Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Awareness of sin

Increasing Awareness of Sin: Good or Bad?


Ever feel as if you can’t pray because you’re so aware of your own sin?

After I first became a follower of Jesus Christ, I was shocked to find I felt more sinful than before I became a Christian. And that awareness often caused me to hesitate to pray. How could I enter the presence of a holy and righteous Father, knowing I repeatedly fell short of His commands?

It’s not that I was sinning more, it’s that my awareness of sin became increasingly sensitive. Just about the time I conquered sin in one area of life, I would become aware of sin in another. As a Christian, shouldn’t I have been discovering less sin, not more?

It reminded me of the old laundry detergent advertisements comparing two competitive brands. Washing two equally stained white shirts side by side, both detergents work well on the stain, but one shirt is whiter and brighter. The detergent removed the dirt “you didn’t know was there.”

Walking in the light of God’s presence is much like that. When we first come to Him, His Holy Spirit addresses and convicts us of the stains of open sin in our lives. But as we continue developing intimacy with the Father, He reveals areas of sin we may not have known were there—subtle sins in thought, word, and deed.

Think of it as peeling the layers of an onion. When God finishes working in one area, He starts on a new layer. Known sins such as lying, stealing, cheating, and cursing are easier to identify. The more subtle sins, such as pride, fibs, accepting too much change at the supermarket checkout, or using the Lord’s name in vain, are buried a bit deeper. And then the subtlest of all sins—the ones no one sees but us—are hidden in our thought life.

If the Holy Spirit revealed all my sins at once as soon as I became a Christian, discouragement would have overwhelmed me. Instead, He gently shows me areas to address, a few at a time. So while there may not be more sin in my life after I became a Christian, I’ve grown more aware of the sin that’s there.


Isaiah’s Experience

The prophet Isaiah experienced this same awareness of sin. “Woe to me,” [he said]. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV). But instead of being driven away from God’s throne room, he stayed and accepted the forgiveness and cleansing offered to him.

The enemy of our souls would like nothing more than to use our awareness of sin to distance us from God, even after we’ve entered into a saving relationship with Him. On the other hand, the Father wants to use our awareness of sin to drive us to Him.

A growing sensitivity to sin does not mean sin is gaining the victory in our lives. This growing sensitivity means the Holy Spirit is doing His job in us. As we live with the indwelling Spirit of God, His light illuminates every corner, crevice, and hidden place, bringing conviction of sin. Areas we once considered okay are no longer acceptable to us.

Jesus died to pay for all of our sin: known and unknown, obvious and subtle, in thought, word, and deed. The Holy Spirit shines the light of conviction into every area at every level. Yet He’s compassionate, bringing grace along with conviction as He firmly, yet tenderly, transforms us into the image of Christ in the ongoing process of sanctification.



The Lord’s goal for us is transformation. Our desire should be that others see Christ in us. New parents are overjoyed to show off their baby, and their joy multiplies when you tell them how beautiful their baby is. But if you really want to see unmitigated joy, remark on how much the baby resembles them: the father’s eyes, the mother’s mouth. Now, how much do you resemble the Lord? The more you do, the more you bring Him joy.

Rejoice that the Father loves you enough to initiate and continue the process of convicting you of sin, even as He extends full forgiveness and immeasurable grace. Be glad for His grace as you extend His forgiveness to others. And rejoice that this process will continue until you see Him face to face.

In the meantime, celebrate the growing family resemblance!


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