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Conviction? Condemnation? Or Chastisement?
By David A. DePra
Part 1 -- Conviction
Conviction is essentially ILLUMINATION as to my present condition. The Holy Spirit convicts me of sin by showing me my sad state, and my need. But along with that illumination of my hopeless condition, there is an illumination of Jesus Christ as my Deliverer. Thus, conviction carries a realization of my sin, and the fact that I have been wrong with God. But along side of that, conviction shows me how to be right with God – through Christ.
Some of our modern, "gospels," of self-esteem teach us that our biggest problem is that we don’t love ourselves enough. Such heresies say that our problem is that we think we are sinners. However, the Bible disagrees. Ephesians says, "No man ever hated his own flesh." (Eph. 5:29) We are also told, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23) John says, "This is condemnation, that Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil." (John 3:19) Thus, our problem is NOT that we need to love ourselves more. It is that we are obsessed with self-centeredness. Our problem is NOT that we think we are sinners – or that we think we are too bad. Rather, we don’t see our sin and don’t realize how bad we are without Christ. Thus, the first step to freedom is LIGHT. We must be convicted of sin if we are to get free of sin.
It will seem negative to be told you are a sinner if you are COMFORTABLE as a sinner. It will seem hopeless to be exposed as a sinner if you don’t see the Savior. And it will seem like an attack on your integrity to be convicted of sin if your goal is to maintain your integrity before God. It is right here, however, that our eternity is determined: Will we come into the Light and be exposed for who we are, and thus, come to Jesus for the solution?
You see, the, "gospel of self-esteem," as taught by Robert Schuller and others, isn’t simply another way of looking at Truth. Neither is it the right message with the wrong delivery. The gospel of self-esteem is the very essence of what Satan is trying to do – keep man in Adam, but under the delusion that he is just fine. It is a terrible testimony to the state of the Christian church that a gospel like that isn’t even recognized by most Christians.
Again, conviction is illumination. It is God showing me the Truth. And the Truth is that I am dead spiritually. I am born, not only as a creature that does wrong things, but I am born a wrong creature! The human race is THAT! God’s conviction will bring me to see this – but not to condemn me. Conviction of the Holy Spirit will always carry with it the revelation of Jesus as my Deliverer.
Repent and Believe
The true gospel is based upon the premise that man is born wrong with God – based on the fact that we need redemption back to Him. Ignore that Truth, and conviction becomes needless, because Jesus becomes needless. You cannot be right with God until you come to terms with being wrong with Him. Being right with God is morally impossible otherwise. Any other suggestion of the gospel is a lie.
What we see in all of this is that unless we repent, we cannot be saved. We cannot. If the problem with man is that he is wrong with God through unbelief, and repentance is a change of mind over to being right with God through faith, then you cannot be saved unless you repent. Any other gospel message is heresy.
People get confused about repentance because they think of it in terms of SINS – our violations of God’s law. Well, we do need to repent of SINS. But you and I are never going to be able to repent of every sin we have ever committed – or even be able to discover them. Thus, in order to get saved, we must really repent of only ONE sin: The sin of unbelief.
The sin of unbelief is the sin of refusing to come to Christ – it is the sin of refusing to believe! Doesn’t that make sense? If faith – or believing on Christ – means to put my trust and reliance upon Him for my salvation – then UNBELIEF is the neglect, or refusal, to do this. Notice that faith, or believing, isn’t simply a matter of agreeing to the fact that I am a sinner, or that Jesus is my Savior. No. Faith moves on to actually put myself into the hands of Jesus because I have seen those facts. Conviction of the Holy Spirit will always bring us to that point.
The gospel message is always, "Repent and believe." You cannot have one without the other. Why?
Well, let’s first look at why you cannot repent without believing. You cannot repent without believing, because if you are repenting, you are repenting of the SIN of not believing. And if you are repenting of the sin of NOT believing, then by definition, you are having a change of mind and heart FROM this unbelief, over to BELIEVING. Repentance of unbelief always equals faith in Jesus Christ.
