1. What is conviction from the Holy Spirit?
God says many things to you. If we divided all of the things He says to you into various topic categories, convictions would be one of those categories. Convictions are a form of guidance. God essentially says, “Let Me guide you onto a path that will be better for your soul.” Convictions can be corrective or educational.
2. What is a corrective conviction?
This is when the Holy Spirit wants you to change something. God telling a rebel to repent of his bad attitude is one example of a corrective conviction. These kinds of convictions usually have three elements to them. First, the Holy Spirit clearly identifies what it is He doesn’t like. Second, He explains to you why He doesn’t like it. Third, He tells you what He wants you to do instead.
3. If I am receiving a corrective conviction, does that mean that I’m out of alignment with God?
Not at all. Alignment is when your soul attitude towards God is “Pleasing You is more important to me than pleasing myself. I want You to have Your way in my life.” You can be aligned with God and still receive corrective convictions from Him. It’s important not to confuse the concepts of conviction (God talking to you) with rebellion (a defiant soul attitude). These are two very separate things.
Can you ask your friend to do something for you without being mad at her? Of course you can. In the same way, the fact that the Holy Spirit is asking you to do something does not mean He is mad at you. Every Christian receives a ton of corrective convictions from God in life. This is a very good thing—conviction is an important part of how we learn more about who our Gods are and what They care about.
If you sincerely care about pleasing God, then you want to cherish His corrective convictions as the useful guidance that they are. The Holy Spirit will often use this kind of conviction to steer you away from trouble. For example, when your mother-in-law says something that offends you, your first instinct is to tell her off. Here is where the Holy Spirit intervenes and tells you not to say anything. He isn’t mad at you. In fact, He totally understands why your mother-in-law’s words upset you so much. He may even want to talk with you more about that subject right then or perhaps a little later on. But meanwhile, His corrective conviction helped you not get embroiled in a long argument.
Whenever they can get away with it, demons try to impersonate God’s Voice in your mind and make you think He’s saying something that He really isn’t (see Voices in Your Mind). Corrective convictions are one of their favorite things to fake because false convictions can swiftly drag you down into guilt and shame. When you are pleasing God, demons will constantly try to undermine your confidence in your good standing with Him. False convictions are a very effective way for them to do this, and false convictions will keep working on us until we learn how to identify them. Happily, there are three very simple rules you can use to spot a false conviction. For more about this, see Identifying False Conviction: Three Easy Tests.
4. What is an educational conviction?
When God gives you a corrective conviction, He wants you to change something. When He gives you an educational conviction, He just wants you to learn something. Because God often chooses our past wrong behaviors as topics for educational convictions, Christians often misunderstand what He is saying to them and they get hung up in needless guilt. Don’t assume that God is mad at you just because He gives you a conviction.
Let’s run through a couple of scenarios to learn the difference between corrective and educational convictions.
Scenario 1: Abortion.
God hates abortion, but Holly doesn’t realize this. Holly is a Christian and she cares about pleasing God, but like all Christians, she makes mistakes. One of her recent mistakes was a one night stand which resulted in her getting pregnant. Feeling overwhelmed by her situation, Holly calls up an abortion clinic and makes an appointment. When she hangs up the phone, the Holy Spirit convicts her that she has done the wrong thing. This is a corrective conviction. The Holy Spirit explains that abortion is wrong in His eyes. He tells Holly to cancel her appointment. Corrective convictions are about God asking us to change something. In this case, God wants Holly to change her plans to kill her baby. He wants her to decide to have her baby instead. As soon as Holly agrees to do what God is saying, He is pleased with her. When she cancels her appointment, she has obeyed the conviction and the Holy Spirit is satisfied.
Meanwhile, there’s Olivia. She is also a Christian, and like Holly, Olivia has never been taught how God views abortion. Over the past six years, Olivia had two abortions. At the time, she never received any corrective conviction from the Holy Spirit, and this means He does not consider her guilty of defying Him by having the abortions because she honestly didn’t know better. But now that He has had time to work with her on more important things, the Holy Spirit decides He wants to teach Olivia about His view of abortion, so He arranges for her to stumble across a Christian website on which His view of abortion is graciously explained. As Olivia reads the article, the Holy Spirit convicts her that its contents are true. This is an educational conviction. Educational convictions are when God wants us to learn something. In this case, the Holy Spirit wants Olivia to learn about how He views abortion. He is not telling Olivia to change anything, and He’s not mad at her for getting abortions in the past. Instead, He is strengthening His relationship with her by helping her understand His views.
Scenario 2: Wrong teaching.
