Guest Post – Christian Foundations on Conviction or Condemnation?

Our Guest Post by Pastor Sharon White:


This week our passage focuses on the Holy Spirit bringing conviction.

It’s part of a “Farewell Discourse” of Jesus’ outlining his departure and its effect on the disciples future. Saying goodbye is never easy. Apart from funerals, airport departure lounges are for me the epitome of places of sad farewells.

There is a classic story of goodbyes in the Bible, John 16:4 onwards. Jesus is sharing with his disciples that His departure is necessary so that they can fully embrace the future. He repeatedly points them to the benefits of his leaving. “…..It is for your good I’m going away.”

Don’t you hate it when someone says to you…… “Now I’m going to tell you something and you’re not going to like it, but it’s for your own good”.

In John 16:6, Jesus discerns that His words are causing His disciples grief. Jesus was loved by them. He was their hope for a better future for Israel. How could His Kingdom come on earth when the King wasn’t present? Surely this wasn’t the grand master plan? Not only would the disciples be grieved by what he was telling them but probably confused. My goodness could there be any worse news!!!!!!

Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit’s attributes and abilities would better serve the Kingdom’s purposes than He alone could do, powerful though He was. This was always God’s purpose and plan in saving creation

Jesus would fulfill the requirements of justice through the Cross, and return to the Father….. and the Spirit would make Jesus and His work present and available for the believing community in His absence

The Spirit’s work could not commence until Jesus’ work was completed. It is almost like a cosmic relay…..each part of the God Head playing a part in the salvation and redemption of creation

God the Father takes the first leg, calling a people to Himself in the nation of Israel to show who He is to the world. The God the Son takes the second leg by showing people what God is like and making the way for them to be reconciled to Him. Then the baton is handed to God the Holy Spirit……. who takes the final leg towards the finish showing the world who God is through us spreading the good news to the whole earth.

Among the works of the Spirit that Jesus outlines to the disciples: teaching and witnessing, Comforting and advocating, Guiding and Counseling………and Convicting. The Spirit convicts and this is our focus for today. He convicts the world and also convicts believers.


1. What does the Word ‘convict’ mean?

If you say convict as a verb it If you say ‘convict’ as a verb, it means to prove or declare guilty of an offense, especially after a legal trial. This is the kind of language Jesus is using in regards to the world of the Spirit in this passage – trial language.

A term used in a legal sense. In the picture, Jesus paints the Spirit as the prosecuting lawyer and the world the defendant standing not before a judge but the believing community……standing before us. The Spirit will bring out into the open or expose the true meaning of sin, righteousness and judgment and hold the world accountable to these standards

2. What are the charges being brought against the world by the Spirit?

Jesus goes on to tell us:

a. The world is accused of the sin of unbelief, because the world doesn’t believe in Jesus. To many in the world, Jesus is just a man in history….a good man like Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. Jesus the Son of God? I don’t think so! But good men don’t lie do they? Jesus said he was the Son of God, so if he isn’t that makes him a liar.

b. The second charge is in regards to righteousness or justice, or what is right and just. The words are interchangeable in the Greek. Only the Spirit can reveal to a person that their standing before God doesn’t depend on good works but on Christ’s death on thecross.

“But I’m a good person you say. I give money to the Salvo’s. I don’t cheat on my tax return…well not really. Surely that will get me in God’s good books.”

No…..We are justified by faith – you might be thinking here she goes getting all theological on us.

So what does to be justified by faith really mean?

Firstly you are delivered from the guilt of sin. God punished Jesus so He wouldn’t have to punish You and me. God can’t ‘double dip’ as the Aussies say. Your status changes. You go from enemy to friend of God. It’s complete!

Jesus righteousness gets imputed to us… what does that mean? In law it means you can be prosecuted for the acts of someone for whom you are responsible. It’s like a company being taken to court for the wrongful behavior of its employees……or….like parents being charged because of the wrong doing of their children.

