By: Amy Hornbuckle
Condemnation is an act of the enemy. A force that knows our human frailty and how our sins affect our walk with the Lord. For me, it often reveals itself in the form of shame – a powerful and deadly weapon. It has a certain tenacity within my heart and warps my mind into believing something far from the gospel truth.
This is what condemnation does: It convinces us that we are cast from the fold of grace and no longer loved by Jesus our Savior. Its sole target to force a wedge between us and our Father. Here, in this confusing, hurtful space, is where we as believers need to know the difference between condemnation and conviction, so that we may remain steadfast and faithful to the Lord.
2 Corinthians 7:10 “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death (ESV).”
Condemnation is from the enemy. Conviction is a gift from God. As these verses show, they can be difficult to tell apart because both cause us to grieve over our sin. But the result and motivation behind condemnation and conviction is drastically different: one kills and the other renews.
If we go back to the basics of our faith, to the identity of the person and work of Jesus Christ, we see the gentle discipline the Father offers us through conviction. The Father sent the Son to fulfill the law that we, His people, could not. We are incapable of perfection and incapable of perfect submission. We need help, guidance, and freedom from the flaws of humanity. Jesus stepped down from His throne to sympathize with these weaknesses in order to make an intimate and obedient relationship between us and God possible.
Because of this sacrifice, we are forgiven, freed, and sealed with the Holy Spirit. This means we have a foolproof way to discern between right and wrong, godly and ungodly. Conviction is the Spirit’s way of warning us when we have dipped our toe in the sea of sin or have gone too far. It is an invitation to repent, and return to the Father who loves us and continues to redeem us daily. His motivation is love and the result is life.
Condemnation then, is when the devil holds things like shame, fear, inadequacy, and worthlessness over our heads, creating a blurry understanding of who we are. Under condemnation we are drawn away from God, convinced we can’t return and unsure of where to go. It is a debilitating grief, one that leads to death as we see in 2 Corinthians. Because anything without Christ is dead.
Conviction is painful but drives us TO Christ. This form of grief, is life-giving, because as we return to God, redeemed again, we grow. We learn and mature in our faith, slowly but surely grasping the character of God and our need for Him and becoming more and more like Christ.
Condemnation and conviction are a life or death situation and must be understood with the word of God. Ultimately, discerning between the two comes down to measuring our heart against scripture. Where is it? What is it focused on? If we are pursuing Christ in His word and through prayer, the enemy is weakened and his influence becomes powerless; because the truth of God will be ringing in our ears and fueling our spirit. Knowing God’s word well helps us know the difference between the wolf’s lies and our Shepherd’s correction.
When I catch myself leaning in to lies of shame, by the good grace of God I run to Him. I beg for God to silence the lies and remind me of what the Son has done for me. If I were to give way to the lies and let myself suffer under the enemy’s condemnation, God would just feel further and further away. But my friends, the enemy can’t touch what has been saved by faith. I have already been forgiven so the shame of my past has no hold on me. The darkness of sin I repented of to Jesus, no longer defines me because it is covered by the blood of my Redeemer.
So, let us stay faithful to the word of God. Welcome the sorrow of conviction because it reproves, guides, and strengthens our walk with the Lord. And when the enemy tries to condemn us, let the Bible remind you that the glory of God silences the accuser, the cross of Christ conquers our deserved death, and grace through faith redeems us from our every sin.
Amy grew up in St. Louis, Missouri but now lives in Florida with her husband. She is a proud dog mamma, and loves taking long walk in the midst of God’s creation. She works as a Children’s ministry director, operations manager, and Women’s ministry and discipleship. Her true passion is to equip women of faith through both writing and speaking.