Conscience

 

What if you had borrowed the neighbor’s lawn mower at about 6:00 pm, thinking you could have the lawn mowed in ½ an hour. And what if about 15 minutes later your mother calls, or a friend shows up at the door, or perhaps a policeman arrives to ask you what you know about some recent event. And what if ½ hour later, when you’re through with the interruption, you notice the sun is about to set and Sabbath is about to begin, or maybe has already begun. And you still have about 15 minutes of mowing left! What do you do?

 

You could leave the lawn unfinished even though it would look bad when friends come over after church. You could consult the paper to see what time sundown actually begins; you could reason that just because the sun is behind the mountain, the buildings, or a cloud doesn’t mean it’s actually below the horizon. You could consider your “Ox is in a ditch,” so to speak. You could convince yourself that God is love and made the Sabbath for man not man for the Sabbath. Therefore what difference will a few minutes more make, anyway, I’ll still observe Sabbath. Besides, God looks on the heart and not at the letter of the law. You could consult with your wife, or a friend, or call the pastor or an elder.

 

A case could be made for any of the above. So what do you do? I’m not sure which answers are Ok, but I am sure of this… Each answer is wrong if you can’t proceed with a clear conscience! (Acts 24:14-16 NIV)  However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, {15} and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. {16} So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

 

*   Declaration of Independence (men of conscience)

 

*   Judge Roy Moore (man of conscience)

 

So what is conscience?

Conscience is related to the term Conscious and they both have a shared meaning of being aware or having knowledge. Conscience is awareness in the moral realm. You might say that conscience makes us conscious of sin.

*   Conscience is the still small voice that makes you feel still smaller. James A. Sanaker

*   Conscience is a sacred sanctuary where God alone may enter as judge. Hugo Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1782–1854)

*   My conscience is captive to the word of God. Martin Luther (1483–1546)

*   The conscience is an imperfect mental faculty. There are times when it condemns us for mistakes and human frailties that can't be avoided; at other times it will remain silent in the face of indescribable wickedness. James C. Dobson (1936– )

 

Now this last quote is particularly interesting and insightful. It recognizes that although we must obey conscience we must not think conscience is infallible. Only the Word of God is infallible. Consider, (1 Cor 4:4 NIV)  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

 

So, if we can’t trust conscience why must we obey it? Think about this, (Rom 14:14 NIV)  As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

 

And also, (Rom 14:23 NIV)  But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

 

You see; going against conscience is going against what you believe. And going against what you believe is being unfaithful. Being unfaithful can be considered a sin of rebellion. So what are we to do?

 

Conscience is not reliable but conscience can be improved. Conscience can be and should be grown and maintained no less than your body or your mind. Here’s how, (Rom 12:2 NIV)  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

You see, what you do for the body can help or hinder your health. Likewise, what you do for the mind can help or hinder your conscience. Subject the body to poor food and inadequate exercise over a period of time and guess what? The body deteriorates and may eventually fail.

 

It’s not any different for the mind and the conscience. It’s been said, “You are what you eat.” This is undeniably true in the general sense. Let’s generalize even more, you are what you consume! If you fail to exercise your mind or feed it junk, then over a period of time your mind and your conscience will tend to deteriorate or even fail. Let’s see some more of what the Bible has to say about this. (Phil 4:8-9 NIV)  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. {9} Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. And also(Titus 1:15-16 NIV)  To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. {16} They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

(Titus 2:1 NIV)  You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

 

So a conscience can be corrupted.

 

What else does the Bible reveal about conscience.

*   (1 Tim 3:8-9 NIV)  Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. {9} They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

*    (1 Tim 1:18-19 NIV)  Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, {19} holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.

*    (Heb 13:18 NIV)  Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. (Knowledge of a clear conscience)

*   (1 Cor 8:7 NIV)  But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled.

*    (1 Cor 8:12 NIV)  When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.

*   (1 Tim 4:1-2 NIV)  The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. {2} Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

*    (Heb 10:21-22 NIV)  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, {22} let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

*   (Rom 9:1 KJV)  I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

*    (1 Cor 4:4 NIV)  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. A clear conscience doesn’t make us innocent!

 

So you see a conscience is variable just like people are variable. And just as people can change so can conscience change. And since we know we must follow conscience it behooves us to develop and fine-tune that conscience. Here’s an appropriate quote,

*   If conscience smite thee once, it is an admonition; if twice, it is a condemnation. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864)

 

I think I hear God saying, “Don’t make me tell you twice!”

(1 Th 5:19-22 NIV)  Do not put out the Spirit's fire; {20} do not treat prophecies with contempt. {21} Test everything. Hold on to the good. {22} Avoid every kind of evil.

 

Here’s what you want to aim for in term’s of conscience, (Job 27:6 NIV)  I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live.

 

I started with a hypothetical question about mowing a lawn; let me end with this hypothetical question. If you were Judge Roy Moore what would you do? Let’s examine ourselves and see if we are truly doing our best to be what God wants us to be. Faith and doubt can’t live together. Develop an excellent conscience and then follow it.

 

Here is my closing thought, (1 Cor 15:58 NIV)  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.