"It is of great importance that the sinner should be made to feel his guilt...
By a convicted sinner, I mean one who feels himself condemned by the Law of God, as a guilty sinner."
Charles G. Finney
by Ray Comfort
The way to produce conviction in the heart of the sinner is to take him through the Ten Commandments. (See Exodus 20:1-17). As we do so, see if you could stay alive after each barrel blasts you; watch how the Law annihilates self-righteousness.
- That means that we should love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.
Jesus brought out the essence of the command by saying, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). This is what is commonly called a "hyperbole," i.e. contrasting love with hate for emphasis. Our love for our Creator, the One who gave us life, should be so great that all our other affections should seem as hate in comparison to it.
Many years ago, I bought a color television so that my children could watch afternoon children's programs. The first day we had the set, I arrived home and noticed that my offspring weren't at the door to greet me. They were glued to the TV. My homecoming had become a non-event.
I walked over to the television, turned it off, and said, "Kids, I bought that TV for your pleasure, but if it comes between you and your love for me, it's going. It's a wrong order of affections. You are setting your affection on the gift rather than thegiver."
In the same way, if we love husband, wife, child, boyfriend, girlfriend, car, sports, motorbike, music, or even our own life more than we love God, we are setting our affections on the gift rather than the Giver. It is a wrong order of affection, which the Bible calls "inordinate affection." God is jealous of our love. He should be the focal point of our lives and affection.
In my twenty-two years as a non-Christian, I certainly didn't love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength; in fact, His very name epitomized the word "boredom" to me. When the truth was shown to me, I knew I had miserably failed to keep the first commandment.
- This speaks of those who "changed the truth of God into a lie" (Romans 1:25, KJV). Multitudes make God into their own image by saying, "My God is a God of love; He would never create hell."
YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FOR YOURSELF ANY CARVED IMAGE.
The irony of it is that they are right. Their god would never create hell, because he doesndols] are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them" (Psalm 115:8).
If a man walked down a railroad track, saw a train racing toward him, closed his eyes, and said, "I believe it's a marshmallow train," would it change reality? What he believes doesn't matter. What matters is that if he doesn't get off the track, he will be a marshmallow!
The truth is that it doesn't matter what we believe about God. He says, "I am the Lord, I do not change" (Malachi 3:6). The Bible warns that idolaters will not inherit the kingdom of God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9).
- Jesus said, "For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36).
YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD IN VAIN, FOR THE LORD WILL NOT HOLD HIM GUILTLESS WHO TAKES HIS NAME IN VAIN.
I was once sitting at a restaurant counter near two young ladies who were talking. After about five minutes, I leaned across and offered one of the girls a booklet. She noticed that it was a Christian booklet and said that she was a Christian. I turned to her friend and said, "You're not, though, are you?"
She replied, "Why do you say that?"
I gently answered, "Because in the past five minutes, you've blasphemed God's name four times."
She put her hand to her mouth and said, "God...I have!"
To which I said, "Five!"
I explained, "When a man hits his thumb with a hammer, he may express his pain and disgust by using a four-letter word. Then again, he may use the name of God. When he does, he takes the Name that is above every name, that holy name of his Creator and brings it down to the level of a four-letter filth word!"
Then, in gentleness I said to her, "That's called 'blasphemy,' and I wouldn't be in your shoes on judgment day for all the tea in China!" She looked me straight in the eye and said, "You've ruined my day!" She was really upset. The work of the Law was written in her heart.
- In retrospect, I failed to give God even one minute's worship in twenty-two years as a non-Christian, much less one day in seven.
REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY TO KEEP IT HOLY.
Even though He gave me eyes, ears, a mind, the power of reason, and life itself, I never bothered to say, "O God, You gave me life. What do you require of me?"
- Who can say that he's kept this command? The word "honor" means to "value." God's idea of "value" and ours, no doubt, are poles apart. Ephesians 6:2 says this is the first commandment with promise. Therefore, if it is broken, all will not be well with you and your days will not be long upon the earth.
HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.
God gave some stern warnings in the Old Testament to children who refused to honor their parents.
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall...say to the elders of the city, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil person from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear. --Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
The eye that mocks his father and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it --Proverbs 30:17.
- Scripture says, "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15). The New Testament does not deal with just outward actions, but the inward motivations of our hearts.
YOU SHALL NOT MURDER.
Jesus made this piercing statement:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not murder," and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, "Raca!" shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, "You fool!" shall be in danger of hell fire --Matthew 5:21,22.
Hatred, unholy anger, and name-calling put us in danger of hell's fires as surely as if we had taken a gun and murdered the person.
- Like the above command, the New Testament reveals the essence of God's pure standards. Jesus said that "whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).
YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY.
In civil law, to conspire to commit a crime can be as much a transgression as the committal of the crime itself. God knows that he who lusts holds back from adultery not for conscience sake but for lack of opportunity. Adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God. (See 1 Corinthians 6:9.)
