Darrell Brazell, pastor, New Hope Fellowship, 1449 Kasold Drive:
In a classic scene from “Caddyshack,” everyone freaks out over a small brown “log” floating in the swimming pool until the maintenance man fishes it out, gives it the “sniff test” and then takes a bite out of ... a Baby Ruth.
Surprisingly, the “sniff test” is also the best way to differentiate between conviction and condemnation. Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser,” and John 16:8 says one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to “convict.” While conviction and condemnation seem similar, they are as different as a Baby Ruth is from excrement.
Condemnation targets identity: “You are such a ... doofus, loser, failure, pervert, hypocrite, sinner, etc.” Conviction, however, addresses sin without speaking against identity: “I need to come clean with my wife, spend more time with my children,” etc. Conviction, while sometimes painful, always comes with the sweet smell of hope.
Condemnation says, “You are a liar.” Conviction says, “You lied.” Condemnation screams hopelessness; conviction brings hope because it leads to confession, forgiveness and telling the truth.
Since Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” the sniff test also differentiates between the voice of the Spirit and the voice of the accuser. Whenever we smell condemnation, we can know the message doesn’t come from the Father, even if it is camouflaged in Scripture. Remember, the accuser twisted Scripture against Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) so he isn’t afraid to twist it against us. When our heavenly father wants to communicate something, he is more than capable of doing it without condemnation.
Condemnation is Satan’s lie against who I am. Conviction is the Spirit’s truth about something I’ve done or not done that he wants to empower me to change.
Recognizing the difference is incredibly liberating.
— E-mail Darrell Brazell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barry Watts, associate pastor, Lawrence Heights Christian Church, 2321 Peterson Road:
These two English words can be defined in many different ways from various perspectives: judicial, social or spiritual. As a Christian, and a believer in the infallible, inerrant word of God, the Bible should be my guide to differentiate between the two. Hebrews 11:1 gives a solid interpretation of biblical conviction: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other English translations, the word for conviction is translated “certain.” Conviction is being certain of your beliefs. Borrowing from its judicial definition, conviction is being certain beyond any reasonable doubt.
Webster defines condemnation as “to declare to be reprehensible, wrong or evil, usually after weighing evidence and without reservation.” What is its relevance to the Bible? “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) If there is no condemnation for those in Christ, it is a logical conclusion that there must be condemnation for those outside of Christ. This conclusion is supported overwhelmingly by many passages in the Bible. God is the righteous judge, and those who reject Christ will be condemned by the sin in their hearts. (John 3:15-24)
Christians are not called to judge and condemn others, but because of their convictions of the truth of God’s word, they must warn others. The clear truth of the Bible is that there is condemnation for those who reject Christ. Christians must tell unbelievers of their need to repent, surrender their lives to Christ and receive the gift of eternal life. (John 3:16) The prophets of the Old Testament did. John the Baptist did. Jesus did. As convicted Christians, we can do no less.
— Send e-mail to Barry Watts at email@example.com.