Unfortunately, grief, sorrow and disappointment are part of the human experience. With these come guilt, condemnation or conviction. These three things can feel extremely similar. How do you know which is which?
Guilt is a negative feeling that results from wrong doing. It happens when you believe you’ve failed an obligation or someone you know or care about. It happens when you’ve wronged someone. Guilt is an emotion that indicates you haven’t forgiven yourself for something you did (or didn’t do). It’s a tough feeling. Guilt can go away with lots of prayer and counseling (if triggered by trauma). It’s a very powerful emotion. If you don’t forgive yourself, guilt can become condemnation.
This is the enemy whispering in your ear. There is no condemnation in Christ. In its original Greek, condemnation means an adverse sentence, to judge against, sentence damn. What part of this sounds like the God you serve?
Condemnation often brings feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. You may find yourself thinking things like, “there’s no use praying,” “God will never forgive me for that,” “I’m just a bad person,” or “I’m damaged goods.” A complete lack of hope stops you from praying. When you stop praying, you stop hearing from God. It ruins your discernment, your witness, your ministry and your joy.
Don’t buy into feelings that make you feel less loved by or deserving of God. This is the devil. The Lord wants you with Him, which is why He sent Jesus to deliver you. In John 3:17 and Romans 8:1, “condemn” and “condemnation” have the same root word, “krino.” It means to distinguish, to try, condemn, punish, avenge, conclude, damn. All of these are the things Jesus told us He was not here to do. When helpless feelings and thoughts are echoing in your head, speak John 3:17 over them. The devil must flee from God’s own words.
Conviction is correction. It’s that “guilty” feeling that comes over you when you know you’ve sinned. It’s what keeps you from doing things that are tied to your sinful past. Personal convictions are what keep you from “everyday” things that you feel are unholy.
The Holy Spirit convicts you because He wants to keep you holy. It’s part of the sanctification process. No one will be completely sanctified or transformed until Jesus returns. You will slip along the way. When you do, conviction is that negative feeling that brings you to your knees in repentance.
Conviction is a gift. It’s the Holy Spirit fighting against your flesh. Spiritual warfare takes place every minute of everyday. You can’t fight it without the Holy Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit that keeps you from conceding to temptation. When you feel the sting of conviction, it’s the Holy Spirit stirring in you. It doesn’t feel good because it’s warring against the slippery slope of sin.
When is the last time you felt any of these feelings? How did you pray through it?
[Images from Unplash.com]