Likewise, you cannot simply BELIEVE on Jesus, without repenting. This is impossible, although this is exactly what is preached today in so many places. People are told, "Just invite Jesus into your heart." The suggestion is that we can avoid the fact that we have been wrong with God, and just go on with Him in a new life. Well, we cannot. Why? Because again – THE SIN we need to repent of is being wrong with God through unbelief. And the way to be right with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, how could I, "just believe," if I have never repented of NOT believing? See what I mean?
You cannot repent without believing, and you cannot believe without repenting, for in effect, repenting IS unto faith, and faith is the outcome of repenting.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of THE SIN of unbelief, and if we step into that light of conviction, we will repent of it, and respond by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, just to pound the point home, have you noticed that the focal point of conviction of the Holy Spirit is that we have been wrong with God Himself? Sure. We have all committed many SINS – acts of sins – in our lives. But these acts of sins are merely the evidence of something that is wrong with us. We have been wrong with God. We have lived in independence of Him. We have not believed Him, nor have we turned to Him through Christ. This is the root problem – we have been wrong with God!
Thus, when we talk about repentance, we are talking about a sobering recognition – not that we have done bad things – but that we have been BAD TOWARDS GOD HIMSELF. Repentance is therefore, "a change of mind." But it is a change of mind – of heart attitude – towards God Himself. And that change, as we have said, is FROM unbelief TO faith through Jesus Christ.
Now, all of that is CONVICTION. Conviction is illumination. And conviction is a totally POSITIVE thing – because of where it points us, to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit comes to show us HOW THINGS ARE – He brings LIGHT into our world. He shows us our need; our sin. But He also shows us that there is hope and salvation in Jesus.
Part 2 -- Condemnation
Condemnation is never of God for those who are in Christ. Paul says, "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) Why? Because Christ has already died the death for all of our sin, and therefore, if we are in Christ, the price is paid for all of our sin. Thus, there is no price left over for us to pay, and so there can be no condemnation.
But we have seen that there IS conviction for those in Christ. And it is a big step to see the difference.
Conviction invites us to Christ as the solution for sin. Condemnation shuts us out because of our sin. Conviction makes us want to draw near to God. Condemnation makes us want to hide ourselves from Him. Conviction is a drawing of us to Christ. Condemnation is a pushing away of us from Christ. Conviction comes with love, mercy, and hope. Condemnation comes with fear, harshness, and hopelessness. Conviction will leave us wanting no excuse for our sin. Condemnation will provide us with many excuses. Conviction is clear, to the point, and carries a sense of finality in Christ. Condemnation is confusing, and carries no sense of resolution.
As you can see, condemnation comes in many forms. But essentially, it uses something about us – something that is not too good – to drive a wedge between us and God. And really, our unbelief provides the materials for such deception. For if we think that God’s provision for us is based on US, then the enemy has what he needs to keep us in condemnation – for if we think God’s love depends on us, the enemy will point to things about us that disqualify us before God. The solution, therefore, is to begin to rest only in what Christ has done.
Note this again: The basis for condemnation is placing our faith in something other than what Christ has done. Once we do that, there is no way out. Only if we come back to faith in Christ alone is there escape from the torment of condemnation.
The main characteristic of condemnation, I would think, is a sense of hopeless. Because condemnation does not open the way to deliverance through Christ, there is really no way out of the accusations that come with condemnation. Therefore, the person is forever caught in the maze of wanting deliverance from sin, but of being told that there is none.
Now if you will just notice what is happening here, you will see that at some point we have to believe the Word of God – believe that there is no condemnation for those in Christ. God is not going to make condemnation go away – we must believe that in Christ it IS taken away. And if we do, we will refuse to listen to it.
I will promise you that if you do not believe there is no condemnation – on the basis of what Christ has done – you are going to be miserable until you do. Faith in the finished work of Christ is the only way out of condemnation that God offers us. We need to begin believing, and then stand in that faith against all condemnation.
In Christ, God has done all the forgiving that He needs to do – and it is total and final. Thus, right now, if you are in Christ, you are as forgiven as you will ever need to be. But rather than say that you are a person whose sins are forgiven, it is better to say that you are a FORGIVEN PERSON. That is your identity, and your relationship with God.
