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Reading Your Bible: Guilt vs. Conviction

Now that we’ve hit the second month of the year, where are you at in your Bible reading plan? Got all your boxes ticked with a satisfying series of checkmarks? Playing catch up by a few days, a week, or more? Or maybe you never started, assuming you’d quickly fall behind?⁣

I’ll go first and confess I’ve missed six days. Mind you, that’s six days since starting a plan in mid-January. Not enough time to get a killer streak going in my Bible app.⁣

For most of us, bombing an attempt at biblical discipline produces one of two reactions: guilt or conviction. Knowing the difference between the two can help lead to heart change rather than shame hangover.⁣

Guilt pulls you inward, surrounding you with negative thoughts about yourself. “I’ve failed. I’m a terrible Christian.”⁣

Conviction draws you upward, exposing your need for a perfect and patient God. “I messed up, Lord. Forgive my flakiness.”⁣

Guilt treats obedience like a performance, focusing on what other people think of you. “I’m embarrassed to show up at Bible study because I didn’t do my homework.”⁣

Conviction views discipline as an investment, urging you to deepen your relationship with God and admit when you lack effort and/or motivation. “Lord, I want to know your Word, but am having trouble keeping up.”⁣

Guilt is a fatalist, tempting you to walk away. “I’ll never finish. I should just quit.”⁣

Conviction is an optimist, encouraging you to step forward. “I didn’t get to it today, but will try again tomorrow.”⁣

As you think about reading or studying the Bible, go with conviction over guilt. While God covers you with grace, he doesn’t want you to give up pursuing him. When you miss a day or don’t do your homework, pray and ask for his help to keep going, believing that he rewards those who seek him even after they fall over and over again.


Published February 3, 2021


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