For most of my life I have been a church-goer and surrounded by Christians. I am extremely grateful that I was raised with such regular exposure to truth and morality, but the truth is – just because I was exposed to it doesn’t mean that I followed along with it.
Sure, I was a ”good church kid.” I didn’t do the real bad stuff like drugs, sleeping around or God-forbid – cussing. But I did struggle with what people couldn’t see. Things like pride, lust, envy, greed, selfish ambition… the list could go on and on.
I lived a double life – one person publicly and another person privately. And because I lived a lifestyle of hypocrisy, I consequently lived under a mountain of shame.
I knew who my parents thought I was, I knew what I was supposed to be, but only I knew the truth. I lived like a Christian trophy with all my accolades and good deeds on display, but in reality I was just a broken, rusty trophy that I slathered regularly with cheap, gold paint.
Condemnation was just a way a life, until… I met conviction.
For many people conviction and condemnation have similar meanings, but truthfully – they are worlds apart.
Condemnation is concerned only about where you’ve been; conviction is about where you’re going.
Condemnation replays your past; conviction reminds you of you’re purpose.
Condemnation will keep you stuck in sin; conviction will keep you out of it.
Conviction and condemnation are light years apart in that conviction tells the full story. Condemnation leaves the most important part out – Jesus. Conviction will allow you to realize the wrong you’ve done, but it also will allow you to realize that your identity is in your Savior, not your sin.
Conviction brings you to court, but as the verdict is announced it allows grace to shout your innocence.
Condemnation’s goal is to condemn. And when “condemned” becomes your identity then you will believe your purpose is to be a prisoner. Thankfully, that is not God’s plan for your life.
Romans 8:1 is clear that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
I wish I had consumed that truth many, many years before I actually did. It would’ve saved me a decade’s worth of performance-based, checklist Christianity. I still sometimes struggle with shame, but now that I know the truth I realize that my identity is a son, not slave.
Knowing your identity releases you from the shackles of your insufficiencies. It allows you to experience the powerful combination of conviction AND grace.
For most of my life I looked at conviction with a knee-jerk reaction, but once you realize that conviction is coupled with grace you can see it as a positive thing – not a negative.
Grace doesn’t eliminate the consequence of your behavior, but it does remove the spiritual penalty. This means that just because you have messed up it doesn’t mean that you can’t move forward.
And you will mess up. There are not a lot of things in life that you can be absolute certain about, but man’s imperfection is one of them.
In all of history there has been only one anomaly and His name is Jesus. This is why it is so important for your spirituality to be steeped in relationship, rather than religion.
If the only time that you bring yourself, along with your imperfections, to His feet is on Sundays then it should be no surprise that most of your life will be lived ineffectively in shame. I know, at least in my own life, that I need God’s grace far more often than one day on the weekend.
It’s so easy to become discouraged by your struggle, but I want to encourage you to see your struggle as evidence of God’s presence. The struggle is proof of God’s Spirit fighting for you.
Welcoming conviction may seem strange to you, but if you don’t stay in a cycle of conviction and grace then you will live in a cycle of sin and shame. Our only hope at living holy lives that resemble His love is by consistently staying in His presence so that when we fall we are close enough to be caught by His grace.
If you want to be an effective Christian, it starts by becoming a convicted one.