My poor husband stared at me in shock and confusion. What started out as a simple and polite request for me to please put my dirty clothes into the hamper, had reduced me into a crying, sobbing mess. Why had this simple and loving confrontation left me so heartbroken? 

Because, in the confines of my brain, was a voice that repeated to me over and over “I was not good enough to be loved. I would never be good enough to be loved, and I was one mistake away from my husband walking away.” It had become a soundtrack of falsehood that played subconsciously, over and over in my mind. If my fear of making a simple mistake like not putting my clothes in the hamper left an emotional mess, the fear of disappointing God by doing something that dishonored him was even worse. 

This fear drove me to perfectionism, and any time I felt like I had failed, that fear would come flooding out in a pool of tears and frustration. I wondered if I would ever be able to do all the good things I wanted to do or if I would be doomed to a life of making one soul-crushing mistake after another.

In Romans 7, the apostle Paul lamented his own frustration with not being able to do the good he wanted to do.

So I find this law at work: “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:21-24a)

Paul was a godly man, totally sold out for Jesus. He did so much to advance the gospel all over the expansive Roman world. He wrote multiple letters in the New Testament that encouraged the churches, and yet he never arrived at perfection. His lack of perfection frustrated him. Just like me, he so badly wanted to do always good. But while I sat and wallowed in the futility of my imperfections, Paul didn’t stay there. Instead, he rejoiced. 

In Romans 7:25 he exclaims,Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Then he continues on in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul rejoiced because even though he made mistakes, he lived in the truth that with Jesus there is no condemnation.

No condemnation in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let those words soak in for a moment. 

The word in Greek for condemnation is katakrima.  It means an adverse sentence, penalty, or final verdict.[1] In other words, it means a death that includes a total separation from God. In reality, we deserve it and Satan likes to remind us we deserve it in the hopes it will paralyze us from stepping out in faith to do the good works God has prepared for us to do. 

But God in his great love and mercy did not want us to live in that fear of death and separation from his love. Instead, he sent Jesus to remove the adverse sentence. No longer do we have to worry about screwing up so bad that God’s love will leave us. Jesus takes our place as ones condemned from sin and death to ones free to live lives transformed by the love of God.

Paul rejoiced in this truth. Instead of continuing to let the “I’m never going to be good enough” soundtrack play, he stakes his claim in the truth that, even though he will perpetually screw up, he no longer has to live in fear of condemnation. That truth freed him to keep moving forward in his ministry of spreading the gospel. He could learn how he needed to change but simultaneously be released from guilt and shame because of Jesus and the grace we receive through Him. What Paul understood was the difference between conviction and condemnation. 

Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit transforming us more into the image of God (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Holy Spirit does this by showing us the parts of us that need to be cleansed and renewed. The purpose of conviction isn’t to break us under the weight of guilt. Rather its purpose is to remind us to turn to our God who is faithful and just and will cleanse us from all the sin and shame. (1 John 1:9

Conviction is very different from condemnation. Condemnation means there is no hope of recovering from our mistakes. No hope of being able to live in the love of God. But conviction is the opposite. Conviction comes from a loving Father who wants what’s best for us and who is reminding us of the life he wants us to live. Conviction of the Holy Spirit helps us to confidently turn to God to ask for help with our shortcomings knowing we will receive grace and cleansing, not condemnation and rejection. 

Because of this, the feelings of conviction should no longer leave us a broken mess. Instead, they should be viewed as a reminder of the hopeful transforming power of God and His Holy Spirit living and working within us. We can now go to the throne of God, not in fear of a death sentence, but in hopeful anticipation of how God will work in our lives to mold us more in his image. 

What are the soundtracks playing on repeat in your head? Is Satan’s voice of condemnation getting more attention than the Holy Spirit’s voice of guidance? If so, tell Satan to go take a hike and cling to the truth that there is no condemnation for you any more thanks to Jesus. 

You have been freed from the law of sin and death. Take hold of the Holy Spirit’s hand today as He guides you through the discomfort of your imperfection, out of a life of fear and into a life of freedom found in the perfect love of Christ. 

[1] Strong’s Concordance.