Condemnation leads to guilt and shame. Conviction, however, is God’s loving kindness leading us to repentance and back to His refuge.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1, ESV
If that is true, why do so many wrestle with feelings of condemnation? I believe it’s the fine line between condemnation and conviction.
Condemnation oozes from the knowledge of laws and rules. When I feel condemned, I seek to soothe the discomfort of guilt and shame. There are plenty of cheerful quotes on Pinterest to set me right. There’s generally glitter and flowers and unicorns on them, too. Or a Chevron pattern. Whatever floats your boat. Frankly, I’ve come to know that condemnation plugs the holes in my boat with a sponge.
Conviction is entirely different because it is borne from the Holy Spirit and leads to repentance. Understanding Almighty God fully loves me means I no longer fear punishment; I know I am His. In response to the sin that separates me from Him, conviction leads me back to His loving arms.
- I’m not spending enough time with the Lord.
- I don’t have enough self-control.
- I’m not good enough for God.
Condemnation screams: “You should be more. You’re not good enough.” Well-meaning friends (and social media) argue “You are enough!” But the guilt perpetuates. Because the reality is—I keep falling off the proverbial wagon and landing face first in the mud. The cycle repeats ad nauseam. Why? Because contrary to popular belief, it’s not the thought that counts. Feeling bad about something and saying I’m sorry is about me. When I feel convicted I have to be vulnerable, repent, and ask forgiveness; because I know what I did caused brokenness.
Conviction says: You’re right. You’re not good enough. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”(Ephesians 2:4, ESV).
From death to life…
This can be a hard pill to swallow initially. It seems to contradict fairness and encouragement. However, when the Bible talks about us being dead in our sin it’s only figurative to the point that we don’t know when our physical bodies will perish. Yet we are literally spiritually dead as a doornail until God breathes life into our dead souls. We cannot ultimately save ourselves from anything.
No one is getting up and walking out of a morgue. You’re dead on a slab. Resuscitation is off the table—you have to be resurrected.
Edward Hunt, Associate Pastor Sojourn Fairfax
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
John 3:17, ESV
How deep the Father’s love for us! He sent Jesus! It is He who makes us good enough through the work of His Spirit. Friends, it is God’s kindness that is meant to lead us to repentance. Not fear of judgement or completing our check-list of self-punishment.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Psalm 34:22, ESV
When the boat is sinking back into condemnation land, or the wagon threatens to throw us off, we must find refuge in Christ. And if we still feel swept out to sea and can’t see any redemption or refuge in sight, let’s do a little backwards planning (as my husband likes to say). The instruction in Psalm 34:22 is to run to the Lord for rescue. Deliverance isn’t found anywhere else.
Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.
Psalm 34:5, CSB
When sin creeps in, don’t allow condemnation to drown you. Instead, permit conviction to bring you back to the One who loves you with an everlasting love. Take shelter in His arms; and worship your Redeemer.