- No thief shall enter the kingdom of God. What do you have to steal to be a thief? A paperclip will do, or failure to pay taxes. If you have taken anything that doesn't belong to you, no matter how small, you won't enter the kingdom of God! (See 1 Corinthians 6:10.)
YOU SHALL NOT STEAL.
Both Old and New Testaments describe not only sins of commission but sins of omission. If we have failed to meet a need with our resources, are we not as guilty as if we have stolen from the less fortunate?
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it," when you have it with you --Proverbs 3:27,28
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin --James 4:17
Stealing from the less fortunate by our inactivity is a crime in God's sight. Many people have never considered that their lack of generosity is also robbing God of what is rightfully His.
Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, "In what way have we robbed you?" In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation --Malachi 3:8,9.
- This is more commonly known as telling "fibs" or "white lies." Lying also includes making exaggerated claims. Remaining silent to falsely take credit for the accomplishment of another is also wrong. A subtle change in tone, inflection, or expression can be as misleading and untruthful as the boldest lie.
YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS AGAINST YOUR NEIGHBOR.
Anyone who lies sides with Satan himself--the father of lies. The Bibles says--and Scripture cannot be broken--"All liars shall have their place in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 21:8).
- This means not to be greedy or materialistic. The covetous will not inherit the kingdom of God. (See 1 Corinthians 6:10.) Instead of always grasping for more, the apostle Paul encourages us to be satisfied with what we have. "Godliness with contentment is great gain...And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:6,8).
YOU SHALL NOT COVET.
"FOR WHOEVER SHALL KEEP THE WHOLE LAW, AND YET STUMBLE IN ONE POINT, HE IS GUILTY OF ALL" (James 2:10). Those who still cling to a few fig leaves of self-righteousness will despair of their efforts in light of this truth--the final nail in the coffin. You don't have to break ten civil laws to have the police after you. Just break one and you are a law breaker in debt to the law.
SPEAKING WITH ANXIOUS SINNERS
Can you see how the Law makes the fact of hell reasonable? I have seen sinners utterly deny the existence of hell until I took them through the Law. The Law not only makes sinners tremble, but it makes them miserable. How can a man enjoy the pleasures of sin knowing that the eye of a holy, wrath-filled God abides upon him?
I once preached a series of seven meetings. On the last day, a miserable young man approached me and said, "These past seven days have been the worst days of my life, thanks to you!" I was greatly encouraged.
Miserable and trembling though a sinner may be, doesn't necessarily mean he is repentant. Governor Felix trembled, but he didn't want to let go of his sin. He didn't cry out, "What then must I do?" He was "open" but not "anxious." If the apostle Paul had been able to get a "decision," no doubt it would have been spurious.
How can you normally tell the difference between an open and an anxious sinner? Someone under conviction will become fidgety and hang his head like a child who has been caught in disobedience. Charles Finney, in his book, How to Experience Revival, gives some excellent advice on how to speak with anxious sinners.
Bring up the individual's particular sins. Talking in general terms against sin will produce no results. You must make a man feel that you mean him. A minister who cannot make his hearers feel that he means them cannot expect to accomplish much. Some people are very careful to avoid mentioning the particular sins of which they know the individual to be guilty, for fear of hurting his feelings. This is wrong. If you know his history, bring up his particular sins. Kindly but plainly, not being offensive, awaken his conscience and give full force to the truth...
Be sure to be very plain. Do not cover up any part of the person's character or his relationship to God. Lay it all open, not to offend or wound him, but because it is necessary. Before you can cure a wound, you must probe it to the bottom. Keep back none of the truth, but let it come out plainly before him.
The Christian is very much like the honey bee. Watch a bee at work. He is intent on finding the nectar. He goes from flower to flower in search of that precious substance. When he finds some, he goes to the very heart of the flower. Christians must continually search for the nectar of an open heart in unbelievers.
If we discover the nectar of an open heart, we take the sinner through the Law to convict him. Then, if the sinner becomes "anxious" under conviction, by God's grace, we convert him. If his heart is open but the sinner is unconcerned about the state of his soul, we sting him with the Law, then buzz off. We are ministers of the honey of grace or the sting of judgment; the goodness or the severity of God; a savor of life or the savor of death.
Remember that all our efforts are utterly futile without the conviction of the Holy Spirit--"Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1).
Notice, to this point, that I have not mentioned the cross. First the sinner must be brought to a point of crying, "What must I then do?" If he doesn't see his guilt before God and that he is totally deserving of His wrath, there will be no genuine contrition, no real repentance, no gratitude for forgiveness, and therefore no zeal to do the will of God.
To shortcut the need to convict the sinner, in both personal witnessing and preaching, will reap nothing but a harvest of stony-ground hearers who will become bitter backsliders--but not before they have created great havoc in the church.
When you see that the individual is truly convicted, and desirous in knowing how to be saved, only then do you want to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ--the cross and Grace. -- Stephen
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