Texas history is full of heroes, but Sam Houston is one of my favorites. At one time, while he was governor of Tennessee, he was known as “The Old Drunk.” It wasn’t until much later that he became the great hero of the Texas revolution when he routed General Santa Ana’s Mexican army. Houston’s battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!” helped win independence for Texas. Much later still, he married the daughter of a Baptist preacher and trusted Christ as his Savior. His was a drastic conversion, as he purposed to live a life of righteousness.
Still, like all of us, he battled some of his old-life tendencies. One day, as he rode along a trail, his horse stumbled. Houston spontaneously cursed, reverting to his old habit. Immediately, he was convicted of his sin. He got off his horse, knelt down on the trail, and cried out to God for forgiveness. Houston had already received Christ, but God was teaching him to live in fellowship with Him moment by moment. As soon as the Holy Spirit convicted Sam Houston of his sin, he confessed it, and repented. And this was the way of his new life.
I don’t often talk about guilt, shame, or conviction. I believe many of us get enough of that from memories of our past or legalistic Christians around us. But the idea of conviction is a major theme of Scripture, though the word is rarely used. The agent of conviction is the Holy Spirit (John 16:7–11), and the means of conviction is either the Word of God, God’s general revelation through nature, or people’s inborn sense of right and wrong (Romans 1:18–20; 2:15).
The purpose of conviction is to lead people to repent of their sins (Acts 2:37–38); to turn to God for salvation and eternal life through forgiveness and grace; and to make course corrections in our thinking and behavior. This grace — an unmerited favor — is God’s free gift, and it wipes out all condemnation!
True Christianity is a living and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Our relationship with Jesus defines our new life. If we have a real passion for God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to embrace our hearts, we will periodically feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts.
The Holy Spirit may convict us to: change our minds, attitudes, and hearts; change our behaviors; or take a certain action. We learn to listen to and hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit as we walk with Him. The more we obey Him, the more sensitive we are to His promptings.
It’s comforting to know that God isn’t through with any of us yet. We are all in a process of refinement. There is actually life in conviction! And it is a new life, as Sam Houston’s drastic conversion demonstrates.
Make it your practice that when you sense the conviction or prompting of the Holy Spirit to obey Him immediately. This will bring you a tremendous sense of peace and joy!
Jim Grassi, D. Min.
We cherish any verse in Scripture that reminds us to keep focused and intentional about evangelism and discipleship. “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5