Illuminate is a series of devotionals for those, like me, enjoy the 
simplistic, yet not simplified Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are 
each intending to highlight an essential, freeing element of this 
so great a salvation.

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.  Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.”  – John 16:8-9

What do you think of when you think ‘of’ sin?  Does our mind not race towards, if we let it, acts of folly or evil?  If we spent too much time asking ourselves this question, we’d be in danger ourselves of what many of us consider to ‘be’ sin as our mind could wander safe from shore.

Our experience tells us that when we violate a good rule, or even one we didn’t agree with so long as it was authoritative, that sin is breaking a command.  We’d be right in that assumption as scripture itself gives an answer to this, at least in part, when it simply states:

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4

Yet, in the Gospel message, it was exactly because of sin which was revealed perfectly by God’s Law, that Christ came (Gal 3:24).  He came for the lawless, the sinner.  He came for those under the Law (the Jew) and those without even the hope of the Law and the Old Covenant (the Gentile).

Regardless of being a Jew, or a Gentile, obedience to commands, even good ones, lead nowhere fast in the heart of God’s new covenant with us.  That’s actually a really good thing!

As it is stated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

In fact, Paul takes it even a step further in his letter to the Galations that everyone leaning on outward obedience for righteousness has inadvertently cursed themselves (Gal 3:10).  Why?  Because the kind of righteousness, the kind of justification, the kind of grace and favor God intends to bestow upon mankind is not one that can be earned.

The love of God is not a commodity to be bought nor earned.

It was offered in a Person, and you know who that is!  Jesus perfect life lived, and perfect death sacrificed as the atoning lamb of God is our gift.

It is freely offered out of the benevolent perfect heart of the Father, and freely received through one means, and one means only – faith.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

In our opening scripture, Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit, whom He would send to His disciples after His ascension.  The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. 

He then elaborates on what this actually means, or the origin of this ‘sin’.  He doesn’t say the Holy Spirit will roam the earth convicting law breakers, but rather those that are unbelieving.  He’s not convicting robbers in their robbing, or adulterers in their escapades.  Obviously those making selfish decisions, if they still have the sensitivity of a conscience, will feel poorly for their actions in time.

The Holy Spirit however is not primarily concerned with convicting actions, but faith, or the lack thereof.  He, the Holy Spirit, is convicting the world concerning their unbelief.

Isn’t that interesting?  Why is unbelief so critical to the 3rd Person of the Trinity?

The entire world is broken, lawless, lost.  We’re already sinners.  All have sinned.  All have therefor died and without hope in the world (Rom 5:12).  This is the Christian worldview according to the Gospel message.  Good news comes only after the bad news, that is to say, the truth.

The only hope for humanity is a new covenant, a new relationship, established on new grounds.  No longer does God strive with man within the construct of obedience and disobedience.  The favor, the blessing of God, the forgiveness and reconciliation offered in the Gospel is one grounded on believing the promise of God in Christ, or not.

We come to God, and He comes to us, only through faith in Jesus.  It’s no longer about human effort, but Christ’s Righteousness.  We’re no longer slaves to the law, but Christ, who came under the Law for us, redeemed us from it (Gal 4:5, Rom 7:14).  We are now sons and daughters through faith (Gal 3:26, 2 Cor 6:18).

Believing, trusting, surrendering to, putting our faith in Jesus as the incarnate, sufficient sacrifice is what God is looking for as the Gospel goes out to the nations.  The Holy Spirit both empowering this message as it’s proclaimed, and convicting hearts to respond as it reaches the ear of the imprisoned heart.

If you confess with your mouth and BELIEVE in your heart…  Rom 10:9

BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved… Acts 16:31

Jesus, when talking with Nicodemus, makes this affirming statement:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18

So what is sin?  Is it not, at the heart of it all, a rejection of the coming Son?

To name various lawless or evil acts simply will not do. Sin is the result of lacking Jesus Christ.  It’s to reject the Savior who died for us.  Actionable ‘sins’ in the flesh are nothing more than fruit stemming from the root of unbelief. The real cause of all outward sin is an unbelieving, and therefor unregenerate heart.  Humanity’s actions, no matter how noble and just, if flowing from a heart of unbelief, is sin.

Sin is devastating in effect.  Sin is real.  Yet to eradicate it’s deathly work we must surrender to God’s remedy – faith.

“..consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” Rom 6:11

To fight sin through morality and restrained discipline alone is vanity.  We experience freedom through the gates of belief in Christ and His power!

If we reject Jesus, we stand utterly and perfectly condemned.  To suggest that unbelievers duty is to reform their life, their morality, and stop ‘sinning’ in action is to circumvent the Gospel message.  There’s nothing pleasing to God if the Son is rejected as the sole means of grace.

Upon a Life I have not lived,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death,
I stake my whole eternity.

Horatius Bonar

Did you hear that?  The sole means of grace?  This is where Christianity historically wrestles.  We want to receive the grace in Christ, but package it with a holy piety as if they are a combination requirement and not simply the out-flowing result.

I believe, scripture teaches that unbelief is the primary sin and so the root cause of our sin.  Conversely, I believe that the gift of faith is the primary, root cause of our Righteousness.  Without faith, no man is Righteous (Rom 3:22).  With faith, no longer are we sinners.  We will fall, we will fail, but our covenant secured relationship with the Father is based on Christ’s merits alone.  To believe this, is to know freedom Christ intended (John 8:32, Gal 5:1).

From the fount of our faith in Jesus Christ flows our life’s fruit.  From the fount of unbelief comes the works of the flesh.  Can a believing Christian sin?  Of course.  We by no means claim moral superiority, we claim Christ, and we want to grow in His likeness.  Can an unbeliever be Righteous?  Not a chance.

The Gospel message is great news to those who recognize their sin and embrace Jesus as their Righteousness.  It’s terrible news for those who forego the path of grace in exchange for anything else.

Illuminate our hearts Lord Jesus Christ with the treasures within your great Gospel!