Why do I feel so guilty?
If there really is no condemnation for those in Christ, why do I feel so guilty sometimes? The answer: we feel guilty when we listen to condemnation instead of conviction. Conviction brings change that condemnation cannot bring.
John 8 tells the story of a woman brought before Jesus because she was “caught in adultery.” There was no denying her guilt. The men who brought her to Jesus were witnesses to her sin. This story beautifully illustrates the difference between condemnation and conviction.
The men were accusing her and ready to kill her. Imagine their snarling faces as they shouted out insults. Their fists tight around the stones they were ready to throw. The woman balled up naked on the ground, feeling helpless, having no way to defend herself.
Now, look at Jesus, calm but resolved. He stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, then stood back up and addressed he angry crowd. Throwing their accusations back on them, Jesus said, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The Difference Between Condemnation and Conviction
Jesus places the woman and the religious leaders in the same group: people needing mercy and grace. After the men turned away, dropping their stones on the ground, Jesus addressed the woman’s sin saying, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Both the religious leaders and Jesus knew the woman’s guilt. Both addressed it but in different ways. One way led to death and the other led to life. The men condemned. Jesus brought conviction that led to restoration and change.
Condemnation leads to death; conviction leads to life.
In our lives, we experience the realization of sin from time to time. We face our sin in two different ways. Condemnation comes from Satan but hits us from different directions. It may come through other people, people who put us down, people who leave us feeling worse about ourselves, huddled up defenseless. It may come through ourselves.
How could I do that?
I’ll never change.
How could God love me?
Condemnation causes us to look at our sin through the lens of hopelessness and discouragement. Condemnation leaves us focused on what we’ve done wrong.
Conviction, although uncomfortable and sometimes painful, focuses us on Jesus. Do you think the woman who was almost stoned left thinking about her sin or amazed at the mercy she was shown? The focus of her retelling of this day had to be, “This man showed me love despite what I had done. This man saved my life!”
Conviction causes us to look at our sin through Jesus’ eyes and ask, "How is my sin affecting my relationship with Jesus?” As we focus on Jesus, change will come.
Four Questions to Help You Leave Condemnation Behind
Are you focusing on yourself and your sin or on Jesus? Remember that focusing on what Jesus desires for your life leads to change.
Are you continuing in guilt and discouragement even though you’ve asked God for forgiveness and have turned away from your sin? If so, you are experiencing condemnation (Romans 8:1-2).
Are your thoughts, feelings, and the words of others lining up with God’s Word? If your answer is no, you are experiencing condemnation. If your answer is yes, you are probably experiencing God’s conviction.
Conviction leads to change if you allow God to work. Has God pointed out sin in your life? Are you allowing Him to change you?