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When You've Been Broken by Conviction

Originally published Wednesday, 24 September 2014.

One of my favorite summaries of the gospel comes from Tim Keller: "we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope." I love that statement, but the problem is, it seems that I love the second half more than the first.

I realized that earlier this year when I sinned against a loved one. It was an inconsiderate and thoughtless action on my part and perhaps I could have justified my actions away by saying that it wasn't intentional. But God wouldn't let me. He poked and prodded me through his Spirit. He shone a spotlight on my heart so that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get away from it. He had me under a microscope. The truth was unavoidable and what Tim Keller says is true, I am a far worse sinner than I ever imagined.

Have you ever walked around all day with food on your face or your hair doing weird things or your clothes stained and you never realized it? Until finally you walk into the bathroom and stand before a mirror and are shocked by how you look. You cringe, realizing everyone else saw you this way but you had no clue. Conviction of sin can be like that in some ways. It's like holding a mirror up to our heart and seeing what's really there. The image we had in our minds of ourselves is crushed. We don't have it all together. We are more sinful than we realized.

When King David sinned against Bathsheba and then had her husband killed in battle, the prophet Nathan pointed out David's sin to him. He was convicted of his sin and immediately responded, "I have sinned against the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:13). David penned a confession about this particular sin in Psalm 51 where he described how that conviction felt, comparing it to that of broken bones, “Let the bones you have broken rejoice” (v.8).

I have a new appreciation for the pain of broken bones after falling this summer while roller skating with my kids. My skates flew out from underneath me and I landed flat on my back. At first all I felt was embarrassment and soreness in my back where I landed. But before long, my wrist started to hurt. Slowly, over the next hour, the pain worked itself up from my wrist to my elbow. A few hours later I was in agony. After I described the pain to my paramedic husband over the phone, he said that because I was holding my arm close to my body and not moving it, that was a good indicator I needed to go to the ER. I endured the torture of X-rays and found that I had broken a bone near my elbow. That pain in my arm was telling me that something was wrong.

Paul Tripp, in his wonderful book, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, puts it this way: “the physical pain of an actual broken bone is worth being thankful for because it’s a warning sign something is wrong in that arm or leg. In the same way, God’s loving hammer of conviction is meant to break your heart, and the pain of heart you feel is meant to alert you to the fact that something is spiritually wrong inside of you. Like the warning signal of physical pain, the rescuing and restoring pain of convicting grace is a thing worth celebrating.” (p.35)

Seeing our messy hair or face covered in food particles in the mirror is embarrassing but it's also a good thing because it moves us to get cleaned up. The pain in my arm was also a good thing for it made me go to the doctor and get it checked out. And the pressing pain of conviction is a good thing because it pushes us to the throne of grace where we confess and repent of our sins. Paul referred to this pain as godly sorrow or what I like to call a good grief. "For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (2 Corinthians 7:8-10).

This good grief pushes us to repentance where we are then washed anew in the gospel of grace and experience the glory filled wonder of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. This is what David cried out for in Psalm 51, “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out my iniquities. Create in me in a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (vs. 9-10). Only God can forgive us and take away our sins. In David’s time, it occurred through the sacrificial system, in ours, through the perfect and complete sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. His death on the cross marked an end to the Old Testament sacrifices and peeled back the curtain that barred us from God's presence. Christ redeemed and restored us back into right relationship to the Father, giving us freedom to come before him with our good grief in repentance and receive his forgiveness in return. This forgiveness restores our joy, making broken bones (and hearts) rejoice.

My broken bone has since healed and I've found renewed joy in being able to move my arm in full circles. Facing the depths of my sin earlier this year hurt like a broken bone. But I needed to realize and face the truth, that I am "more wicked than I ever dared believe." Because only then could I truly experience the joy of forgiveness and embrace the amazing truth that I am "more loved and accepted in Christ than I ever dared hope."

Have you felt God's crushing and bone breaking conviction on your heart?