Christians usually believe God has forgiven them for past sins, but get hung up on whether God has forgiven them for future sins. Well, the Truth is, the death of Christ for your sin is past, isn’t it? So ALL of your sins are in HIS future. Furthermore, the Bible says that Jesus was, "crucified from the foundation of the world," that is, His death spans time and space. Thus, to God, it is ALL or NOTHING. You are either a forgiven PERSON, or you are not. And if you are, your sins have been taken away.
Just as an aside – when we say that sin is taken away, we are saying that the power of sin has been broken in your life. THAT is broken by the Cross of Christ. But the presence of sin remains as long as we remain in this body. And the possibility of sin remains because we have free will. Yet in Christ, we need not sin. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to show us this Truth, and how to walk in freedom from sin – because of what Christ has done.
Condemnation is actually a denial of everything Christ has done. Get that. It is a denial of everything Christ has done. So it is really ALL or NOTHING. Either there is no condemnation for those in Christ, no matter what, even when we sin, or there is always condemnation. You cannot have it both ways. If you are saved, condemnation is a lie.
This IS Condemnation
Most of the time Christians feel condemned, it is because of what they have done. But this is not how the Bible defines condemnation. According to the Bible, we are not condemned for the things we do. We are condemned for not coming to Christ with them. In other words, we are condemned, not because of our works, but because we won’t repent and believe.
The sin of the human race is unbelief. Our SINS are many, but Jesus has already taken them away, and offers us freedom from them. THE SIN, therefore, is our refusal, or neglect to do so. God never expected us to help ourselves. But he does expect us to open to His help once He reveals Christ to us.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hates the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)
John is first describing CONVICTION, and those who would refuse it. Those who refuse CONVICTION are in danger of CONDEMNATION. The Holy Spirit brings LIGHT into a person’s world, and exposes them as needy sinners. The Holy Spirit points to Christ as the solution. But the person will not allow themselves to be exposed by this light – and refuses conviction. THIS sin of refusing Christ results in condemnation.
What we see here is a picture of God as a huge LIGHT. This LIGHT has come into our world and exposed us as sinners, but has also shown us the way out through Christ. God calls us to step into the light and confess what the Light exposes – our condition without Him, and the fact that our only hope is Christ. But some won’t – because they will not have their deeds exposed. What happens in their case? Well, God doesn’t turn off the Light, or shut the door on them. No. The Light is ALWAYS on, and the door is ALWAYS open. The invitation is always good. The sin – the condemnation – is found in the fact that despite this, the person refuses. There is simply nothing left for God to offer someone once He tells them the Truth about their sin and Jesus Christ.
But notice: If we have already come into the Light, and have already come to Christ, can we see that we have already be delivered out of condemnation? Sure. If we are in Christ, we are already past the point of refusing Christ. That is why there is no condemnation possible for us.
Part 3 -- Chastisement
Those who are in Christ cannot be condemned. But we do continue to sin. And we do need to be disciplined. Thus, God will chastise us as sons and daughters. But this is not condemnation. This is for our good.
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? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. (Heb 12:6-11)
To CHASTISE means to TRAIN. It means to DISCIPLE. God may chastise us simply to train us as a faithful disciple. It may have nothing to do with whether we have sinned, or whether we are in the will of God, or out of the will of God. We all need to learn Christ. And God is going to be teaching us.
The trouble is, many of us respond to the chastisements of God by feeling condemnation. But again, this is because we have not got the finished work of Christ settled in our hearts. Condemnation is NOT in God’s vocabulary if we are in Christ. But chastisement is, and always will be.
According to Hebrews, if God is chastising us, it is proof He loves us. Would we rather that God leave us alone to fend for ourselves? Surely not. Thus, when things go bad in life, we need to believe that this is not a sign that God has forsaken us, or that we have unknowingly missed the boat. Rather, we need to understand that chastisement is a sign that God is with us, and that He loves us enough to bring into our lives the discipline and correction that will bring to pass His purposes. Our job is to yield to Him in His chastisements.
Conviction, condemnation, and chastisement, all find their meaning and definition only if we grasp the finished work of Jesus Christ. For those in Christ, God does convict us of sin, and of the Truth. But there is no condemnation for us. Ever. And all of God’s conviction is for our chastisement and our good.
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