Conviction: How ought you minister it to your friend? Dr. Donna Hart, Ph.D., a BCC counselor, explores this question and gives practical help in this post, which first appeared here on her website. It it used with her permission.
Effectively using the Scriptures to convict another person of sin is a necessary element of being a biblical friend. The Scriptures must be brought to bear on the sinner’s conscience if they are going to be convicted of the sin against God in their lives.
Often our friends do not realize the extent to which they are sinning. Neither do they realize the extent to which they must change. As friends we must help them to comprehend these things, and we must do so with the Scriptures. We must know how to use the Bible to convince our friends that they have broken God’s law and that apart from Christ, unbelievers stand condemned.
Holy Spirit, Scripture, and Spiritual Friends
The Holy Spirit certainly does convict believers of sin (John 16:8), as do the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16). But as God’s ministers and spiritual friends we are also charged with the ministry of conviction. The Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to “convict” those under his spiritual care with the Scriptures.
Preach the word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove [convict], rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:2).
Bringing conviction is a part of the responsibility of the ministry of the Word.
Sometimes all three agents of conviction (the Spirit, the Word, and the minister of the Word) are necessary to bring about the desired result. When ministering the Word we must do so under the power of the Holy Spirit for the desired conviction to be effective. God’s Spirit may work in any way He chooses, but we ought to expect Him to work in accordance with the way He has said He would in the Bible.
Conviction is important because relationship with God depends upon it. As Proverbs 6:23 teaches, “reproofs for discipline are the way of life.”
Conviction is also a prerequisite to repentance and change. The primary objective of conviction is always to facilitate our conformity to the character of Christ. Of course, it is possible for someone to be convicted of sin without following through to repentance. But it is not possible for someone to repent sincerely without first being convicted.
Practical Helps in Conviction
In order to convict someone of sin we must be familiar with the Scriptures. We must sharpen our spiritual swords by understanding what the Bible says about sinfulness, and thoroughly explain the Scripture portions we are going to use.
There are a few practical factors to consider as we use Scripture for conviction. We must start by examining our motives. According to Galatians 6:1, the goal we are trying to accomplish in dealing with a person overtaken by a fault should be restoration, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one…”
When using the Scriptures to describe sinful behavior, we are to use the example of Paul who said, “not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” For example, if we use the word “idiot” rather than “foolish,” we will more likely provoke a person to anger rather than motivate them to repentance.
We need to talk about conviction so as to make it clear that the indictment is for sin against God. The thrust of our discussion should not be, “Don’t you realize how much you hurt me by what you did?” Our wording should rather focus on the severity of committing such a sin against God, “Do you know what God thinks about what you did?”
It is not wrong to help a friend see how much their sin has affected others. Such appeals, when rightly worded, can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring conviction.
Choose the timing and words well. “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer” (Proverbs 15:28). When using the Scriptures for the purpose of conviction, we must take aim at the conscience. The goal is to disturb any complacency and indifference to sin and awaken our friend to the fact that they have done something displeasing to God.
Gentleness is a necessary requirement when attempting to convict others of their sin. We must be cautious when we convict that we are not sinfully angry because it will be almost impossible to be gentle. Even in the cases where we are righteously angry, it is easy to be harsh.
Another important component to gentleness is humility. It is crucial to recognize our own frailty and communicate that frailty in the process of reproving another. The things we are telling our friend this week may be the very thing we have to tell ourselves next week.
He who rebukes a man will afterwards find [more] favor than he who flatters with the tongue (Proverbs 28:23).
This verse reminds us that we must not be discouraged with the uncomfortable tension that often accompanies correction and reproof in our own hearts as we imagine the voices and faces of those we reprove. Our hearts can fill with fear at the thought of a lost friendship. But God has given us this verse to give us hope that later on, after the reproof has been given and the restoration has occurred, God will be most glorified and we will find favor in the eyes of our friend.
We must not let our discomfort keep us from the ministry of conviction and loving another enough to give them what God says they need–even if it is not what they want.