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  • Writer's picturepaul m hanssen




By Pastor Paul M Hanssen

For many believers the difference between feeling convicted or feeling condemned is blurred by the inability to discern the difference between the two. Many live under the spirit of condemnation believing that they have been convicted. Yet, others experience true conviction but shrug it off as condemnation. So, how do we know the difference in order that we may respond appropriately to either being condemned or to truly being convicted?

Guilt is an emotion experienced as the result of both conviction and condemnation. However, one of the aforementioned “guilts” is a healthy guilt, while the other is a destructive and an unhealthy guilt.

It must be made clear from the onset that unbelievers live in a state of condemnation. The unbeliever is condemned due to sin and alienation from God. Sin has already condemned the sinner.

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18)

Condemnation means a verdict, an adverse sentence, a judgement against, be damned, and a judicial decision. Sin has already caused fallen creation to be condemned. The wages, or the result and effect of sin is death. Death is the sentence which has already been proclaimed and pronounced in the judgement of sin. God gave that sentence even before man fell.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:17)

… the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4.20)

Condemnation is a judgement given and as a result, judgement is accompanied with a sentence. Due to sin, condemnation has already fallen upon the world. This happened back in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, when mankind chose to rebel against God.

However, when a fallen, condemned soul turns to God in repentance and by faith accepts the work of redemption that was provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus, the condemnation and judgement which fell upon mankind is removed. A true believer should therefore never live under the guilt, shame and burden of condemnation.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2)

Redemption through Jesus Christ, walking with God, and abandoning the life of the world and the flesh, transfers a soul from the judgement and condemnation of the law of sin and death into the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. But many of God’s people still find themselves living under and/or shrouded by the spirit of condemnation. This is not of God! God does not condemn a true repentant believer. However, the Spirit of God does convict!

The word “convict” is not found in the Bible in relation to God’s Spirit moving on the heart of the believer. But the word “rebuke”, which means convict, is seen many times.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (Revelation 3:19)

God rebukes, convicts and convinces those whom He loves. Conviction also carries with it the feeling of guilt. There is a huge contrast between the guilt experienced under condemnation and the guilt experienced under rebuke or conviction of the Spirit of God. The guilt from condemnation carries with it a sense of hopelessness and fear. This guilt and shame, does not offer a door of hope or a way of escape. In contrast, the guilt that comes from conviction does offer hope and a way of escape through repentance and a change of mind.

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? (Hebrews 12:5-7).

When God rebukes, or convicts the heart, it is Him dealing with His own children as “sons”. Rebuke and conviction by the Spirit, is the love of God in action. Condemnation accompanied with the attached judgements, are not the means by which God deals with His “sons”, or His children. Many believers live in condemnation which is the work of a heart that is not embracing Truth, but embracing the lies of the devil.

And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. (1 John 3:19-21)

Truth does convict the heart of a believer, but it does not condemn. As already mentioned, condemnation provides no way of escape and it provides no sense of hope. Conviction, on the other hand, produces godly sorrow leading to repentance which produces life and the fruit of righteousness. Condemnation, on the other hand, produces nothing but death and despair.

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Do not allow yourself to be condemned! However, through the Spirit of God, learn to discern and perceive the difference between condemnation and conviction. The rebuke and conviction that God gives His children leads to godly sorrow, repentance, change, hope and life. Condemnation leads to death, ungodly sorrow, fear, dread, despair, depression and hopelessness!

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