"When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8)
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin in such a way as to produce a deep sense of personal sinfulness. This is where the work of salvation begins in most people: they are brought to realize that they are sinners and that they need a Saviour, and then they are ready without much urging to accept Jesus Christ, when He is presented to them as the all-sufficient Saviour they so sorely need.
One of the great needs of the present day is conviction of sin. Men and women have no realization of the awfulness of sin or of their standing before God. We are very sharp-sighted as regards the sins and shortcomings of others, but very blind to our own. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (Jeremiah 17:9). And the world is so blind to its sinfulness that no one but the Holy Spirit can ever convince the world of sin, bringing men to see how sinful they are. Neither you nor I can convince any man of sin, even with the most persuasive reasoning and powerful stories. We may get men to cry by a moving story, but mere shedding of tears over emotional stories and touching songs is not conviction of sin. Real conviction of sin can only be produced by the Holy Spirit.
But while it is utterly impossible for us to convince men of sin, the Holy Spirit can do it. And, if we put ourselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit for Him to use us as He will, and if we would look to the Holy Spirit to convince men of sin through us, and if we would be more careful to be in such relations with God that the Holy Spirit can work through us we would see far more conviction of sin.
The Holy Spirit can convict men as powerfully today as He did on the Day of Pentecost when three thousand men and women were cut to their hearts (Acts 2:37). If Peter had preached the same sermon the day before the Holy Spirit came, there would have been no such results. Oh, we need to believe in the Holy Spirit's power to convict men of sin, and we need to trust Him to do His glorious work through us.
Holy Spirit, we live in a world that is frighteningly desensitized to the awfulness of sin. I ask You to start in my own life, to search me and show me my heart as regards sin. Make me a light that You can shine through to others. Amen
~R. A. Torrey~