Last time I wrote about the horrible spiritual condition of condemnation. Based on what I see around me, it is an epidemic. The cure for this painful malady requires more extensive treatment than I have space for here, which is why I pointed you to the excellent resource that Elyse Fitzpatrick has written.
Today, I want to write about another condition that may exhibit somewhat similar symptoms, but has a completely different outcome. We call this condition CONVICTION. Conviction produces guilt when we become conscious of our sin. The only thing that conviction has in common with condemnation is this feeling of guilt. Unlike condemnation, conviction is not contagious, and Satan stays as far away from it as he can.
Before I write anything more about conviction, I want to talk about something that happened when you accepted Christ as the one who died in your place. In Romans chapter 5 verse 9, the Bible says, "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" The word "justified" is bolded because that is the concept I want to emphasize.
While theologians have long discussions on the concept of being "justified," in English the definition is easy to learn and to remember. Think of "justified" as a coin. On one side we find the words, "Just as if I'd never sinned." Turn the coin over and the other side says, "Just as if I'd always obeyed." That's it. That's the definition. That's what happens to us when we are saved. God sees us "just as if I'd never sinned" and "just as if I'd always obeyed." God forgets our sins because the punishment for them was poured out on Jesus on the cross – all of them from your birth to your death.
Did this question just pop into your mind: "If God sees me "just as if I'd never sinned and always obeyed," then why do I feel guilty when I sin?" That's where conviction comes in.
As long as we are on earth, we will have sin in our lives. However, God loves us too much to leave us in our sinful habits. He wants – as much as possible on this sinful earth – for our experience to match His reality. His Spirit tells us when we sin, not because He is angry with us or because He wants to punish us. Just the opposite is true. He speaks to us about our sin so that He can relieve us from it and from its effect on our lives. When His light shows us the sin, that same light will show us the way out of it. Rather than condemn us to frustrating repetitions of the same sin, He gives us His power to overcome it.
That's what conviction will do when we trust in God and His love for us. Turning toward Him when we sin instead of turning away from Him and agreeing with Him that the issue causing our guilty feeling is sin, frees us to stop sinning. Remember that God is NOT waiting for us to mess up so that He can condemn us. He is on our side, by our side - living in us - shining the light of His mercy on our sinful ways that will cause us pain if we continue in them. He loves us too much to leave us where He finds us.