There’s a big difference between conviction and condemnation. But not every believer has learned about the great gulf that exists between the two.
For that reason there is much that is accepted from pastors and teachers that is nothing more than spiritual abuse in the name of “Christ-centered” preaching. The worse off you feel after being screamed at and talked down to (even sarcastically)… the more “powerful” the sermon.
Or so some people have believed.
I’ve heard this sort of thing defended with, “He was just preaching the truth of God’s Word.”
Folks, nobody is ever “just preaching the truth” of Scripture. They are always preaching their interpretations of the Bible from a certain vantage point—their image of God rooted in personal experience (background, culture, context, etc.) and their own self-identity.
If you’ll listen close… you may learn more about the preacher instead of what God is actually like and what he really thinks about you.
Never forget that.
It’s not the role of human beings to convict other human beings of sin.
In fact, we aren’t even capable of convicting people. Only the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin. And that’s not just some theological bullet-point.
“And when he (Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” John 16:8 NLT
When men and women try their hand at convicting others of sin, condemnation is the result. The methods common among these preachers are the use of guilt and shame to solicit repentance. But you can’t solicit true repentance through condemnation. It will never work.
Learn from Adam and Eve in the garden. Guilt and shame prompt us to run and hide. But God is interested in clothing us with Christ and restoring us to himself. Don’t believe the lie of the serpent that God really isn’t good after all. And remember that guilt and shame belong to sin and death.
You may guilt people to do what you want some of the time. But they will ultimately burn out or become burdened down with a law-centered, works-oriented faith that is bound to a false image of God. It’s a dead end.
Some folks would soon sum up the Christian life with,”God is holy, you’re not, try harder.” If that’s the extent of the “Gospel” that you’ve embraced, then you’ve not taken serious the message and example of Jesus.
Those whom Christ died for will not discover the yoke that is easy and the burden that is light in this way. Believers or not, they will not come to know Christ if this is the way they are “spurred” on in the faith.
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2 NLT
The image of God in Christ is one that comes to redeem us through love. Paul wrote that it’s God’s kindness that leads people to repentance (Rom 2:4). Jesus told us that God comes not to condemn, but to seek and save the lost, the hurting, the victims of sin and circumstance (Jn 3:16-17).
Jesus said, “Where are your accusers?” to the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:1-11). Hmm… accusers. Reminds me of Satan, the great accuser (Rev 12:10). Those ready to judge are like the devil. It’s a frightening thought that the “Christian” who condemns is more like Satan than Jesus. But it’s true.
Friends, that is the naked truth of Scripture.
Real conviction from the Lord picks us up out of the dirt, looks into our eyes, and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”
True and lasting change of heart and mind comes when a person is overwhelmed by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which works its power through the love and kindness of God as revealed in Christ.
We’ve been called to embody that love and kindness.
It’s time to give up trying to change others (or yourself) by way of condemnation and judgment. If we want others to repent, let’s begin by repenting of our own public hypocrisies and secret sins.
Resorting to any message or method that judges and condemns is anti-Christ. It reflects our own failure to grasp the power of God’s love and the non-coercive nature of the peaceable Kingdom.
Believe in the power of love and humble service to bring about the sort of change that God’s wants in your life and those around you.
Let’s love like Jesus and work at discovering our new identity in him.
D.D. Flowers, 2013.