We have all felt the sting of conviction and the heaviness of condemnation, but sometimes it can be hard to differentiate. I used to walk with the burden of condemnation resting on my shoulders- often feeling as though I didn’t measure up. But once I learned to tell the difference between the two, I was set free to follow Jesus’ leading instead of the enemy’s accusations or my own thoughts.
(And this is not my own wisdom, many godly teachers over the past decade have echoed this truth to me.)
1. Conviction is specific. Condemnation is vague.Conviction is specific. Condemnation is vague. #Christian Click To Tweet
Conviction highlights a specific action or thought or word that was wrong. Condemnation gives you a general feeling or sense that you are bad or you may have done something wrong, but you are not sure. God doesn’t operate like that. Why would a loving Father want you to feel bad and not tell you what you did wrong?
Conviction: When you gossiped about your co-worker, that was wrong.
Condemnation: General feelings of badness or being a sinner or unworthy or fat or ugly or dumb or whatever.
2. Conviction provides a way out. Condemnation traps you.
With conviction, there is a way to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. With condemnation, you are stuck in your sin.
Conviction: When you stole the candy from the shop, that was wrong. You can say you are sorry and return the candy. Problem solved.
Condemnation: You are a bad person because you stole that candy. You will never be a good person. This will hang over your head forever.
Now, I understand that most of what we face is more complex than stealing candy from the shop, but the principle remains the same. With God’s conviction, there is always a way out of the mess.
3. Conviction addresses the sin. Condemnation accuses the person.
God loves humanity. He made us. He wants us to thrive. God hates sin because it destroys the people that He loves. When God convicts us, He addresses the sin and convicts us of who we are in Jesus. He wants us to live according to the high calling that we have received, as a true child of a King, because that is now who we are.
Conviction: When you judged that person’s intention, that was sin. You are now a merciful and gracious person because my Sprit is within you and you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Live according to that truth, not according to your old self.
Condemnation: You are judgmental. You are always looking down on everyone else. You are so proud.
4. Conviction brings hope. Condemnation brings hopelessness.
Conviction calls us back to relationship with God. Condemnation makes us want to run away from God. Bill Johnson of Bethel often says that if you have hopelessness in your life, you are believing a lie in that area.
Conviction: You are better than this. Even though you messed up, you are not stuck here and you are learning to live according to your new identity. Even though you stumbled, you are not knocked out.
Condemnation: You are a failure. You will never change. You are a fraud and a hypocrite. You might as well just continue in your sin because you are a sinner.
We must remember that the judgement that we deserved for sin was put on Jesus (Romans 6:10 and pretty much most of the book of Hebrews!). God no longer counts our sins against us because He counted them against Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:19).
There is no place for condemnation and heaviness in a Christian’s life because we are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). This is why it’s called GOOD NEWS!
When I was first learning to differentiate between conviction and condemnation, I would still often get stuck on a particular action or thought I had had, wondering if that was sin or not. I began asking the Holy Spirit to bring it up to me in a few days’ time if it truly was His conviction, and if it was not, that the accusation would fall to the ground. I found that by praying that prayer, it set me free from the guilt of the moment. God was faithful to bring it up if it was something I needed to address later on, and I found that most of the time, it never came back again because it was actually just condemnation.
I hope this helps bring more freedom into your life like it did in mine!