Conviction Or Guilt?

Q. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other night and she asked me what you have to do and what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I tried explaining to her that you repent of your sins, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I also said that once you are (filled with the Holy Spirit) you will feel conviction when you have done something wrong because the Holy spirit within you will grieve. Then she asked how do you know conviction from guilt? Can you please explain these things to me in a way that I can explain to her without confusing her more? Thank you so much.

A. Once we’re saved, the question is not how much of the Spirit is in us, but rather how much of us is in the Spirit. Paul said that the Holy Spirit is sealed within us at the moment of belief (Ephesians 1:13-14), but in Ephesians 4:23 he said we’re to put off our old selves and be made new in the attitude of our minds. That means we no longer run our life by ourselves but let the Holy Spirit guide us to act in ways that are pleasing to God. We do this by learning to listen for His voice and accepting His guidance. Galatians 5:22-23 lists some of the behavior the Spirit will guide us toward. As we learn to follow His advice, the Holy Spirit will empower us to use the special gifts He’s given us.

Sometimes we’ll be tempted to ignore the Holy Spirit’s advice and when we do it grieves Him because ignoring the Holy Spirit means following Satan. Those are the only alternatives we have. Afterward we’ll either feel conviction or guilt. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, who wants us to be reconciled with God. Guilt comes from Satan who wants us to be estranged from Him. Normally a person experiencing conviction will be drawn toward the Lord to receive His forgiveness, like Peter did after denying Him. A person feeling guilt will hide from Him in shame, like Adam did in the Garden. So the difference between conviction and guilt can be seen in the direction we’re facing. If we’re looking toward the cross, it’s conviction. If we’re running away and hiding, it’s guilt.

Peter confessed and was restored. Adam blamed God and bore the earthly consequences of his sin. As born again believers we have the authority to reject Satan’s attempts to make us feel guilty and confess our sin to the Lord. When we do He will take away our guilt and restore us.

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