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Understanding the Difference between Conviction and Condemnation in the Life of the Christian

Updated on December 28, 2015

Webster's defines conviction as the act of convincing a person of error or of the admission of truth. Conviction is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is the check in our spirits that lets us know when something is not acceptable to God. It is also that feeling that the Holy Spirit brings on us to show us that we are sinners and lead us to the point of salvation. It is what makes us feel horrible when we are doing wrong, and it is the tool that God uses to bring us to repentance. Conviction is a good thing.

Condemnation, on the other hand is not a good thing. Condemnation is what the devil brings on us after we sin. He is, after all, the accuser of the brethren. There is a terrible cycle that goes along with sin. Satan tempts us to do what we know is wrong. He bates us, provides opportunity, promises that it isn't really as bad as it seems and that everyone is doing it. He swears we'll never get caught and it means nothing, and we falter. We commit our sin, and suddenly Satan's tune changes. Instead of congratulating us on “getting away with it”, suddenly he tells us how worthless and awful we are for falling into sin again. He makes us feel terrible and can even convince us that we are no longer usable by God. Sound familiar? Condemnation is the biggest reason Christians don't fulfill the call God has put on their lives; and, make no mistake, we are all called to do something for God's kingdom.

Our Challenge: Do not live in condemnation!

There are really only a few different types of sin. There are sins of commission (sins we commit). David and Bathsheba's adulterous relationship was most definitely a sin of commission. There are also sins of omission (things we know we should do but don't do). When God gives us an opportunity to witness and we know we are supposed to do it but we don't then we commit the sin of omission. Sometimes we sin in ignorance. We don't know that we've done wrong until after the fact. Other times, we know exactly what we are doing and choose to do wrong. The Bible teaches us that we are not to be ignorant, so we have a responsibility to study the Word for ourselves. If we spend a significant amount of time studying God's Word, we will find ourselves drawing closer to God. It will be easier for us to hear His voice and avoid the pitfalls the devil puts in our path. The very best way to avoid condemnation is to resist Satan's trickery.

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

1 John 2:16

Pride is an especially difficult area for the believer, and the devil knows it. Sometimes he hits Christians with a one-two punch. He will tempt us with something that is so obviously him so that we will be pleased with ourselves for being clever enough to foil his plans. While we are patting ourselves on the back, he'll hit us in that prideful moment with something much more subtle. We really have to be vigilant like the Word tells us in 1 Peter 5:8. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

Satan isn't a fool. He has been watching people for a very long time. He knows exactly which tricks people are likely to fall for and he's adept at putting the right temptations with his target, so we need to get smarter ourselves. We need to understand that absolutely every single sin we could possibly commit is the result of one of three things:

  • Lust of the flesh

  • Lust of the eyes

  • Pride of life

Think back to the original sin in the garden. In Genesis 3, Satan first appealed to Eve's appetite (lust of the flesh). She saw that the tree was good for food. Next came the lust of the eyes (desire). It was pleasant to the eyes. Finally, he appealed to her pride. It could “make one wise.” If we are honest, we each know which areas he has the most success with in our lives. The good news is that Satan tempted Jesus in each of these areas, too. In Matthew 4, Jesus successfully rebuffed everyone of Satan's advances by quoting scripture. Studying the Word and drawing closer to God are our best defenses.

God promises to make a way of escape whenever we are tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we don't always take it. We will not be immune to sin for as long as we are in our earthly bodies. Ideally, we'll see ourselves headed for trouble and stay away from it. Realistically, sometimes we'll just plain blow it. Thankfully, God's love for us doesn't waver. He loves us perfectly all the time. His love isn't based on how much we “deserve it” or don't. We can't actually deserve it anyway. That's why we have to rely on Jesus. When we fail, we must recognize the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and repent, turn away, from our sin. We also must recognize condemnation for what it is and reject it completely.

Which of the three sin areas listed in 1 John 2:16 causes the most temptation in your spiritual life?

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King David's Example

David was an adulterer who slept with his best friend's wife and got her pregnant. He tried to deceive his friend into sleeping with his wife so his sin would remain secret then had him killed when he refused. He then quickly married the girl, Bathsheba, and moved her into the palace. Yet, the Bible calls David a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). Why was this very imperfect man a man after God's own heart?

  1. David realized that apart from God he could do nothing (Psalm 16:2).

  2. When he sinned, he was grieved and repented (Psalm 25:11, 2 Samuel 12).

  3. David knew he was created to worship God (Psalm 9:1, 2 Samuel 6:14-15).

Even after David's sin and the loss of his son, God forgave him, the relationship was restored, and God blessed David. David's second son by Bathsheba, Solomon, became king after David. He was the wisest man to ever live and the man God chose to build His temple.

If upon reading this article you realize that you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, please know that you can start that relationship today. It is really simple.

Admit you are a sinner. The Bible says, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Believe that Jesus came to save you and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord. The Bible says, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10).

After accepting Jesus as savior, it is important to find a local Bible believing church and follow in believer's baptism. God bless you.

If God could still love and use David after his sin then He can still use us. Still not convinced? Peter denied Jesus three times then preached a service at Pentecost where 3,000 people were saved. And, of course, there was Saul. He was a Christian killer who was responsible for the deaths and persecutions of many believers (including the first Christian martyr Stephen) before getting saved and having his name changed to Paul. Paul wrote over half of our New Testament. Don't let condemnation stop you in your tracks.

When you blow it, and you will blow it, repent (that means literally turn away from your sin), tell God you are sorry, try to fix things if anyone else was hurt then move on. God not only forgives but casts that sin as far as the east is from the west. It's time to stop living under condemnation for things God has already forgiven. When we allow condemnation to stop hold us down, the enemy wins because it's impossible to be completely effective for Christ while feeling condemned. Let it go today and move forward with Christ. Don't let the devil steal one more moment reminding you of the past.

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    • Mommy Needs a Nap profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Clairday 

      6 years ago from Arkansas

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. Your pastor sound wise. Condemnation is the Christian's enemy.

    • Lady_E profile image


      6 years ago from London, UK

      Very interesting read. It reminded me of what my Pastor said just days ago in a Bible study. She talked about the "Righteousness of God" and the fact that every Christian has it. When Christians understand this, they will never have a heart of condemnation. We are all human and when we do wrong, if we repent, we are forgiven.

      I like the example of David that you used. He was a man after God's heart but committed that horrible sin. God forgave him and continued to use him. God forgives and forgets. Hope I didn't stray in my comment.

      Have a lovely weekend, Michelle.

    • Mommy Needs a Nap profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Clairday 

      6 years ago from Arkansas

      Thank you and thanks

      for reading it Career Mommy.

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Mommy Needs a Nap, this was such a well-written and well researched hub. You explained the differences between conviction and condemnation so well, and you used such powerful examples from the Bible. Thanks for sharing.


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