The older I get the more I find myself in conversations about wrinkles. During one such conversation, my friend mentioned that wearing sunscreen helps prevent wrinkles. I thought to myself, “Boy, I wish I knew that 25 years ago!” Do you know what else I wish I knew 25 years ago - the difference between conviction and condemnation. Do you know the difference?
Think of conviction as the necessary part of sunshine, the good part. It gives light to guide our steps, provides vitamin D, and aids in the growth of life. Conviction is from the Holy Spirit. It is what shows us our need for a Savior. After we place our faith in Jesus, God continues to do His work in our lives by showing us when we have made a mistake, are off track, or are about to hurt ourselves or others. It’s the notification we’ve sinned.
God convicts us because He loves us and is drawing out the person we were created to be. It is a way to free us from the things that are holding us back and get us to the next best thing. Conviction leads us into the arms of our Father where we find forgiveness and guidance.
Condemnation then would be the sunburn causing, drought producing, life destroying part of sunshine. It is from our enemy. Condemnation sounds similar to conviction as it states we’ve messed up. There will be some “truth” to it, but then it takes a turn and gets a little twisted. It goes beyond saying we have done something wrong, by placing disapproval on us and pushing an identity on us that doesn’t line up with the one we have in Christ.
Condemnation may talk like this: No matter how hard I try, I can’t get it right. I should just quit. I’m a failure. I keep hurting people and saying the wrong things. God must be so disappointed in me, as I’ve let Him down again. He probably doesn’t want to talk to me. God is going to get tired of me asking for forgiveness. Maybe if I punish myself, He will know how sorry I really am. I don’t deserve to be full of joy and close to Him after what I’ve done. God is just putting up with me because He’s supposed to love everybody. I’m too much of a mess for Him to want me to be part of His plan. And so goes the beating, if we don’t know:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 ESV
Where conviction gets us walking on the right path again, condemnation tries to run us off of it. We can’t get it right, anyway, so we should stop trying or turn around altogether, at least that’s what we think. Condemnation drives us into hiding from God’s Presence, imprisoning us in our shame, disappointment, embarrassment, and frustration. It leaves hopelessness and failure squarely in our hands.
Condemnation often sneaks in behind conviction. After the Holy Spirit has brought something to our attention, the enemy will come along and try to hit us upside the head with it. It’s like when we’ve crossed that point of being outside too long and the sunburn sets in. There is a line that has been crossed. See the difference?
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,... II Corinthians 10:5 ESV
Conviction and condemnation both sound the same in your head - they sound like your own thoughts. So - TAKE ALL YOUR THOUGHTS CAPTIVE! Hold each thought out in front of you and examine it, determining its origin. Does it line up with the Word? Is it going to shut you down (condemnation) or help you recalibrate (conviction)? Is there despair (condemnation) or hope for change (conviction)? Remember, condemnation may have some truth to it, but what kind of fruit is it going to produce in you?
Since we now realize there is a difference, and we are looking for it, here’s the next step - we need to choose. It’s not enough for me to know about sunscreen if I never use it. We accept the Holy Spirit’s correction, but deny the enemy’s condemnation. I know it’s hard to say, “I will accept this part, but not that,” when we mess up. But we need to say “NO!” to condemnation (and to drugs - Ha!).
Sometimes saying our thoughts out loud to a friend helps to determine if it’s conviction or condemnation or even a combination of the two, which is often the case. Find a godly friend who knows the difference and will pray with you. We have a sneaky enemy, but we’re catching on.
Years ago I was washing dishes, thinking about how I washed dishes so smartly, better than so-and-so. (I know how pitiful this sounds.) Then I realized I wasn’t alone. God shined His revealing light on my inner conversation, and I saw clearly what was going on. I was struggling with pride. Ugh! Pride is so ugly, and I was well aware of God’s feelings toward it.
I dragged my pitiful self over to a kitchen chair and plopped down. I felt so dirty. The condemnation set in, and I cried under the weight of the crushing defeat. I reprimanded myself severely, punishing myself and wallowing in self-pity. I wanted to hide from God’s illuminating Presence. If I knew then what I know now…
I would’ve probably still cried. Even with conviction we will grieve over our sin. But NOW I would thank the Lord that He revealed what was going on. In His mercy and grace He didn’t want me to continue in that toxic (Embarrassing!) behavior. I would thank Him for the forgiveness I have through Christ. I would thank Him that He doesn’t reveal things unless He wants to set us free. He doesn’t just hurt us for the heck of it. I would rejoice that God was working to get my thoughts to line up more with who I truly am in Christ.
Then I would get up off the chair, put on some worship music, and finish those dishes, thankful for a Father who wants the best for me. AND I would return quickly to His loving open arms. That’s what I’m hoping to do next time. Oh, yes, there will be a next time - I’m not perfect.
We are going to make mistakes and sin. But when God calls us out, His desire is to lovingly correct and put us back on the right track. He wants us to keep moving forward, falling in step with Him.
Slathering on the sunscreen,
P.S. If you are struggling with condemnation:
Help my Friend discern Your voice from the enemy’s, rejecting the condemnation through the power of Jesus. If she needs a friend, bring to her mind the right one and give her courage to make the phone call. Remind her that Your love for her is steadfast, and You desire her to walk in the victory and identity she has in Christ. In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.