Father Ben is a Catholic priest who teaches his parishioners to pray to Mary on a regular basis. Father Ben has never been taught that God hates it when people pray to beings other than Him. One day Father Ben is reading the Bible, and the Holy Spirit guides him to a passage in the Old Testament where Yahweh is talking about idolatry. As he reads that passage, the Holy Spirit speaks to Father Ben and helps him see that God considers praying to Mary to be a form of idolatry and He hates it. The Holy Spirit then tells Father Ben to pass on this information to his flock and to stop telling his parishioners to pray to Mary or any other saint. This is a corrective conviction. The Holy Spirit wants Father Ben to change the way he is instructing others about saints. The Holy Spirit is not mad at Father Ben—on the contrary, He is very pleased that the priest shows sincere concern for God’s feelings.
Father John is a Catholic priest who used to teach on the value of self-mortification in his old parish. That was ten years ago. Now he is working in a different place and self-mortification never comes up. One day when Father John is praying, the Holy Spirit begins to explain to him that God hates all forms of self-abuse. Suddenly Father John understands that his promotion of self-mortification in the past was all wrong. This is an educational conviction. The Holy Spirit is not asking Father John to change anything at this moment, He just wants Father John to learn about God’s view of self-abuse and gain a more accurate understanding of how spiritual maturity works. The Holy Spirit is drawing Father John closer to Himself by teaching him more about God’s view of things. This conviction is a compliment, not a criticism.
5. Do Jesus and Yahweh ever convict us?
Yes. We have three Gods, and all three of Them interact with us. Jesus and Yahweh promote the Holy Spirit as our primary Instructor in life, but He is not our only Instructor. All three of our Gods communicate with us and at different seasons in life we may be more aware of Jesus or Yahweh talking to us instead of the Holy Spirit.
6. What if God convicts me to do something and circumstances prevent me from doing it right away? Will God be mad at me for delaying?
No. Whenever God convicts us, He wants our souls to respond with immediate agreement to whatever He said. When they do, He is pleased. There will be many times when God instructs us to do some particular action which we can’t do right away. Maybe He wants us to buy something from a store that isn’t open yet. Maybe He wants us to talk to someone but they’re not picking up their phone. Such delays are not going to get God upset with us. Remember that God responds to our hearts. When He sees that we are eager to obey and that we are planning to do what He asked as soon as we realistically can, He will be quite pleased with us.
7. Does God ever convict people who are beyond hope?
While God will often place people who He has already condemned in the presence of convicting messages, He will prevent such people from understanding what is being said. As a result, condemned souls will experience no desire to change and get into a right relationship with God.
We find many examples of this happening in the Bible. In Isaiah 6, Yahweh announced that He was going to send the prophet out to preach to people who would not understand his messages. They wouldn’t understand because Yahweh would be intentionally preventing them from understanding.
When asked why He always taught in parables, Jesus replied that the parables were intended to prevent people from understanding God’s truths, and thus block them from repenting and getting into a right relationship with God.
As long as you can find any sincere desire within yourself to be in a right relationship with God, you can be certain that God has not condemned you, even if you are not a Christian.
Once we become condemned by our Creators, the Holy Spirit stops illuminating our souls. Spiritual illumination is when the Holy Spirit enables our souls to understand what He is saying. Someone can put basic truths right in front of you, but unless the Holy Spirit is illuminating you, those truths will not be understood by you.
Because no one can learn anything apart from the Holy Spirit’s illumination, we’re just wasting time when we try to educate people about God or share the Gospel message without seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading (see How to Avoid Witnessing Burnout: It’s Not Your Job to Save the World). God leads, He does not follow.
8. Will God convict me every time I do something wrong?
Not even close. Most of the things you do wrong will go completely unnoticed by you and unmentioned by God. The Holy Spirit does not want perfection from you, nor has He equipped you to live a sinless life. He will only convict you of sins when He feels it is productive to do so. To Him, conviction is about guidance, education, and strengthening your walk with Him. It is vital to remember that God’s pleasure with you in a given moment has to do with your soul attitude, not your perfect behavior.
Does a human father love his child less because the toddler can’t walk perfectly? No, the human father expects his boy to fall down a lot and he doesn’t consider this a sign that the child is hopelessly flawed. In the same way, God expects you to bumble around a lot in life. The only time your sins are going to become a major issue is when your soul attitude becomes defiant. When you start responding to God’s convictions with an attitude of “Go away, I don’t care what You want,” that’s when God will respond with discipline. But as long as you want to please God in your soul, He is going to be very patient with you. God doesn’t ever confuse His obedient kids with His rebellious brats. When you know that you sincerely care about pleasing God, yet you feel like He is jumping down your throat about every little thing you do wrong and having very little patience with you, you’re experiencing condemnation from demons.
9. When should I respond to God’s conviction with repentance?
Repentance is when we change our soul attitude from rebellious to obedient. As we’ve already discussed, the fact that God is convicting you about something does not mean you are out of alignment with Him. It is only when you are in a state of spiritual rebellion that the Holy Spirit will convict you to repent. Such convictions fall under the category of corrective convictions because the Holy Spirit wants you to change your defiant soul attitude. To learn more about repentance, see Understanding Repentance.