Conviction - isn't that the hopeless feeling that happens when you do something that you think makes God mad? You conclude that you are a Failure with a capital F and that there is no way out for you. You will absolutely never overcome this heinous sin - it will drag you down forever. You are just stuck. That's conviction. Right?
Nope! That is definitely not conviction. That is called condemnation in the Bible. Condemnation, (from which the world gets the swear word "d*mn,") does not apply to Christians. Romans 8:1 states that "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus."
So what is the difference between conviction and condemnation and where does guilt play into all this confusion? Guilt is just the fact that you have done something wrong. If someone is found guilty, they are found to have actually done what they were accused of. If you sin (we all do), you are, in fact, guilty because you did do it. True guilt is not a feeling.
So what is this awful feeling? Most likely, it's condemnation. The feeling that you are no good down to the core, that you will always fail to do right, that hope is a figment of your imagination, and that you are in a very dark place filled with anguish - that is true condemnation. Anytime you feel hopeless, with no way out, you can know that you are feeling condemnation. It is even possible to feel condemned when you didn't do anything wrong, as when a right action by you causes anger in another person. They can condemn you or you can take it on yourself. None of these dark, hopeless feelings are from God.
Conviction, on the other hand, is that tug on your heart that shows you that what you did was wrong. Included with the conviction is God's way of escape. It is a cause for great rejoicing. We can escape! What it means beyond the guilt is that God has seen your failing. Because of His great and astronomical love for you personally, He wants you free because He knows the sin will destroy you if you continue in it, therefore He hates your sin . He is not sitting on His throne righteously offended and indignant about your sin. He is weeping. Jesus died for this sin and He longs for you to be free of it. He is righteous, but we are already forgiven.
His motive is freedom and victory for you! The Holy Spirit is called our helper and when He shows us our sin so plainly and forcefully, He brings hope with Him. He is working to rescue us and show us the way out. We are to work with Him according to the Word and turn away from the sin.
Conviction brings hope. Conviction doesn't leave us feeling alone. Conviction calls us up higher. Conviction knows that God loves us and is for us and that we are made new in Him. Conviction brings our sin into the light to set us free. Conviction makes us feel that we will overcome because we are indwelt by God. Conviction truly is: the doorway to freedom. Praise God!