
“What am I doing? Why don’t I just change the battery?” Great idea. I fished the alarm back out of the box, replaced the old battery and popped it back on to the ceiling—no more annoying chirps.
I think both religious people and sinners share the same motivation. They are both trying to silence the alarms of guilt and shame—one with religious activity and the other through pleasure seeking.
The role of the Spirit is to dredge up all that stuff that we’ve buried and hidden away. Only when we come to our senses and admit our guilt can the Spirit begin his work of transformation in our hearts.
Jesus told the Disciples that when the Spirit comes, he will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (Jn 16:8).
He convicts us of righteousness because we can’t know that we’ve fallen short of the mark until we know what the mark is. And Jesus alone is the standard bearer in the Christian faith. He alone is righteous.
He convicts us of sin because, left to ourselves, we would never hear the sirens and the alarms of the Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we would wander aimlessly with only some broad moral parameters.
He convicts us of certain judgment. The Gospel also includes a warning. And the Spirit wants to bring us to the inexorable conclusion that without Jesus we are lost and headed for a Christ-less eternity.
As believers, we also experience ongoing conviction of sin. We must live in such a way that the Spirit’s voice can be heard loud and clear. We can do this by removing several barriers…
1) Self-righteousness: This is the universal delusion of humanity. Both religious and non-religious people are convinced that they can just be good enough for God. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’s parable (Lk 18:9-14), the super-religious are convinced they are better than the riffraff. Likewise, the garden-variety non-Christian is measuring himself against those really bad people like mobsters, murders, and sex-traffickers. But we all have the wrong standard—people who we think are worse than us.
2) Blame-shifting: Once we acknowledge that wrong was done—a crime was perpetrated—then someone must take the fall. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, it is human nature to transfer the blame to everyone around us. Adam said to God “This woman you put in the garden with me…” It’s everybody else’s fault but his. And the woman responded, “This sneaky servant deceived me…”—See the pattern here? It’s difficult to hear the Spirit’s conviction when we fail to own our stuff.
3) Downplaying: Sometimes in ministry, I hear people admit wrongdoing but then they try to soften the ugliness of it. Sure they blew it, but was it really that bad? We recently had a good friend who was caught in a grave pattern of sin and failure against his leaders. His initial response was to take ownership. But when he realized he was going to have to confess it to the church, he began to modulate and downplay the gravity of it. Unfortunately, it resulted in some very destructive things in the life of the church and crushed those of us who loved him and believed in him.
4) Listening to false voices: In the Old Testament, the prophets constantly warned Israel not to listen to “lying prophets.” These false prophets told Israel that God would tolerate their idolatry and sin. But God’s spokesmen warned that Babylonian exile was coming. Listen, the Holy Spirit can’t bless “stupid.” Let’s surround ourselves with people who are wise and speak truth into our lives.
The Spirit means to bring our sin scratching and yowling into the light of the cross. Only when we humble ourselves and confess and embrace his cleansing power can we be saved and begin to grow in the Christian faith. Only when we demolish those barriers to conviction can we live in unity with others. The question is, can we hear the sirens?
Jeff Kennedy is the Executive Pastor of Adult Ministries at Eastpoint Church. His book on the Holy Spirit: Father, Son, and the Other One: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Transforming, Empowering Reality in Your Life is being released on Feb 4th. You can preorder a copy at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble or CBD.com.
You can also connect with Jeff at his personal web page: jeffkennedy.tv