Jesus takes the place of the parents or parents in this scenario. He becomes the guilty one ….and gets the death sentence and we get to be innocent, sinless in God’s sight. So the Holy Spirit convicts the world of what is right and just. That justice has been served in Jesus work on the Cross

c. Thirdly he convicts the world in regards to the coming judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. The world needs to know that it’s ruler is defeated…

He’s going down…… and the world and its people are going down with him ….. UNLESS ….


3. In legal terms, there is a hearing to determine how the defendants pleads.

The prosecuting attorney lays out the charges and the dependent enters a plea of guilty or not guilty. If he pleads not guilty, it has to go to a trial where all the evidence is examined and a jury will decide his guilt or innocence. Then a judge will sentence him if he is found guilty. If he pleads guilty he goes straight to sentencing.

If the world pleads guilty and repents then it is sentenced to the forgiveness of God and adoption into his family. If it pleads not guilty then a trial and judgment will be its destiny. This is what the Holy Spirit is trying to get the world to see

4. Sometimes I think we as Christians hinder this.

We act on behalf of the Holy Spirit. We condemn left right and centre when judge something as wrong with people….. and the world. At our worst we can be a bit like….. Ever watched any of the ‘Judge Judy’ programs on TV? If not, go see this one: ‘Judge Judy Video’:

If we are honest, we might not behave towards people in quite that manner but sometimes our attitudes and thoughts towards others can be somewhat similar.

5. The Holy Spirit is not like us, or thankfully like Judge Judy!

He doesn’t condemn – He convicts. We cannot Convict. It will always sound like condemnation coming from us. There is a vast difference between the two, conviction and condemnation. We need to let the Holy Spirit do His job and not “Help Him Out”.


The other meaning of the word convict as a verb means to impress with a sense of guilt – and the Holy Spirit does exactly that. He works through our conscience to convict us of the wrong in our lives. Knowing the difference between conviction and condemnation also becomes important for the work of the Spirit in our lives as believers.

1. A conscience is unique to human beings.

My cat has no conscience about scratching my furniture she doesn’t try to hide this behavior unlike humans who have a tendency to hide their guilt. Adam and Eve hid their guilt by hiding themselves. It’s been shown that no matter how primitive a culture, all humans have an innate sense of right and wrong.

Everyone is given a conscience. Scripture tells us in Romans 2:15 that God has written His law on human hearts and our consciences bear witness to this.

2. Sometimes our consciences needs adjusting

It’s like the apostle Paul who said that he had persecuted Christians with a clear conscience and yet that did not make him innocent like the Jewish leaders who had no conscience about condemning an innocent man in Jesus.

3. Scripture also tells us that our conscience can be seared in 1 Timothy 4:2.

We can start out with a strong conscience that the Holy Spirit uses to guide us in what is right and wrong, but if we ignore it the voice of our conscience gets quieter and quieter until it is almost inaudible. The volume gets turned down by our choosing to ignore it.

Eventually the conscience is rendered inactive. Psychopaths and serial killers would most likely have inactive consciences. A conscience submitted to God receives the conviction of the Spirit enabling us to live within the boundaries God has set for us.

4. The Conscience must be submitted and cleansed.

Hebrews 9 tells us that a conscience submitted to God is cleansed by the blood of Jesus. So the Holy Spirit works through our conscience to convict us not to condemn us because….. there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1. We are not to follow the condemnation, guilt and judgment but to tune into His conviction, peace and clarity.

So how do we know the difference?


1. A good example:

When I was preparing this message God gave an object lesson from life on the difference between conviction and condemnation. I’ve been trying to train my puppy to walk nicely on the lead. I’m trying to get her not to pull because as she is getting bigger, it’s getting harder and I don’t want one arm longer than the other.

So I looked up the various methods of teaching a dog to walk beside you or in dog world jargon “to Heel”. The first method is the choker chain which you give an almighty yank on when the dog doesn’t do it your way.

