Conviction is Better than Guilt

By Laurel J. Davis
See Laurel's blog at The Reluctant First Lady

There is a big difference between feeling guilty about something and feeling convicted. Both guilt and conviction cause pain in the sense that they both make you feel bad about your wrong. But while the pain of guilt tends to de-motivate you, the pang of conviction makes you change.

Compare Judas' betrayal of Jesus and Peter's denial of Him. How did each man respond to the bitter realization of his particular sin? Who felt guilty, and who was convicted? Who suffered pain of mind, and who actually changed his mind?

It is very interesting that Judas' betrayal and Peter's denial were both committed against Jesus by two of his closest friends on the very same night — the night of His arrest. You can read about them in the Gospel accounts of Matthew 26:14-50; Mark 14:10-46; Luke 22:3-48; and John 13:21-14:21 and 18:1-27

You'll see that Judas realized his sin and even "confessed" it. Sort of. He didn't confess it to Jesus, the very One he betrayed, but to his co-conspirators. Notice how they blew him off but Jesus, his victim, called him "Friend."

Judas came short because, sure, he realized Jesus was an innocent Man, but not the Son of Man (i.e., God manifested in the flesh). In the end — his end — Judas never really got the fact that the Man he betrayed was actually the very God that Man claimed to be.

Judas had pain of mind without change of mind. And it ended his life.

In contrast, look at Peter. Peter denied Jesus — three times! — exactly as Jesus had predicted. Then, once Peter recalled Jesus' words to his mind, he wept bitterly. Then later, just before the resurrected Lord went up to heaven, Peter re-affirmed to Him — three times! — his belief and commitment to Him. As a result, Jesus then entrusted to Peter the care of His people by commanding him — three times! — "Feed My Sheep" (John 21:15-17).

Sure, Peter felt pain of mind. But he clearly also changed his mind — that is, repented — about his denial of Christ. And his life turned out to be a blessing to the Church (e.g., Acts 2:14-46), even up to this day.

Here's the key with Peter: Recalling Jesus' words helped turn Peter's pain of mind into a change of mind. Note that Judas was an apostle with Peter and so had the same exposure and eyewitness to Jesus' words, teachings, prophecies, miracles and personal claims. Why didn't he also have a change of mind? Perhaps his being called the "son of perdition" had something to do with it. He felt guilt without conviction.

What can we learn from Judas and Peter? What can we apply to our own lives about them?

Judas' betrayal reveals that, without God's Word, guilt can be a tool of the devil to hurt you. Your life won't end, but your joy, peace and witness will suffer. In contrast, Peter's denial and then repentance shows us that conviction comes from God's Word and kind of takes the pain of guilt to a point of usefulness. With God's Word as its base and the Holy Spirit as its facilitator, conviction is a tool of our Savior to help you.

Think about it. Guilt tends to come only after your sin has "found you out." Guilt tends to breed more sin — and more sin, more guilt. Guilt just makes you feel bad, period.

Conviction, on the other hand, comes before, during and after you sin. It may not always prevent your sin, but it will make the sin harder to commit. Conviction hurts, but it also awakens you and improves you, helping you stay out of sin.

Now think about this: Guilt points to what's bad in you. Conviction points to what's good in God. Guilt can drown you in the powerlessness and self-worthlessness of you. Conviction holds you up with the power and worthiness of Jesus Christ.

If you sin, don't merely be guilty. Be convicted, to the ultimate glory of God.

Image Credit: Jean Edmonds; By Permission

TagsBiblical-Truth  |  Christian-Life  |  Sin-Evil

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Published on 8-20-14