Healthy Spiritual Living: Conviction, Condemnation, and living as a Conqueror in Christ

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1 John 1:8 says if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. The point is we all fall short in living a godly life.

Whenever Christians face obstacles in our faith it is important that we understand the difference between conviction and condemnation. Your picture of conviction and condemnation can drastically affect your walk with Jesus. What does it mean to be convicted and what does it mean to be condemned?

First let’s look at two important passages from the Bible for believers:

  • Romans 8:1 there is no condemnation in Christ,
  • John 16:8 (Jesus) “will send the – Holy Spirit to convict you”.

Just in case you didn’t catch it, the Bible says a Christian is not condemned but a Christian will be convicted. What is the difference? It is tragic when Christians live as if they are under condemnation. It is also tragic when Christians begin to mistake conviction with condemnation. Conviction is healthy for the soul, and condemnation is damaging to one’s life in Christ. It is vital that we understand the difference in conviction and condemnation. It is also significant we understand how to respond to conviction and condemnation.

One of the reasons believers have a hard time with God is because we often struggle with a false picture of God. As Christians, we often picture God as a Zeus like figure whose only desire is to make us obey rules while condemning rule breakers. However, in contrast to this Zeus thought, the Bible clearly says that Jesus “came not to condemn” but to give life. (See Joh 3:17) For all Zeus followers, it is healthy and important to understand what Jesus is communicating.

Please Do NOT Forget the Bible says “there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ” (Rm 8:1). Why? Because if you feel condemned as a believer, than you know your condemnation isn’t coming from Jesus. Jesus isn’t interested in condemning you to make you pay for sins that He has already paid for on the cross. Because your condemnation has been paid, Jesus is interested in growing your relationship in Him. God’s way of conforming you to a glorious future is by conviction. Conviction’s purpose is not to weigh you down with past mistakes, convictions purpose is to free you up from sin to experience life with him.

However, the truth is, we don’t always desire to experience that life with God. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that he is a sinner. Paul wrestled with his sinful nature (see Romans 7:21-25). In fact he calls himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Yet, in just one chapter in the book of Romans Paul goes from calling himself a sinner to calling himself more than a conqueror in Christ (Romans 8:37). How? How can Paul call himself a sinful man in one verse and yet see himself more than a conqueror just a few verses later? I am going to suggest it is because Paul learned how to grasp God’s picture of conviction and condemnation through Christ.

God is far more interested in who you are becoming rather than in what you are avoiding. Through a false view of conviction, we often see God as a Rule keeper more than a life giver. Condemnation is designed to stop you from doing bad, but conviction is all about moving forward. Condemnation is all about telling you that you are wrong. Conviction is about pulling you closer to Jesus. Condemnation traps us in the past, but conviction prepares us for the future. Condemnation is focused on you, and conviction is focused on God. Condemnation doesn’t give a satisfying solution for sin, it just labels you bad. Conviction gives you an answer to sin (Jesus) and it renews you in Christ. You don’t have to hide from God. Thanks to Jesus’s end to your condemnation, you get to run to God in your sin through His conviction so that you can experience life with him. When you sin, Please don’t expect you to change you. Let Jesus do it as you surrender to him. God definitely doesn’t want us leading sinful lives, but the truth is sin starts when we abandon God. Condemnation is often used as a demonic tool to keep us from God through guilt and shame. As a Christian, If you are feeling condemned, can you ask yourself, “Am I feeling condemnation or is it conviction? If it is condemnation can you remind yourself of Romans 8:1. However if it is conviction, can you allow God to use it to draw you to him? He loves you and wants you near him.

It is true, condemnation can guilt people into performing better outwardly, but it robs us of Joy and robs us of God. It is focused on your actions and not on Christ’s deliverance. A system of condemnation labels you a failure because in a rule based structure the only thing you can do is fail to live up to the rules. Conviction, isn’t about setting up rules to fail, but rather about pointing you to life in Christ. We are convicted when we abandon life in Christ so that we can get back to experiencing life in Christ.

YOU can escape Condemnation.

Good news…The Bible tells everyone how to escape the bondage found in condemnation? Begin this way… Go ahead and confess that you are condemned. Seriously! The Bible says it. In fact if you read John 3:16-18 it explains it. John 3:17 tells us Jesus didn’t come to condemn but to give life, and John 3:18 tells us the reason Jesus came to give life is because everyone is condemned already. You cannot remove your condemnation. If you could there was no need for Jesus. According to God, that condemnation brings death (Romans 6:23). Even though you are condemned, What matters now is that you recognize Christ has paid for that condemnation so you don’t have to be condemned anymore (Jn 3:18). The Bible now asks you to accept Jesus’s payment for your condemnation by placing your trust in Jesus as the one who rescues you from condemnation (Romans 10:13; Eph 2:8-9). Jesus paid for your past, present, and future sin (Hebrews 10:14). If you have embraced what Christ has done for your sin you are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). Why? Because God wants you to experience life with him for eternity. Now you belong to his kingdom. Jesus’ wants to conform you and mold you into His glorious image and bring you into His kingdom. God works in a believer’s life through conviction not condemnation. Conviction is not designed to push you away from him but rather to drive you closer to him. You are no longer condemned before him. You belong to him and he desires to be near you.

While a Christian may struggle with their past, please remind yourself that Jesus has paid for it.

If you feel convicted, tell Christ “Thank you for paying for my sin. God forgive me and help me to walk in the new life you have given me. Thank you for not condemning me, but thank you for convicting me so that I can see where I have strayed from you and return back to you and enjoy my relationship in You.”

I hope that Christians stop hanging their head in condemnation. See yourself as more than conquerors in Christ (Rm 7:25,8:37). If you think you are in condemnation before God, recognize what Jesus has done for you by paying for that condemnation and accept Christ’s work on the cross (Jn 3;16-18). Be renewed in Him and live in a joyful relationship with God. Living under a Zeus God stinks. It is joyless and full of failure. Living under Jesus is incredible. He frees us and gives us the ability to experience life with him. We don’t have to run from him but when we are convicted we can run straight toward him.

Conviction Condemnation
Is from God Is from Satan
Leads to life Leads to despair
Ends in Joy Ends in sorrow
Makes us want to change Makes us believe we can’t change
Leads to new identity in Christ Leads to old identity in sin
Brings specific awareness of a sin Brings vague uncertainty about sin
Looks to Jesus Looks to self
Is a blessing Is a burden.