I couldn’t bring myself to use this – I’m a softie you know. So I used a modified version I bought in England a few years ago for my other dog. Well this didn’t work she was running and leaping about and a good yank on it made no difference and made me worry I’d have to take her to the vets for a serious neck injury. So I went and bought a “Gentle Leader”.

What a difference she didn’t pull because the sensation of pulling was unpleasant but not hurtful. We actually had a great walk it might take a few walks for her to get completely used to it but it was awesome. Gentle Leader 10/10: Choker Chain 0

2. The harsh yank on the choker chain is like feeling condemnation.

The conviction of the Spirit is like the Gentle Leader. It might be a little unpleasant but not hurtful. In fact sometimes when the Holy Spirit convicts us of something, it is a bit of an’ aha! moment’ rather than the discomfort of being in the wrong because there is no shaming in the process.

3. Conviction and Condemnation originate from two completely different places:

Conviction comes through the Holy Spirit; Condemnation through the devil; even the Scripture calls him the accuser, Revelation 10:12. Remember Scripture tells us that Satan seeks to kill and destroy. He wants to destroy our faith and kill our relationship with God.

4. So how are these different?

a. The tone is different: The Holy Spirit through conviction is gently and lovingly urging us to repent or turn away from the wrong. Conviction is Specific .

The Condemnation of the devil is accusing, nagging, mocking projecting a sense of rejection. Condemnation vague and general. “You’re useless, hopeless why don’t you give up you’ll never be worthy of the name Christian God couldn’t possibly love you let alone forgive you.”

b. Conviction encourages you towards something better.

Condemnation attacks you personally discouraging you. “You’re an oxygen thief, a waste of space you’ll never make it.”

c. The view of your past: The Conviction of the Spirit doesn’t drag up your past wrongs as further example of your errors. Scripture says that forgiveness means God remembers them no more.

Condemnation resurrects your past mistakes and loads you with guilt and shame

“There you go again! What’s wrong with you? You’re never going to beat this one you’re such a loser!”

d. Conviction draws you back to God. Just as with Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, He didn’t condemn her or shame her. He quietly let her go, gently cautioning her to change her behavior. The law said she deserved death, Jesus gave her new life instead.

Condemnation pushes you away from Him: “God is Holy he can’t be around a worthless sinner like you”

e. Conviction is fuelled by grace and mercy; Condemnation by judgment.

f. Conviction shows you the truth the facts about You and God. “You’re a precious child of God.”

Condemnation reinforces feelings: feelings of doubt about your worth and God’s love for you.

g. Conviction is the gentle discipline of God; Condemnation is destructive punishment.


Our passage told us that the Holy Spirit was sent to convict not condemn the world and that the one condemned was the prince of the world Satan. He has been condemned and sentenced. The world has yet time to repent.

Remember that to repent is to change your thinking and in so doing your behavior.

Perhaps we need to repent of where we have been “helping” the Spirit because, it is and….. will only ever be heard as condemnation….and in our own walk with the Lord will we allow the Devil to yank our chain or the Holy Spirit be our Gentle Leader?

Are we prepared to keep our consciences submitted to God enabling us to hear the conviction of the Spirit?

As always, as it is with God: IT’S UP TO US!

A Prayer:

Father, Son and Spirit: we thank you that you have given us Your spirit to be our Gentle Leader. You bring conviction to us in order that we might live within the boundaries you have set for us and grow as your disciples as you bring discipline to us. We ask you to remind us to keep our conscience submitted to you where they are cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

Please show us Lord, where in our lives we presume the role of Your Spirit bringing condemnation on people and the World instead of making way for your Spirit’s conviction. We pray that as your Spirit continues to convict the world about Jesus that we would be ready to receive those who plead guilty and minister your love and grace to them in Jesus name.



Pastor Sharon White shared this message with us from her Sunday message at the Northern Community Church of Christ in Preston. She has shared from a teachable heart the things the Lord has taught her.

Thank you Sharon for this message about the Conscience. May we apply what we learn to change our world and ourselves.

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author

P.S. You will also find this Guest Post on



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