conviction vs. condemnation
One of the words that gets bandied about in Christian circles is “conviction”. “I was convicted to do such-and-such”, “I was convicted to stop doing such-and-such”… it’s a common term.
How many, though, realize (or can adequately describe) the differences between conviction and condemnation? I know I have heard many people use the word conviction, when what they were actually experiencing was condemnation.
I am currently reading the book, Hearing God 30 Different Ways by Larry Kreider. We were encouraged to read it a while back by our pastor, and I confess, I have been rather slow in working through it. It’s not by any means a difficult read, but it is one that makes you think (should you choose to!).
The chapter I just read was how God speaks to us through conviction. It is in this chapter that I first read & could understand the differences between conviction and condemnation.
The Bible tells us that when we accept Christ as our savior, the Holy Spirit is given to us, and it is through the Holy Spirit that we are convicted. (John 16: 7-10) According to Kreider, “He [God] not only wants us to listen so He can tell us what to do, but He also wants us to listen so we know what not to do. This is His conviction.” Later, Kreider writes, “God doesn’t convict us of our sins to expose us and make us feel bad. Instead, He wants to make us feel desperate for Him, realizing we have no confidence in ourselves.”
This, I think, is one of the problems that non-Christians have with Christianity on the whole. To be a disciple of Christ is to be completely dependent on Him. It is to realize that apart from God, I am nothing. It means admitting that through my own power, will, drive… what I can accomplish nothing compared to what God can do through me.
That’s not easy for someone in American culture to see, accept, and then live out as truth.
It is also not easy for “American Christians” to accept the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is, however, necessary. Again, Kreider writes, “…if we are behaving in a way that is not pleasing to God, we must be willing to make and adjustment in our lives. If we don’t, our hearts become hardened… the more hard-hearted we become, the more difficult it is for us to quickly hear and promptly obey the Lord.”
If Christians want to truly follow Jesus, and do the will of God, then why are so many hardening their hearts to the conviction of the Spirit?
I think it’s because they are confusing conviction and condemnation.
When a person is feeling condemned, it is NOT from God. God does seek to change us, to mold us, and make us more like Jesus, but His methods do not extend to piling on guilt and shame. Those are tools of Satan. How can you know as a Christian whether you need to listen to what is conviction, or pray against what is condemnation? “God’s voice will bring conviction over sin and a way out. The enemy’s voice will bring condemnation and no way out.”
And, that’s it! Conviction is GOOD!!! It means that we are following Christ & the Holy Spirit is active in us! If you reach a point in your life when you are not being convicted and changed by the Holy Spirit, pray for it!
Conviction may sting, however it is not only good, but a NECESSARY part of being a Christian.