HOW DEPENDABLE IS OUR CONSCIENCE? Part 2
Jonah 1:1-17 fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. And all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. (Jonah 1:5) WE CANNOT DEPEND ON OUR CONSCIENCE ALONE. While the storm raged, Jonah was sound asleep below deck. Even as he ran from God, Jonah’s actions apparently didn’t bother his conscience. But the absence of guilt isn’t always a barometer of whether we are doing right. Because we can deny reality, we cannot measure obedience by our feelings. Instead, we must compare what we do with God’s standards for living. Proverbs 28:13-18 People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy. (Proverbs 28:13) OUR CONSCIENCE MOVES US TO REPENT OR RESIST. A sinner’s conscience will drive him either into guilt resulting in repentance, or to death itself because of a refusal to repent. It is no act of kindness to try to make him feel better; the more guilt he feels, the more likely he is to turn to God and repent. If we interfere with the natural consequences of his act, we may make it easier for him to continue in sin. Romans 14:1-23 Let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. (Romans 14:19) WE MUST BE SENSITIVE TO THE CONSCIENCES OF OTHERS. What is weak faith? In this passage, Paul is speaking about immature faith that has not yet developed the muscle it needs to stand against external pressures. For example, if a person who once worshiped idols were to become a Christian, he might understand perfectly well that Christ saved him through faith and that idols have no real power. Still, because of his past associations, he might be badly shaken if he knowingly ate meat that had been used in idol worship as part of a pagan ritual. If a person who once worshiped God on the required Jewish holy days were to become a Christian, he might well know that Christ saved him through faith, not through his keeping of the law. Still, when the feast days came, he might feel empty and unfaithful if he didn’t dedicate them to God. Paul responds to both weak brothers in love. Both are acting according to their conscience, but their honest scruples do not need to be made into rules for the church. Certainly some issues are central to the faith and worth fighting for-but many are based on individual differences and should not be legislated. Our principle should be: In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in everything, love. SOMETIMES, OUR CONSCIENCE IS OUR BEST GUIDE. We try to steer clear of actions forbidden by Scripture, of course; but sometimes Scripture is silent. Then we should follow our conscience. “If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning” means that to go against a conviction will leave a person with a guilty or uneasy conscience. When God shows us that something is wrong for us, we should avoid it. But we should not look down on other Christians who exercise their freedom in those areas. HOW CAN OUR CONSCIENCE BE PROTECTED? 1 Timothy 1:12-20 Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they give you the confidence to fight well in the Lord’s battles? Cling tightly to your faith in Christ, and always keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. (1 Timothy 1:18-19) DEPEND ON GOD TO TRAIN OUR CONSCIENCE. How can you hold on to a good conscience? Treasure your faith in Christ more than anything else and do what you know is right. Each time you deliberately ignore your conscience, you are hardening your heart. Over time your capacity to tell right from wrong will diminish. As you walk with God, he will speak to you through your conscience, letting you know the difference between right and wrong. Be sure to act on those inner tugs to do what is right-then your conscience will remain clear.