“That’s the worst,” is the sort of thing we tend to say when someone tells us about the flu, or a car fluke, or the frustration of Netflix discontinuing a favorite show. The Apostle Paul had a different sort of view.
“I am the worst,” he said, referencing his sinful self in 1 Timothy 1:15. This ought to be one of the rally cries of the Christian.
Humility and honesty about sin are better testimonies than self-righteousness.
But, there’s a danger in dealing with sin as believers, too.
For those who struggle with guilt, it’s easy to confuse conviction with condemnation.For those who struggle with guilt, it’s easy to confuse conviction with condemnation. Click To Tweet
What’s The Difference?
Jami Amerine, in her book Stolen Jesus, summarizes the difference this way:
“I may be convicted of my sin, but I will never again be condemned.”
When Jesus is your Savior, you are transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness to Christ’s Kingdom with no extradition because you are not condemned anymore. You’re given a new nature. You become a child of God and are freed from the mastery of sin. As the often-cited verse declares:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1)
Still, you sin. Christians sin. We won’t stop for good until we’re with Jesus in person. That’s where conviction comes in.
God’s Word corrects us. The Holy Spirit fights with the sin nature inside us and exhorts us to live like we believe Jesus. Our fellow believers hold us accountable and remind us of what’s true. Conviction is all of these things, and it’s God way of making us more like Him now, even as we are guaranteed to be like Him in the end.
How Do We Live The Difference?
To live convicted and not condemned is one of the blessed freedoms we have in Christ. Forsaking that freedom to still live as those condemned is frustrating, sad, and foolish. Paul says as much:
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” (Galatians 3:1)
Recognizing key differences between condemnation and conviction can help you see which you’re walking in accordance to:
What’s Condemnation Like?
- Buries you in shame
- Provokes doubt
- Requires punishment, not repentance
- Causes anxiety, distress, and hopelessness
- Focuses on impressing God, not relying on Jesus
What’s Conviction Like?
- Awes you with grace
- Strengthens your faith
- Requires repentance and rejoices in forgiveness
- Causes praise, hope, and heart-change
- Focuses on relying on Christ, not impressing or earning
Which of these descriptions strike a chord with you? How do you discern between condemnation and conviction?
If you wrestle with New Covenant living and have a sense of humor, I recommend Stolen Jesus by Jami Amerine. She charmingly, goofily, and pointedly distinguishes between common false identities assigned to Christ and the Real Jesus, whose grace we now stand and live within.
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