What does the word “conviction” really mean?
The actual word means “a formal declaration that someone is guilty” or “a firmly held belief or opinion.” Christians often say “I felt convicted” when they are thinking about sinful action, but that is really not what it means. Conviction, as it is defined above, would happen after we’ve sinned. We are generally talking more about the prompting of the Holy Spirit in connection with avoiding sinful behavior and building a deeper level of intimacy with God.
Ephesians 4:27 warns us not to “give the devil a foothold (NIV)” when it is talking about allowing anger to remain in our hearts. John 8 records the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery and that the people were “convicted by their own conscience (KJV)” and did not throw the stone. These verses, and many other Bible stories, tell us that there is a point in our thinking where we move from temptation to action (or non-action). When we are convicted about these things, we have two options: we can ignore it, or respond to it. However, our response is varied based on our upbringing, education, and strength of relationship with God.
It is important to remember that conviction is not a negative thing as it is the Holy Spirit quickening us so we can remain on God’s perfect path instead of our own selfish way. It should not make you feel like drawing away from God or giving up your Christian walk. That is what condemnation does, and Romans 8:1 says “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (NIV).” Conviction serves to draw you closer to God and condemnation serves to draw you away from God.
The next time you’re being tempted with lying, or unforgiveness, or allowing some other negative behavior to remain, I want to encourage you to respond and truly think about what God’s Word says about that. God only convicts us of things which impede the growth of our relationship with Him. James 4:8 says “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” This should lead to repentance and a change of heart.
In closing, becoming more like Jesus (sanctification) is difficult and can take a very long time, even for the strongest of Christians. Don’t be too hard on yourself and make sure you’re noticing your progress more than your slip-ups.


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