Can a person be saved yet not experience conviction or regret?
This question has been the source of much confusion and regrettably much doubt for believers in Christ who find themselves, at times, struggling, wrestling, and even being tempted with sin. The beautiful mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that salvation is not based upon our merit or striving, it is solely based upon what Christ has richly done for us on the cross – dying a death He didn’t deserve, yet be raised with all power. The power of salvation is found in and through a person and not the mere workings of human merit or will. We must get this fundamental truth of the Gospel and of Salvation, correct to truly see the power of the message.
With this in mind, we must first gain a stronger understanding of salvation and the three tenses in which scripture speaks to salvation in its entirety. We can best describe salvation in the expression of three tenses, (Past tense, Present tense, and Future Tense). We see this reality expressed in scripture in Paul’s writing in the book of Romans (ie. Romans 3:21-5:8, Romans 5:9-8:17, Romans 8:18-39). The areas in which Paul address these tenses of salvation are as follows: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. We will examine these in detail further in this article.
When we think about salvation in the past tense, it means that we are saved from the penalty of sin, the wrath of God, and ultimately hell, itself – this deals with Justification. The present tense of salvation is us being saved from the Power of sin within our own lives, in other words, we are not bound by our flesh and sin nature but are freed because what Christ has done. Therefore, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Lastly, is the future tense of salvation; that is being saved from the presence of sin, in other words being in the presence of the Lord where there is no sin, completely absent from it – this is dealing with Glorification. So, in brief recap:
Saved from the Penalty of sin = Justification
Saved from the Power of sin = Sanctification
Saved from the Presence of sin = Glorification
So with a general understanding of these tenses in mind, we will now examine them separately.
Justification is the judicial act by which God forgives the sinner of all his sins – past, present, and future. It is upon this moment that that sinner is declared righteous by God and is freed from their guilt and punishment. The moment that one repents and believes upon the Lord Jesus Christ in Faith alone, this act of being justified before God takes place immediately.
Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
We must recognize that Justification is not merely a pardon of all our sins, but that God, who is rich in mercy and love has declared the sinner righteous. In other words, we are made completely right with God. We are made righteous and declared righteous before Holy God through the meritorious works of the perfect One, Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
This is why our faith, our belief upon what Jesus has graciously done for us on the cross matters. A change of mind from us thinking we could do anything to earn salvation is exchanged for what only God has provided to those who come to that knowledge by the Spirit of God opening our eyes to see that Jesus is the Only Person that can make us right before a Holy and Just God. Therefore, men and women are saved through Christ alone, by faith alone, through grace alone.
Sanctification is one of the aspects of salvation that many believers get confused and begin to become fruit inspectors in the process. We begin to hear things such as “Well, if you really are saved, you would be acting in this way not that way.” Although spiritual growth is a key aspect to this tense of salvation, we must recognize that this section of salvation requires the believer to participate in the active work of the Holy Spirit within one’s life.
Sanctification is the primary work of the Holy Spirit while you actively yield to the instructions and word of God in your life to move you from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. This process of growth comes when you are actively engaged in, and living out, the word of God personally in your own life. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 says this:
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.
Recognize that as a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a slave of God which means that we must yield ourselves to His very word. We are no longer slaves to sin therefore our allegiance and our wills are to please the Lord because of what we know Christ has richly done for us and is doing in us. It is key to think of sanctification as working out. Just like when you go to the gym and have a desire to target certain body goals, Sanctification serves as a means to target spiritual goals that directly impact our character and Christlikeness. We are to be molded and shaped into the image of Christ which means that there will be areas in our lives that don’t look like, act like, or feel like Christ, and those things must daily die.
It is in this tense of salvation that as Paul states in Philippians 2:12-13 that we are to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling”. That because of what we know God has done graciously in our hearts and lives our proper response is to live in accordance to what has been graciously done. There will be moments in sanctification that we will be convicted of our sin and areas of our hearts that we need the Gospel to address personally in us, for our good and God’s Glory. It is in this phase of sanctification that we experience guilt/remorse because of our sin. These feelings are indicators of the Holy Spirit being actively at work within our lives as He indwells us. The biggest trap that believers fall into is many think they won’t struggle with sin or even fall into it. The question you must ask yourself is, as it pertains to your sin nature, which one are you feeding and exercising more of – the Spirit or the flesh?
The reality is although we have been declared righteous and completely forgiven, it doesn’t mean that we will not struggle with our present sin nature because we still live in this fallen world. So what do we do in the mean time? We exercise that muscle of spiritual maturity in pursuit of the things of God so that God may be glorified in our lives. Philippians 3:13-14 says this:
Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The earthly things that used to bring satisfaction really only bring death and destruction to our lives but pursuing our eternal rewards by being obedient and now pursuing the things of God, moves our focus from the temporal to the eternal. Therefore as believers, we must have eyes for eternity.
Glorification is the final phase of the believer’s salvation experience. Glorification is the glorious hope that we will see once we depart from this fallen world and transition to the presence of God. This process happens either at our last breath on earth or at the moment of the rapture according to 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. The believer in Christ will only experience our perfect state of glorification in the presence of the Lord where we will leave these earthly bodies and be given new and perfect ones.
This work is what we await the moment we see Jesus face to face. This is why we have hope and stand firm on the truth of His word. This is why Paul at the end of 1 Thessalonians 4:18 states these words:
1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
In other words, until this day comes know that we have been supplied with everything that we need to do what Christ has called us to, and that is to continually grow in grace in the word of God and continue to share the Gospel of Jesus with others – because it is truly the greatest news that has ever been made known.
So what if I’m not convicted of my sin?
So with knowing the three tenses of salvation and how salvation in its entirety is an ongoing process and that we are to walk out our salvation with fear and trembling, the question becomes what happens if a person who claims to be a believer is not convicted of sin?
The short answer is twofold: Either one, that believer has not fully grasped or understood what Jesus has graciously done, why He died, and the faith that they claim which means this person is not a believer. The other side of this coin is recognizing that sensitivity to sin and being convicted of sin is an inherent part of the inward dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, the word of God equips us to walk in the ways of God and to stand firm in the love of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that the word of God is profitable for teaching, for correction, for reproof, and training in righteousness. So if a believer is not in the word as they should this could speak to their immaturity and lack of response and sensitivity to sin. If we want to be more in tuned with the one that has saved us and conforms us into the image of Jesus, then we need to become more accustomed to His word and live it out.
Are you exercising the muscle of sanctification or are you someone who is flirtatious with the truth of God but not enough to be convicted by God? Because if that is the case that person is no better than the Pharisees and religious leaders of that day – unbelievers at best. True belief in Jesus Christ will always yield good fruit because what God has deposited in you, He expects to yield that return from your life. It may not be instantaneous at first, but as that person is being discipled and is digging into their word, there will be displays of fruit in their lives.
In conclusion, if you are in dwelt with the Holy Spirit, you will be convicted of your sin because the Holy Spirit has made you aware through the scriptures, through fellowship with believers, or through God’s means of discipline of His own. And if the Holy Spirit does not indwell you, there will be no conviction of sin because there is a constant suppression of the truth that has been made known time and time again.