Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.
A Living Reality
The content of this article is inspired by a sermon delivered by Pastor L.R. Shelton entitled "Holy Spirit Conviction.”
God’s word teaches that there can be no salvation apart from Holy Spirit conviction. In this current age, we face the darkest hour (spiritually) we have ever faced in this generation. Gross darkness is upon the people (Isaiah 60:2), and it is all because the church has rejected the Holy Spirit as the world has rejected Christ. Much that is palmed off on us today as the work of the Holy Spirit is nothing but the work of Satan, as it is his goal to make the world religious without Christ. Converts often know nothing about repentance and do not know Christ as a living reality in their hearts. Religion, in many ways, has become the trafficking of souls. While there are some true, God-called preachers still preaching the Gospel under the power of the Holy Spirit, they remain few and far between.
Conviction by the Holy Spirit
The subject for today’s lesson is “Holy Spirit Conviction.” In Genesis 1:2 we find these words,
“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
In the first creation, we find an earth that was without form and was void. In other words, it was empty, and darkness was upon the whole earth. Then we see the Spirit of God as He moved upon, or brooded over, the face of this dark, empty earth. Then what happened? In that third verse, God said,
“Let there be light: and there was light.”
That was the beginning of the restoration of the earth. If you read the rest of that chapter, you will see how God brought the earth out of chaos and darkness by His Word. He spoke, and the work was done. God said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” It was the work of the Holy Spirit who took the Word of God and brought order out of chaos and life out of death in the first creation.
Now let’s turn to II Corinthians chapter four, and begin reading the third verse,
“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
In this verse, we are provided with a vivid picture of a sinner, who is both lost and ruined in the fall. When Adam and Eve fell, the “light” went out in the heart of man. According to the Bible, man is a threefold being: body, soul, and spirit. In his body he is world-conscious; in his soul, or mind, he is self-conscious; in his spirit he is God-conscious. But with the light gone out of the inner sanctuary of his spirit, there is no “God-consciousness” in the fallen, ruined sinner. The Bible says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Every unsaved individual is an atheist at heart). There is none that understandeth” (Romans 3). Sinners are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), their understanding is darkened (Ephesians 4:18), and their mind is blinded (II Corinthians 4:4).
In these verses, you see the chaos that reigns in a sinner’s heart and the darkness that covers a sinner’s inner sanctuary. It is empty, without form, and void, and darkness covers the heart of the sinner. It is only the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who brooded over the first creation, that broods over the second creation and says, “Let there be light.” “Let there be light!” What does He mean? “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). Just as the Holy Spirit once brooded over this world which was covered in darkness, and out of the heavens came the command, “Let there be light: and there was light,” so the Holy Spirit broods over the heart of the sinner, and gives the command, “Let there be light,” and there is light!
That is the work of the Holy Spirit—not the work of man, not the work of the greatest theologian who ever walked this earth. The sinner is dead, and darkness hangs over and enshrouds his heart. But when the Holy Spirit of God broods over that soul and that spirit, and takes the Word of God—not the preacher’s word, not some anecdote, not some joke, but takes the Word of God—and opens that sinner’s heart, letting the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ shine in, that sinner begins to feel for the first time in his life what he is by nature.
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The Holy Spirit and Its Effect
Let’s notice briefly what effect the Word of God preached under the power of God’s Holy Spirit has upon the sinner (whether he is in the church or out of the church). First, according to Acts 2:6, he is “confounded,” which means he is confused, a world without end. Second, according to Acts 2:7, the sinner is “amazed,” that is, deeply stirred; the fear of God falls upon him until he is separated from everything else and is transported into a new world of thinking, one that he has never known before.
