As an attorney, when I am hit with a question my first reaction is to fall back on my legal background. I was considering how often we have a conscience pang. We feel bad about something we’ve done. Sometimes that can be a conviction. A conviction is from God, a move of His Holy Spirit. On other occasions, it’s an accusation. Satan is the great accuser. We obviously need to respond very differently in these situations. How can we tell, then, the difference?
Starting, as I like to do, with a legal distinction, there is a huge difference between an accusation and a conviction. Anyone can accuse anyone else at any time. Often I am asked “Can I sue them?” The answer is always, “Yes.” But there is a big difference between suing someone and winning your case. In the criminal law, there are many steps between accusation and conviction. A conviction results only after proof has been produced. A conviction is an accusation that has been proven.
That’s a good place to start in differentiating the two in the spiritual realm as well. If the Holy Spirit is convicting, it’s because we have sinned and have not addressed that sin, confessed it, turned from it and been forgiven. Satan, being a liar may create feelings of guilt over something we haven’t even done. Maybe we did something, but it really wasn’t sin. Maybe it was sin but we’ve dealt with it, been forgiven and Satan is beating a dead horse.
A conviction tends to be specific. Satan’s accusations are usually broad a vague. Often just a sense of worthlessness or unspecified guilt.
A conviction points us to Jesus, always. An accusation points us to ourselves.
The next time those feelings of guilt arise, ask yourself these questions.
Have Jesus and I already dealt with this? If so, tell Satan to get behind you and move on.
Am I feeling bad, because I’ve done something that resulted in pain for someone, but it was something that just had to be done?
Did I prayerfully point out sin in someone’s life?
Is what I am feeling bad about a sin or a social miscue?
The bottom line: Is this something I need to take to Jesus?
Follow every conviction to the cross. Bury every accusation deep.
And be blessed.