Originally published Friday, 12 October 2018.
The hazy blue sky, warm summer air. and the lush Oregon greenery, often cause me to ponder the thoughts my brain can’t reach when busyness is attempting to smother. Lately, I have been sitting with the difference between conviction and condemnation. When Jesus followers hear the word conviction, they often cringe—starting to feel slightly uncomfortable and wiggly inside (I know, I’ve had those feelings myself). “I felt so convicted. The Holy Spirit convicted my heart and so on.” I find there is ultimately a sense of shame associated with the word conviction.
If you’ve been following Jesus for any amount of time, Christians LOVE to throw out the term conviction like a death sentence. Clearly, many people have conviction and condemnation tangled up and confused.
As I quickly type the words ‘conviction’ and ‘condemnation’ separately into the Google search bar on my web browser, I land upon this definition:
- a formal declaration that someone is guilty of a criminal offense, made by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law.
- a firmly held belief or opinion.
- the expression of very strong disapproval; censure.
- the action of condemning someone to a punishment; sentencing.
We must stop equating conviction to a sentencing or punishment. Instead of recognizing how the Holy Spirit prompts our hearts to repentance and ultimately glorifying God with a yielded heart, shame moves in and shouts “You deserve death!”
In these moments, dear friends, I urge you to remember WHY Jesus came to earth. Paul writes in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God does not look at our sins expecting us to pay penance for our trespasses. This burden is too great to bear. Instead, when we are convicted or prompted by the Holy Spirit it is done lovingly. God sent Jesus to the Cross to die, be buried, and to rise again after three days to conquer sin and death. Our punishment was taken to the Cross by Jesus and overcome! Our criminal offense is rendered defeated.
Therefore, sisters (and brothers), we can view conviction as a stirring in our hearts to return to God, where He will embrace us with open arms. He does not look upon our faces with disappointment but with eyes of a loving Father. Conviction drives us to sanctification in God. We are not criminals, but children. Children of God.
There is freedom in knowing that no matter how repulsive or heart-breaking my sins appear, NOTHING can stop God from seeing me and choosing me anyway. Nothing I do can separate me from Him because of Jesus (see Romans 8:35). I am not a condemned woman, but free to be who God created me to be.
The next time you overhear someone speaking of conviction, and know they are switching the terminology of conviction of Holy Spirit with the terminology of condemnation, I encourage you to gently remind them how much God loves them. Repent of their sin, yes, but relish in the freedom of a joyfully surrendered life in Christ.
Sarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Instagram.