By LESLIE LUDY
Most of us are very familiar with the voice of condemnation. You know, that subtle (or not-so-subtle) whisper that mocks, “You aren’t good enough! You are a mess! You are a failure! You are hopeless! It’s too late for you – you’ll never change!”
The enemy loves to heap guilt, shame, and accusation upon us. He loves to see us wallow in hopelessness, self-pity, or self-defensiveness. When we become consumed with our own failures and shortcomings, we are unable to experience the redeeming, cleansing, renewing power of Jesus Christ. We focus on our own inability and unworthiness instead of remembering His ability and His worthiness.
When the voice of condemnation attempts to dampen our perspective, it’s critical that we don’t take the bait. So many women I know often feel like “failures” in many areas. I understand, because I am susceptible to the very same feelings! But we must realize that the enemy’s desire in hitting us with condemnation is to get our eyes off Jesus Christ and onto our own shortcomings.
When condemnation seeks to point out everything we are doing wrong, our response should not be self-righteousness, self-defensiveness, or resentment toward “those people” who are surely judging us for our failures. Rather, we must simply stand firmly upon the fact that, as child of God, we are in Christ Jesus – and He is perfect, even though we are not! (See Romans 8:1.)
We must also learn to recognize the difference between the enemy’s condemnation and the gentle conviction of the Spirit of God. If we’ve allowed the voice of condemnation to berate us on an ongoing basis, we’ll usually become hyper-sensitive toward anything that makes us feel even the slightest sense of guilt, regret, or shame. But this can be dangerous to our spiritual lives, because it means we are no longer pliable to the correction of God’s Spirit.
When you hear or read a message that has a bit of “sting” to it, it’s important to stop and evaluate where the sting is coming from – from God or from the enemy. Contrary to popular Christian thought, God’s refining work in the human soul is often painful and uncomfortable. Many Christians today desire a Gospel that drips with sunshine and warm fuzzies; one that emphasizes God’s love and ignores His holiness. But the “Good News” doesn’t mean much unless we first feel the full weight of our sin and hopelessness; unless we know our desperate and utter need for a Savior and Redeemer. In order for us to grasp the wonder of the Cross and the amazing gift of salvation, we must understand the gravity of our sin and feel genuine remorse and sorrow over our failures. We cannot skip over this step, or the Gospel cannot truly transform us.
The amazing thing about the sting of God’s conviction is that it actually leads to greater strength. While the voice of condemnation whispers despair and declares “It’s too late for you to find anything better!” the voice of God’s Spirit proclaims hope and says “I have something so much more for you to discover!” It’s a positive pain with a positive purpose; much like the pain that comes with physical training. When we want to get in better shape physically, it’s uncomfortable to push our bodies toward greater levels of fitness, but we work through the pain because we know that it will lead to greater energy, health, and strength. So it is with holy conviction. It can be painful to realize that we have not been walking uprightly in certain areas of our lives, but when we willingly acknowledge our sin and humbly receive God’s correction, it leads to greater joy, power, and freedom.
So if you feel the prick of holy conviction in any area of your life, don’t immediately put up your defenses and dismiss it. Rather, take a moment to freshly yield your heart to the work of God’s Spirit. Even if His refining work is painful at first, if you willingly submit to His loving correction it will lead to amazing liberty and life.
God’s Word says, “Do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, for whom the Lord loves, He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:11-12). So remember – if God is gently correcting you, it is only because He loves you and delights in you! It is a great privilege to be lovingly refined and shaped as a vessel in the faithful Potter’s hand.