“If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything”
— 1 John 3:20
One rarely talks of prayer without bringing up the word confession. Many of us may be familiar with the ACTS formula for prayer: Adoration—Confession—Thanksgiving—Supplication. Naturally, because of our proneness to wander away from God, confession needs to be part of our prayers. That said, there are two other “c” words that help us practise true confession: condemnation and conviction.
Jesus taught His disciples that the Holy Spirit’s job is to convict, and that one of the things He will convict us of is that the devil is condemned (John 16:11).
Isn’t it interesting that while Satan is the one who is condemned, he spends so much time condemning us with insinuations and accusations?
Real confession must flow out of real conviction, and that only comes from God’s Spirit. It doesn’t come from agreeing with Satan’s suggestive thoughts, or even from our tendency to go looking for warts and wrinkles. Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Condemnation is a general tearing down of who you are, while Holy Spirit conviction focuses on the specific offence.
The Apostle John knew how it felt to be condemned; in 1 John 3:20, he writes about his own heart condemning him, and that God is greater than his heart. I can relate to John. I’ve lived much of my life under this banner of condemnation that left me often fault-finding within and without.
Recently, the Spirit convicted me to stop it. It’s a no-brainer to quit finding faults with others, but the surprising part was that He stressed that I was to stop finding fault with myself. He was saying, “It isn’t your job to go looking for sin in yourself or others; that’s my
job. Leave it to me and get on with the job of loving Me and those around you.” What a freeing word!
1. Next time you confess, take a quick pulse check. What are you confessing? Is it a specific offence, or are you beating yourself up, listening to accusations and tearing yourself down?
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to increase your discernment to know the difference between true conviction and condemnation.
Kathy Klassen was raised in Ethiopia as a daughter of missionaries. She now serves at First Alliance Church in Scarborough, Ontario and ministers to people in the Spirit’s power to encourage an abundant life in Jesus.