Then Acts 2:12 says, “And they were in doubt,” which means they were perplexed—confused, in a state of fear, and did not know how to get out. They were embarrassed because of the presence of God; they were stripped before God by the power of the Holy Spirit; they began to see themselves as guilty sinners, and they were perplexed because they could find no way out of their embarrassment. Holy Spirit conviction confuses you—it embarrasses you—you don’t know what to do with it. This is the first stage of Holy Spirit conviction: being confused. That is what happened on the day of Pentecost, and is why three thousand souls were converted and were brought to know Christ as Lord and Saviour on that day. They were first convicted, convinced by the Holy Spirit, that they were sinners, lost and ruined, with no way out. According to Acts 2:37, “They were pricked in their heart.” The word “pricked” here means they were goaded with a keen slender knife that cut its way into the very spirit until the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ shined in and laid bare their hearts and they cried, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Here we are, perplexed, with no way out—here we are, cut to pieces by the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God—here we are, embarrassed. What shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent…in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”
The Holy Spirit's Role in Salvation
Now let’s notice more definitely how the Word of God becomes effective in the salvation of a lost soul. In Ephesians 6:17 we find these words, “And the sword of the Spirit, which is in the word of God.” The Holy Spirit cannot do one thing in the heart of a sinner apart from the Word, and the Word of God is powerless apart from the Holy Spirit. But when the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God into the heart of the sinner, the sinner who is naturally asleep in sin is awakened by the Word of God. The sinner is bold and daring, and will not consider his sin, but when the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God home to his heart, He brings him to the bar of justice; He convicts him and shows him his condemnation, and the sinner feels and realizes and acknowledges his guilt and condemnation.
The Word of God in the hands of the Holy Spirit discovers or reveals sin to the sinner. The Word goes into him and through him and opens up his heart to the truth. The Holy Spirit tells him what none other in the world could ever tell him of himself—and He does this privately—only God and his own conscience know what is taking place in that sinner’s heart. The Holy Spirit knows the hearts of men; the Holy Spirit searches the hearts of men, and He knows how to take the Word of God home to the heart that He wants to open with power and much assurance.
When the Holy Spirit directs God’s Word into the heart of a sinner and lays bare the nature of sin, He pulls off the paint and the varnish from man’s heart and reveals it in its loathsome nature and its vile corruption. The Holy Spirit makes the sinner see the evil of it, which he never saw before and brings him to mourn over it. He opens the eyes of the guilty sinner and lets him look within himself for the first time; He turns him “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” For what purpose? That he might “receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith” (Acts 26:18).
The Holy Spirit, taking the Word of God home to the heart of the sinner, causes the sinner to discover his misery outside of Christ and causes him to cry out for deliverance. The sinner, by the Holy Spirit, is made to look into the Word as in a looking glass, and he sees his lost state without a Saviour. The Holy Spirit causes him to perceive himself bound over to death as a guilty sinner; this fills him with fear and terror, anxiety and remorse, and sets him to mourning after Christ for salvation. The Word of God is the means which God has chosen for bringing sinners to Christ.
We also find that the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God as a means to drive the sinner out of himself to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. He causes the sinner to sit and listen, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Law, which is our schoolmaster that brings us to Christ (Galatians 3:24), goes before and condemns the sinner under the power of the Holy Spirit and causes him to discover that he is a lost sinner. Then the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ follows with the glad tidings of salvation that Christ died for lost sinners, and the soul is prepared to embrace Christ as his Lord and Saviour.
It is the Law that condemns; it is the Gospel that acquits. It is the Law that says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4); it is the Gospel that says, “Christ died for sinners.” It is the Law that says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); it is the Gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). It is the law which is a mirror that the sinner looks into and beholds himself, then hangs his head and cries in his heart, “I’m guilty—guilty!”; it is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that comes to that guilty sinner and says, “Look yonder to Calvary’s tree; behold Christ dying for you.” It is the Law that shows a sinner how unclean and vile he is; it is the Gospel which points to the blood of the Son of God that cleanses us from sin: “He died for thee.”
It is the Holy Spirit who takes the Word of God as the means of driving the sinner out of his sins unto God and causes that sinner to see how he has sinned against God, and it is the Holy Spirit who drives him out of that state of sin and brings him to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ crying for mercy, where mercy is then bestowed. It is the Holy Spirit who takes the Word of God as a means and sets fire to the sinner’s nest in sin and brings him to the Lord as Master and Saviour.
Holy Spirit Quote
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
— Corinthians 4:6 (KJV)
Today, there is so much emptiness in modern preaching, until there is no conviction in the average church that causes a sinner to flee out of his sins and flee towards Christ, crying for mercy. There is no crying over sin; there is no breaking of human hearts at the feet of Christ. Religious movies and high-pressure decision services may persuade individuals to walk down the church aisles and make decisions for Christ, but this is nothing in the world but an abomination in the sight of God. These individuals are not being saved; they are not even convinced that they are lost. They have never stood before God guilty; they have never been pardoned by the grace of God. If the human heart never knows the piercing arrow of the Holy Spirit, the cutting sword of conviction, it will never know the power of God unto salvation in Christ.
The Word of God and the Holy Spirit
The Word of God is “like a hammer”—it breaks (Jeremiah 23:29). Here you have set forth the Word of God as the Law that breaks the sinner’s heart. Then is says again that the Word of God is “like as a fire;” that is, the Word of God set forth as the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ melts the sinner’s heart as it searches every recess of the human heart, breaking the sinner completely and pointing him to Christ as his only Saviour. The Bible says the Word of God is like a “sword” (Hebrews 4:12)—it cuts, lays bare, wounds and slays the sinner until he is brought to the end of all flesh, where he can be raised to new life in Christ. That is the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and reveals sin in that life to show the sinner his transgressions; He brings that sinner to weep and mourn over them until he forsakes them. Then the Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and digs deep into the very nature of that sinner’s being, and lays bare his prejudices, his pride, his rebellion, and his utter emptiness until he sees his guilty distance from a holy God and is made to cry out, “Have mercy upon me, O god…Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Psalms 51:1, 4).
The Holy Spirit does not rest until He sweeps away all false foundations, all false hopes and false peace from that sinner’s heart, and lets him see that his only hope, his only foundation is Christ, and brings him to rest upon Him. The Holy Spirit so strips that sinner until he sees his nakedness before God, and He will not let him rest until He has clothed him with the righteousness of the Son of God. The Holy Spirit also shows the sinner his utter corruption and his lack of righteousness, and He will not let him rest until he sits at the banquet table of God clothed in the righteousness of the Son of God.
Unless the Holy Spirit strips you and lets you see your nakedness before God, you will never cry for the righteousness of Christ. You never will cry for the righteousness of Christ. You never will! If you never see yourself lost, you will never cry to be saved. If you never see yourself naked, you will never cry to be clothed. If you never see yourself as a son of Satan, you will never cry to be made a child of God. If you never see yourself lost, a world without end, you will never cry for the holy God to save you, and bring you to Christ for salvation. There can be no salvation apart from Holy Spirit conviction.
Shelton, L.R. “Holy Spirit Conviction.” The Old Puritan Press. New Orleans, Louisiana.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Larry Slawson
Juanita Rios on July 05, 2020:
Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article and I find myself, going back and re-reading it again.
I have a question: will the Holy Spirit come into an unsaved sinners heart, even though he is not asking to be saved, but is living in sin?
I have been praying for a particular persons salvation, for several years and wonder if the Holy Spirit answers prayer by eventually convicting this person, so he will be saved?
Thank you so much.
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on July 04, 2020:
Thank you so much, Juanita :) So glad you enjoyed!
Juanita Rios on July 03, 2020:
I enjoyed reading this article. It gave me some encouragement, on how the Holy Spirit does not give up on sinners. I know many people who are lost, who need God in their lives. This article reminds me of the story of Jesus leaving the 99, and going after that one lost soul.
It gave me insight on how the Holy Spirit conviction takes place, and how the Holy Spirit brings lost souls to Himself.
I loved the article.
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on July 08, 2019:
Thank you Cristine. I'm glad you enjoyed :) A lot of the arguments presented in this article are from an old preacher named L.R. Shelton. He died in the 1970s, but a lot of his messages are still available online. He had a lot of insight into the Bible.
Cristina Santander from Manila on July 06, 2019:
Only those who can relate to this article can really appreciate the arguments presented here and this article surely strengthens the assurance of the true regenerate.
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on July 02, 2019:
Thank you so much Cristine! I’m so glad you enjoyed :)
Cristina Santander from Manila on July 01, 2019:
I just shared it to my Facebook timeline. Great article, very timely for our time.
Cristina Santander from Manila on July 01, 2019:
This is indeed an excellent hub, that brings out great revelation. Truly it is not by might, nor by power but by the Spirit of God as it is written in the Scripture. I really believe that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to bring out true conversion and regeneration. Blessings be with you always.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 31, 2019:
This article sure explains the importance of the Holy Spirit, and I fully agree. My life dramatically changed after I accepted that I was lost and needed the Lord and Holy Spirit in my life. I am happy to say the church I attend teaches only from the Bible, and I have seen people saved and also fully healed, even from cancer. Prayer is powerful!
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on May 31, 2019:
@Dora and @Liz, thank you both! I'm glad you enjoyed. This article was based largely on a sermon preached by a man named L.R. Shelton. He died back in the Seventies, but preached some pretty powerful messages during his lifetime.
Liz Westwood from UK on May 31, 2019:
This is a good reminder of the importancd of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 30, 2019:
Thanks for this teaching supported by Scripture on the Holy Spirit. I love His persistence with us the way you describe Him.