Bill Bright was the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, a ministry to university students around the world. He illustrated a teaching of Holy Spirit victorious living for the Church. This teaching showed me what it means to walk in the Spirit and live a life of victory. It demonstrated what it means to be sanctified—showed me how to live in consistent obedience.
For several years after becoming a Christian I was living in defeat. Sin continued to be present in my life and appeared to be getting the better of me. I tried to be good, I tried to ressit sin; but consistently failed. I thought that I was supposed to control myself—choose not to sin in my own strength—but that simply does not work. As I tried to avoid sin in my own strength, I would do well for a while, but ultimately would return to a sin that I thought was behind me. The inconsistency was making me miserable because I was not having the “success” I thought should be the norm for every Christ-follower.
There’s a term we use in Christian-ese for that “misery” we experience when we allow sin into our lives—CONVICTION. If you don’t speak Christian-ese you might call that feeling “GUILT”—you feel guilty. Both words are appropriate. We know that when we do something wrong we stand “CONVICTED” or “GUILTY” before God for our sin. It is normal to experience CONVICTION or GUILT when we ignore God's Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ has given us the living Spirit of God—the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit indwells us—lives within us at the point of Salvation. So when we do something wrong, be assured HE will tell us. And if we ignore His voice the sense of conviction and guilt will grow.
Before I understood how this all works someone once asked me, “Why are you afraid of the Holy Spirit’s communication with you? Isn’t this something you should receive gladly?” They asked me that after I told them I didn’t like conviction. “Conviction makes me feel guilty.” They helped me to see conviction for what it is. It is not an instrument used by God to condemn me or to punish me, but it is loving communication from His Holy Spirit directing me away from sin. We are not being punished when the Holy Spirit convicts us, we are being instructed how to respond to a given situation where we have fallen.
The circles graphic on this page is adapted directly from Bill Bright’s teaching at Campus Crusade (CRU). Over the years I’ve added my own squiggly lines on white boards, note pads, and napkins to come up with what you are seeing.
The first circle to the left represents our life before we accepted Christ. The chair (or the driver seat) in the middle is occupied by each of us, at that point—we are in control our lives. Christ and His Holy Spirit are not in our lives but are on the outside (depicted by the cross in the lower left hand corner). The “S”s in the circle and out of the circle represent sin. The first circle is our lives before we became Christians.
The second circle represents our lives with Christ (this is the point after we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord). Notice, there is no sin in circle two, but there is Joy, Peace and Freedom.
The third circle to the far right is our lives, again with sin—Christ hasn’t left us (He’ll never leave or forsake us, Hebrews 13:5b). But sin has entered our lives and because of that we are back in the driver’s seat.
If you look at the space in between circle two and three (towards the top) you see how Satan uses temptation to persuade us to sin. At the same time Satan is tempting us, the Holy Spirit is convincing us to do what is righteous. When we choose to listen to Satan’s tempting over the Holy Spirit’s voice we give birth to sin in our lives—and we move from circle two (where there is peace, joy and freedom) to circle three where there is heart ache, guilt and shame. In essence what we’ve done is taken away the control we gave to the Spirit of God. This is the point in which we stand in conviction—guilty of our sin. The apostle Paul calls giving in to Satan’s temptation and rejecting the Holy Spirit’s voice “grieving the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). It is at this point that we feel defeated, guilty and miserable—we have grieved the very person to whom we have committed our lives. We cry out along with the man at the end of Romans chapter 7: “Oh wretched man or woman that I am.”
Something every Christ-follower needs to understand—for encouragement as well as for exhortation—is that even the most seasoned Chirst-follower will fall into sin. In the apostle John’s letter to the church (1st John) he wrote in the first chapter that if we deny that we have sin we make God out to be a liar. So, every Christ-follower will at one time or another find themselves in the third circle where the Holy Spirit has been dethroned, and they are sitting in the driver’s seat. Sin again is present in their lives. John tells us what to do with that sin. In 1st John chapter one verse nine he writes,
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
When you look up the word confess in the dictionary you will find something similar to: “admit having done something wrong” or “acknowledge something to be true.” Our confession of sin is our admittance that we’ve done something wrong, or it is our acknowledgement the the conviction of the Holy Spirit is true. In order to experience forgiveness for the sin we’ve committed we need to come to a point where we say: “Heavenly Father, what I did was wrong, forgive me.” or “What you said is wrong is wrong. Forgive me.” And He will forgive our sins and He will purify us from ALL unrighteousness.
When we listen to the Holy Spirit like this, the Christian life becomes joyful, peaceful, free and full of love again. This is because we are returning to circle two where He is on the throne and sin is not effecting us.
My heart breaks for the Christ-followers who live in circle three. I lived there for years—years offending (grieving) the Spirit of God and ripping control of my life away from Him. I was on the throne of my life because I disregarded His guidance and allowed sin to enter into my relationship with Him. There are so many Christ-followers with anger issues, with lust issues, with addiction issues, with bitterness issues (etc.) that are choosing to live in circle three. In the same chapter of 1st John, he writes in verses five and six that
“…God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth” (1st John 1:5–6).
I was coming close to living a lie—my relationship with Christ was in danger of being a lie. The Holy Spirit was pushed off to a remote corner of my life because I was choosing to control rather than surrendering control to Him.
If you are in a similar position, where you have not understood this dynamic of relationship that you have with Christ, all you need to do is surrender to Him. This is accomplished through confession and repentance. This ministry of the Holy Spirit—SANCTIFICATION—will bring the Christian back to that victorious Christian life they experienced prior to sinning (circle 2). And when we consistently live this way—listening to the HS voice and confessing and repenting when we fall—we will grow because He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Sanctification is the continuous work of Jesus that takes place in our lives through His Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the work of being separated from sin for the expressed purpose of serving God.
The founder of the Christian and Missionary Allinace, A.B. Simpson, wrote:
“Men and women who do not press on in their Christian experience to gain the fullness of their inheritance in Him will often become cold and formal. The evil in their own heart will assert itself again and may very likely overcome them, and their work will bring confusion and disaster to the cause of Christ” (Simpson, Fourfold Gospel, 25).
Praise be to God, we don’t have to live there. We can live where He is on the throne in our lives and we are responsive to Him. We can live where we are being used by God to further His kingdom through our lives. We don’t need to cause confusion and disaster to the Cause of Christ, but we can live bringing clarity of Christ to others.
Now, I will say it again, “Be holy as God is Holy!”
Now, I will say it again, “Be holy as God is Holy!”