I talked a bit about conviction born out of your faith yesterday. Conviction is important because it helps you identify areas in your life that are headed the wrong direction and turn it around or let those things go.
But sometimes for women, I know for me specifically, conviction can rapidly turn into condemnation. It is important to realize that conviction can be good and effectuate positive change, but condemnation is bad and becomes a joy stealer. It’s like a person convicted of a crime – if she is sentenced to life in prision, that is rightly seen as condemnation. But what if the judge releases her after she recognizes her crime, apologizes and promises to change – there can be freedom despite, or even because of, the conviction.
That’s what we have to remember if we are going through the process of God “pruning” areas in our lives. We are not convicted to be condemned. Acknowledging where God is convicting us can lead to greater freedom if we’re willing to change. I have so many friends who have left their faith altogether because their childhood churches offered condemnation not hope. They offered a list of proscribed “dos” and “don’ts,” instead of the promise of freedom and fulfillment.
So using the areas of conviction I described yesterday, let’s look at what the line between condemnation and conviction induced freedom could look like:
Materialism Condemnation: Who do I think I am? Acquiring all this crap! I’m setting a terrible example for my children. I could have saved starving children in Africa if I’d redirected these funds. Instead, I just bought another blouse. Was I high? Did I not pay attention to the fact that I don’t need anything? I’m so self-involved.
Materialism Conviction/Freedom: We have a lot of expenses. It’s tax time. Plus we’ve got the kids new school tuition due. I’m not tithing like I used to at my church. I’m spending too much on things we don’t need. Bray and I need to sit down and get a budget together. A real one that shows where our money is going. I need to pray before we work on the budget because I want God to direct our dollars. Purchasing isn’t intrinsically bad, but buying too much needlessly is wrong and it’s wasting the money He’s entrusted me with. I’m going to stick to our budget. If I go off track, then I’ll get back on track the next day.
Marriage Condemnation: I am a terrible wife. I’m awful. I can’t do anything right, I don’t know why I got married, I don’t know the way to better, I don’t know how to find forgiveness, and I don’t know if I’ll ever do it perfect.
Marriage Conviction/Freedom: I’ve let some things go. I need to take responsibility for that. I need to be more encouraging of and positive to my husband. I need to let little things go. I need pray more for him than I have been. But I know this is the man I love and who God sent me, and I know neither one of us is perfect. I’m just grateful I’m recognizing issues now before it’s too late.
Drinking Condemnation: I should never have started drinking wine every night. It’s terrible. I’m such a fraud. People think I’m spiritual but I’m really not. I’m relying on wine instead of on God. I’m a mess.
Drinking Conviction/Freedom: I’m not sure how this started, but I’m now having a glass of wine every night. I have a family history of alcoholism. I need to make sure that this is not something I’m becoming dependent on. I’m going to stop drinking every night. I’m not convicted that alcohol is bad, just that alcohol dependence is bad. It may be a hard pattern to stop, but I know that God tells me I can be victorious with Him helping me so I’m going to try and I’m not going to yell at myself if I don’t do this perfectly.
I know we can’t be so upbeat about areas where we struggle every day at every moment. I also know some bondage and battles are deep and dark and strongly rooted, and it’s going to take a lot more than a pep talk to achieve freedom. But we do have to stop this negative self-talk in our head which is not from God. I’ll share the words my incredibly wise friend (from whom I seek Godly counsel when I’m mired in the battle) gave me:
It finally came down to whether or not I was going to keep letting guilt and shame keep their foot on my neck about it – or stop judging myself and be free to live in the truth of I Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23. The essence of that verse to me means that we need to be aware of the things holding us back but not crucify ourselves about it. I don’t know the specifics of your battle but I know how prone you are to allowing condemnation to wound you. Making yourself suffer over a habit the Lord may want you to lay aside doesn’t make you a better Christian. You are free in Christ, sweet sister.
I know you all want my friend now. Who doesn’t need this person encouraging her?!?! I leave you with this song I heard on the way home that encouraged me: