Our constant temptation as conservative Christians is to take our definition of sin from Scripture, which is appropriate, but then to calibrate our conviction levels for those sins on the basis of our own experience.
We know that not all sin is equally serious, and so the levels of a particular sin that we experience is not that serious, and anything outside the range of what we usually do is what the bad people do. In this way, we give our own sins a wink and a nod, and we can be quite severe with other people who take it to inappropriate lengths, or in inappropriate directions.
One of the reasons we do this is obvious—there is something in it for us. But there is another reason we sometimes hesitate to seek out real conviction. We know that some Christians have fallen prey to a morbid introspection, and we know that is not what God wants for us. We know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and if we continue to cruise along the way we do, at least we have the no condemnation part down, right?
But the Spirit’s work is to bring real comfort and real conviction together. Only He can do it. If we get the conviction without the comfort, we become a basket case. If we get the comfort without the conviction, we turn into spiritual sluggards. Left to ourselves, we always want to slip off in one direction or the other. Only the Spirit of God can drive a spear of conviction straight through your heart, and at the same time establish you in the joy of the Lord.
So when we come to confess our sins, we don’t have to pretend. We really are guilty of real sins. No one is exempt. At the same time, we kneel here—we don’t grovel or crawl. We humble ourselves to be raised up, and be seated at a royal table. We are children of a king, and not whipped dogs. So let us come and confess our sins to the Lord now.