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Conviction and condemnation appear, at first glance, to be similar; but they are really quite opposite when you consider the source of each.

It is the devil's job to condemn, and the Holy Spirit's job to convict. Conviction always includes some positive action that God is trying to get you to do. Condemnation, on the other hand, often masquerades as conviction, but its final goal is to get us sidetracked from what it was that God was trying to tell us to do or to change. Condemnation often over-states the facts about our guilt in an attempt to generate despair and self-pity.

If you listen closely to someone who is acting under condemnation, they will often slip in some defences at the same time that they are condemning themselves. Something like, "I'm a worthless, pathetic failure," followed (or preceded) by "but I'm not trying to be bad." In many ways, there is some truth in both statements; but what you have to look at is the fruit. What is it leading to? Is it leading to greater obedience, or is it resulting in people becoming further confused about what God is trying to teach them?

Almost any time that we are criticised, our natural reaction is to say something like, "I wasn't trying to be bad." That's probably true. The problem is that there are not all that many people anywhere who actually try to be bad, and yet a lot of badness still happens. We need to see that part of trying to be good must be to recognise how easily bad can just happen, with little or no conscious effort on our part.

A really sincere person wants to find Truth (with a capital "T"), and the Truth is that we are neither as bad nor as good as the devil tries to tell us we are. Mostly he works on telling us how good we are; but if he can't hide us from some unpleasant truth about our sinfulness, he switches over to exaggerating how bad we are, and he tries to tell us that his condemnation is proof of our humility and sincerity.

But there is another paradox here. Sometimes people sincerely follow the devil. By that I mean that they really are not awake to his lies, and they honestly think that his condemnation is God's conviction. I am telling you this now because I don't want you to get condemned about getting condemned. As the saying goes, shit happens, and we all stuff things up from time to time. All God wants us to do when the truth is pointed out to us, is to say sorry, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get busy with doing what it was that he told us to do.

We need to be careful about making apologies in a "condemnation" mode, because we can end up putting so much effort into berating ourselves, that we end up forgetting what it was that we were supposed to change. All the effort that goes into trying to generate a convincing apology, could be put into doing what we've been told to do, and it would achieve more good. Change is the highest form of repentance.

When someone is expressing condemnation, they sometimes win the sympathy of others who are not clear in their discernment. "Secret conspiracies" easily happen between the disgruntled spirit in one person and the disgruntled spirit in another person. But if you really want to help someone who is telling you how bad they are, you will work on steering them over toward conviction instead.

Remember, condemnation never gives you a constructive plan for change; whereas conviction does. Ask God what to do, and he'll show you.

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