Dear Christ follower,
Conviction and condemnation will both happen in our lives, but one is from the Holy Spirit, and one is from the devil. And we can unfortunately confuse them.
Conviction. This is when the Holy Spirit puts His finger on something happening in our lives right now (John 16:8)
“This is what is happening now, or what is going on now, what you need to have a change of mind about now, what you need to repent of now.” For example, I speak careless words, the Holy Spirit convicts me in that moment, and calls me to repent and make it right with the one who I sinned against with those words.
Condemnation. This is when the devil brings something up from our past, and it is something that has already been confessed to the Lord and to one another. Something that has already moved into the light of God’s truth and is under the blood of Christ (Romans 8:1-2).
Now there could be things in your past that you have not confessed or brought into the light. Or you confessed it to God, and yet your sin was not just against the Lord, but another person. So you need to confess that to one another as well (James 5:16). Get it into the light completely, otherwise, it will destroy you in the dark. There is healing and freedom in the light, and in the darkness, there is enslavement and destruction.
Sometimes, we just resent the Spirit’s conviction of our sin. Internally, our hearts are a bit like a toddler, and saying ‘I don’t wanna change.’ And again, God is saying, but there is freedom in surrender. Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
So we say yes to conviction. But no to condemnation.
Condemnation desires to bring about shame and push you into hiding and away from the light and love, the truth and grace of God. Conviction invites you to repent from current sin, because in the light, you experience the freedom, love, grace, and forgiveness of God (1 John 1:5-10).
Conviction might taste bitter to start with, but is sweet to our soul. Psalm 30:5: For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
I’ve been there before as a follower of Jesus. Weeping over my sin and the hurt it has caused. I’ve been there as a husband before. Crying at night with my wife over my sin, but then getting a satisfying and sweet taste that His mercies are new in the morning.
Condemnation’s goal is to lead you to hopelessness, because it places the focus on your shame and inability to change. Conviction’s goal is to lead you to be hopeful in God’s immeasurable power, faithfulness, and unfailing love.
Behind conviction is God’s kindness which leads us to repent or to change our minds and agree with the Lord (Romans 2:4).
Behind condemnation though is the devil’s accusations about your past. Sin that has been covered by the blood of Christ.
Condemnation is overbearing and this heavy burden upon your soul. It intends to crush hope or make you think that Christ’s death was not sufficient for you.
Conviction leads us to the Good News that God loves us, and loves us enough to not leave us that way. And that even while sin’s disease is powerful, Christ is more than enough, and He has set His people free from the power of sin through the cross and resurrection.
Condemnation though wants you to turn your focus onto yourself, where instead of looking to the grace of God, and the redemption we have in Christ, we look to ourselves and sit in a pit of shame and self-pity.
Conviction is a work of God and good for our souls. Condemnation is a work of the devil and is toxic to our faith in Christ and our rest in His finished work.
Now for some of you, here’s the reality. You’re living in a continual pattern of sin right now. Your way of life is not progressing away from sin, but has grown to be content with ongoing unholiness in your life. And maybe for you, a particular sin or pattern of life is coming to your mind right now and that is the Holy Spirit at work bringing about conviction.
The voice of conviction says to our pattern of sin… “No, that is not who you are. Turn from that. Remember your new identity in Christ. You are new creation in Christ. Get it in the light. Ask a Godly brother/sister/leader for help. Stop fighting it alone. Confess your sin to one another and find healing.”
The voice of condemnation says… “This is who you are, and it will never change. You will never change.” Notice how condemnation produces hopelessness.
Listen, you’re not stuck in your sin. In Christ, you are a new creation. Jesus rose from the dead. We follow a Savior and Lord who says you don’t have to remain stuck and in bondage. But rather, you have been set free, and no longer am a captive to sin (Romans 6).
1 Peter 2:24: “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
Praise God, that in Christ, He took on our shame, sin, guilt and condemnation.
So may we heed the Spirit’s conviction in our lives, and ignore the enemy’s whispers of condemnation. May we have tender hearts before the Lord’s continual, transforming work in us, and may we be ever growing in our understanding of who we are in Christ.