Q. I have a quick question. How do we know if it is the Holy Spirit convicting us when we sin, or if it is Satan working on us to make us feel guilty and draw us away from God?
A. The answer can be determined by checking which direction you’re going. If you’re headed toward the cross to find forgiveness, then you’re experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit. If you’re running away from the cross and hiding from God then it’s Satan working on you.
Genesis 3:8-13 is a description of God’s first confrontation with sinful man. It tells us when Adam and Eve heard God in the Garden, they hid from Him out of fear. When God confronted them, instead of humbling themselves and confessing their sin, they both tried to blame someone else, and there’s no indication that they sought His forgiveness. This caused a change in their relationship with God. They were still His children, but many of the blessings they had enjoyed were no longer available (Genesis 3:16-19). I believe things might have been a lot different for all of us if they had simply confessed and received God’s forgiveness.
James 4:6-8 describes the correct procedure for us to follow in a case like this. First, James reminded us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Even if we think someone else is partly to blame for leading us astray, we should humble ourselves before God and confess our sin. He told us to submit ourselves to God; to resist the devil he’ll flee from us. Finally He said, “Come near to God and He will come near to you”.
And John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” ( 1 John 1:9).
This advice from James and John is meant to help us to avoid the mistake Adam and Eve made so we always stay as close to God as when He first saved us.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).