Contrasting conviction and condemnation

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One of the Devil’s biggest weapons in his bag of dirty tricks is condemnation. To condemn means “to pronounce to be guilty, to sentence to punishment, or to pass judgment against.” Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). He is like a prosecutor who finds fault, points the finger of blame, accuses us of guilt, and he wants the death penalty. Notice his sly tactic. First, he entices us to sin. Then, if we do sin, he jumps on our back and condemns us for doing what he suggested all along. What a loser!

The good news is that Jesus is our Advocate, our defense attorney. “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn. 2:1, NKJV).  The Greek word “parakletos” translated “advocate” here is also translated “Comforter” four times in reference to the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:6, 26; 15:26, 16:7). So, Christ is our Advocate and the Comforter also stands by our side to defend us. That means we have double representation. If you’re in legal trouble, it’s good to have a lawyer; it’s even better to have two. Defense attorneys do everything they can to prove their client is innocent even if they know they’re guilty. Well, I confess I am guilty as charged—“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

Truly, we are all guilty, but through faith, confession, repentance, and forgiveness, the blood of Jesus is admitted to the court as evidence in our favor. We have been exonerated. The Judge, our Heavenly Father, has declared us “not guilty!” This court is rigged in our favor and this case is dismissed. Hallelujah! So, when Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his past (it’s a lot worse than yours). He’s the one who rebelled against God, was kicked out of heaven, led a third of the angels into evil, and corrupted the human race with sin. Better yet, when he reminds you of your past, remind him of his future! Case closed!

Some amputees experience “phantom pain.” They feel pain in a limb that is no longer attached to their body. This is a cruel trick of the nervous system and the brain. Condemnation is like phantom pain. The devil wants you to feel anguish over your past sins that don’t even exist anymore. If you have repented and been forgiven, those sins have been obliterated by the blood of Jesus. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17, KJV). No wonder the song writer penned, “My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, it is well with my soul.”

Like most kids, I was afraid of the dark. When my mom tucked me in at night, the shadows in my room played tricks on my mind. I was sure that if I hung my foot over the side of the bed, a boogie monster would eat it off. Shadows in the closet were evil ogres ready to devour me. I would panic and cry for mom. She’d turn the light on, open the closet, look under the bed, and show me it was all just my imagination. That’s what condemnation is—a figment of our imagination. All we have to do is turn on the light of God’s Word and the sinister shadows will vanish.

The word “condemn” also means “to judge unfit for use or service.” For instance, if the health department condemns a dilapidated house, it is declared unfit for occupancy. That’s the enemy’s goal with condemnation—to declare us unfit for use. He whispers in our ear, “You’ve failed too many times, God won’t forgive you, you’re unworthy, He’ll never use you again.” Remember, the devil is a liar (Jn. 8:44). “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit” (Rom 8:1). “Walking after the spirit” doesn’t mean you are perfect; it simply means you are striving to please God. 

So, what is the difference between conviction and condemnation?

Conviction is from God (accept it); condemnation is from Satan (reject it). 

Conviction leads you to repentance; condemnation drives you to despair. 

Conviction inspires you to keep striving; condemnation tells you to quit. 

Conviction says God will help you; condemnation says there’s no hope for you.

Conviction shows you the answer; condemnation only shows you the problem.

Conviction helps you change; condemnation says you’ll never change.

The big difference between the two is obvious in Peter and Judas. Conviction drove Peter to repentance; condemnation drove Judas to suicide! They both failed and committed similar sins. Peter cursed and denied Jesus; Judas betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver (the paltry price of a slave). Judas could have been forgiven and restored if he had repented. Instead, he listened to the voice of condemnation and was doomed (Mt. 27:3-5). Peter was restored, reinstated, and about fifty-four days later, preached at Pentecost and 3,000 souls were saved (Ac. 2:14-41).

Condemnation screams, “You’re nothing but a hypocrite, you’ve failed too many times, God will never forgive you. You’re a disgrace, you might as well quit praying and going to church. You’re unworthy, go ahead and indulge in sin. Why don’t you just give up and end it all. God will never use you again.” 

Conviction says, “Yes, you’ve failed, but repent and keep striving to please God. You can be forgiven, renewed, and restored. Every day is a new beginning in Christ, you are a new creature in Him. Yes, you’re unworthy, but His blood makes you worthy. There’s no sin too big for the blood of Jesus and no failure too great for God’s grace.” 1 John 3:20 reassures, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.” Jesus said it best, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). Conviction or condemnation, which voice are you listening to?

Ben Godwin is the author of five books and pastors the Goodsprings Full Gospel Church. To read more articles or order his books, visit his website at bengodwin.org.