Sitting in my office at home one summer day, the blinds were open and the bright morning sun shone through the slats. I was talking to someone on the phone, and I remember a direct beam of sunshine, an incredibly bright ray of light, was focused on my knee. When the caller said something funny, I laughed and slapped my knee. As soon as I hit my pants, a cloud of something — dust, perhaps — wafted upward and filled the air. I was wearing a pair of freshly laundered Dockers, yet a battalion of microparticles had been camping out in my pants! I had slapped my leg many times before, and there probably was a cloud every time I did it, but until that day, I had never seen it. Only through the intense light could I see the microscopic dust particles on my apparently clean pants.
The Holy Spirit is like that light. We may think we are doing just fine, but when that Light shines on us, we see lots of things we never saw before. As the Holy Spirit gains more control of our lives, we gain a new perspective on sin. Things that didn’t used to bother us suddenly do. We become convicted about things that seemed fine earlier in our Christian walk.
If a person doesn’t have a growing sensitivity toward sin and lacks a desire to become more like Christ, it’s questionable whether that person ever had an authentic conversion. False conversions do take place. It’s possible to have mental affirmation that there is a God and that Jesus is his Son. According to James: “Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19). But in a true spiritual conversion, we will always see tenderness of heart, a new reliance on Christ, and a desire to be more like him. That has been the pattern for more than two thousand years. Recognizing our sin isn’t enough. Grieving over it proves God is at work.
The Spirit’s work in us is accomplished through our yielding to his prompting and movement. He wants to work in the deepest level of our being — the place where our thoughts, desires, and plans are formed. That is why Paul wrote, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fufill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.