After my last post I received a question from a friend that I have been itching to answer. It was a great question:
What is the difference between condemnation and conviction.
I am truly passionate about the fact that we, as Christians, live a life that is supposed to be void of condemnation. I mentioned in “Baby Hands” that there is a difference between the two. The definitions I saw in dictionaries had almost the same wording, but I am not looking necessarily for the world’s definition. I’m looking to see what God says about the two.
I believe condemnation leads to a feeling of guilt. You know that feeling you have that leads you to think, “I’m a horrible person because of what I’ve thought, said, or done and I am not worthy of being loved. In order to assuage my guilt I am going to be a better person, do better things, and work my fingers to the bone to outdo my guilt.” The feeling of guilt doesn’t go away. It lurks even after you’ve done everything you can think of to make the situation right. Condemnation makes you feel like you are unworthy of forgiveness and therefore you want to hide yourself from God or God’s people. I believe it comes straight from the enemy; the one who wants you to hide yourself from God and God’s people. If you are hiding from Him it is hard to hear that what He is really saying is that He loves you and is waiting for you to come to Him for forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Oh look, there’s a whole new discussion… the difference between grace and mercy! Fun stuff for another day!
On the contrary, I believe conviction will bring to your attention something that you have thought, said, or done that was not right BUT it leads you to make a conscious decision to ask for forgiveness and then to receive that grace and mercy. There is no lingering guilt. No feeling the need to beat yourself up over what you did. When you have been convicted in your spirit, repented and determined to not do that again, and you’ve asked forgiveness, you are set free from that forevermore.
I read a very clear description of this in the Power of a Praying Wife just a few minutes ago:
According to God’s way of doing things, there are three steps to changing our behavior. First there is confession, which is admitting what we did. Next there is repentance, which is being sorry for what we did. Then there is asking forgiveness, which is being cleansed and released from what we did.
Very simply said. Worded beautifully. (That’s why I quoted her.)
If you believe you have truly confessed your sin to God, (and to someone else, if you are supposed to) and you have repented, meaning, you really don’t want to do that again, then you are forgiven. Then, if you still feel horrible about what you have done, you may be experiencing condemnation. How do you combat that? I believe you need to tell the enemy to leave you alone. I believe you should tell him aloud that you are forgiven and that he needs to leave you alone. Fill your life with praise: music that praises the Lord, scripture memory, etc. When Matt and I were in the early stages of realizing our huge iceberg of debt I felt like I was being swallowed in shame, guilt, and condemnation. We had not paid attention to our finances for the first several years of our marriage and when we finally stopped to look at it we were appalled. The enemy decided to use that time as a good time to attack: we were down and weak… why not attack? The things he said to me were, “your parents would be ashamed if they knew…” and “you will never crawl your way out of this” and “you are going to lose everything.” I still feel my heart tighten when I think of the lies he told me. Something I’ve heard before is that the enemy can’t exist in the presence of praise. I decided that if that were true, I was going to surround MYSELF with praise 24/7. Seriously. I plastered my house with index cards with scriptures on them that countered what the enemy ways saying. My favorite was Psalm 121. I suggest you find something that speaks to you and makes you feel at peace, then write it and quote it over and over again. When you feel the guilt hit remind the enemy that “your help comes from the maker of heaven and earth.” Did you catch that?!? Your helper, the One who wants to HELP YOU, made heaven and earth! Pretty huge concept!
And one last thing. When you have felt conviction (the one from God), repented (decided to not repeat that sin), confessed and asked forgiveness, you should be left with a resounding peace. I love that word. Peace. For me it is the feeling that I am right with God. That I have done what I am supposed to in order to please God. I might not always make others happy, but if I have done what I am supposed to in order to please GOD, then whether or not others are happy with me is up to them. If you know in your heart you have done things as scripture suggests (the way Stormie explained it in the quote above) then you should feel peace. If not, you are being messed with by the enemy, and he’s easy to beat. Scripture. Praise. I was brought to tears the day I heard Casting Crowns’ song on the radio, “Praise you in this storm.” It utilized the exact scripture that I was memorizing and repeating in order to combat the enemy. Maybe there is a song that would help you in your battle.
Let me add a disclaimer here. I admit I have a lack of knowledge about confession. I do not know a lot about it, other than I believe we are able to go directly to the Father for forgiveness. I also believe that each situation is unique and whether or not you are supposed to confess to a person may change depending on the actual circumstances. But what I can say is that when you share your sin, your shortcomings, with another Christian, you will find a great sense of relief. Sometimes the relief is in that we are not the only one dealing with that issue. Sometimes it is simply in getting it off your chest. Many of the very things we struggle with we hide because we feel we would lose friends because of what we’ve done. Sometimes sharing our deepest secrets with a mature Christian will help heal the wounds we’ve carried for so long. There is something about bringing our sin into the light, exposing it, and then moving on. Hard to explain, and I admit I’m not well read up on the topic, but from my experience, I feel my heart lift when I’ve done the steps of confession before God and a trusted friend, repented, and and asked forgiveness from God and, if applicable, the person I’ve wronged. I believe that the enemy wants to keep using our past sin as a dart and once we bring it to light, the dart isn’t that useful to him anymore. If we keep our sin hidden, it seems as if the enemy keeps whispering, “they wouldn’t like you if they knew the real you,” or any number of cruel lies, which lead you to feel condemned… which lead you to experience guilt… which leads you to feeling totally separated from God. None of those are what God intend you to feel!
I have just given you my answer. I know there are scriptures that back this up but I didn’t have time to find them just now. Upon a quick google I found the following link that had a great listing of scriptures. CLICK HERE to read the article that will give you proof from God’s Word of the things I believe!