“There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). Christians know this well.
But our stupid mouths often speak stupid things. We may just be careless with good intentions, or we may actually have bitter motives. Either way, we condemn, condemn often, thinking that it is a type of correction that serves a good purpose. James has warned us to control our tongues, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” (James 3:9-12)
When we see a brother or a sister who needs “correction” (1 Cor 10:13), we should be careful not to condemn, but allow the Spirit to convict, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8 ESV).
God does it in a gentle, loving way. This kind of conviction leads us to godly sorrow and eventually, if received properly, repentance, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10).
Convicting is illuminating and shedding light on our spiritual darkness. It does not bring shame but freedom. Saul on the road to Damascus is one of the best examples. “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. (Acts 9:3).” God shone on Saul literally and spiritually. What happened? Saul became a new man in Christ. “The old has gone; the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17). Today, God does the same to us spiritually through the Spirit. Let me share three personal testimonies as well.
I once had some jealousy towards a sister who was alway nice to everyone. I wanted her kindness and meekness. Later on, we became closer not just as friends but as spiritual companions. One day, out of nowhere, a voice within from the Lord spoke to me like a light shining into my filthy heart: I recognized my own sin! I told the Lord, “Lord, help me. I don’t know why I hold such prejudice against her. I love her. Help me to love her.”. It’s right from that day that, all the evil bitterness within me towards her vanished. Just like that. It’s not me, but Him the one who is able. I am so thankful that no one had ever condemned me (well, no one really knew this sin of mine), and that the Spirit convicted me and faithfully came to deliver when I cried out to Him. This is an example of the indwelling Spirit directly convicting me.
I was once addicted to online shopping. I could not take my eyes off the clothes of the latest trend. As a Christian, I knew deep down that these things do not bring true satisfaction, but I kept wanting to own these clothes. As I spent more time with some sisters who were always only attracted by the Lord but not these materialistic pursuit, I began to long for the very same joy and peace that they had. Gradually, I, too, without noticing, turn to Christ much more often, knowing that He is my ultimate enjoyment. My desire for owning all the clothes I like was gone. It was liberating. This is an example of the indwelling Spirit convicting me through others’ living.
I once criticized ruthlessly a guy from my school on social media as a result of him saying something that offended me and my classmates. Later on that week, a brother asked me, “What’s up with that? What happened?”. I told him what happened, and I was surprised by how not angry I was about what happened anymore. I immediately questioned myself, why did I even do what I had done? Why was I so easily offended and why had I extended so little grace? This is an example of the indwelling Spirit convicting me through others’ speaking. But keep in mind that it is not a “you are wrong” type of speech. Instead, the brother simply asked me a question.
What freedom it is to be in the new way of the Spirit that convicts, compared to the old way of dead letter that condemns! If you feel guilt, shame, or any taste of legalism, it is probably not the Spirit’s conviction but a condemnation from the devil.