Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: How’s Your Conscience?
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 3:15b-16 But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
When was the last time you specifically asked God to heal your conscience? Probably never, right? I think we’re too scared to do so. I think we have far too many skeletons in our closets to ever ask God to open the doors and let the light of His holiness shine into them. We’ve done a pretty good job, humanly speaking, of dulling the conscience so we no longer feel guilty about doing the things we know are wrong but want to do anyway to satisfy some desire of our flesh. I wonder how many people there are that really have a clear conscience?
Many electronic fire alarms have an internal switch triggered by a beam of light. As long as light is received unbroken by the photo-sensitive receiver, the detector is quiet. But if smoke or moisture or an insect obstructs the beam for even a split second, the alarm sounds. Our conscience resembles such an alarm. When sin obstructs our connection with the light of God’s Spirit, the conscience signals us that there’s life-threatening danger. But if the sin is not removed, and the alarm is endured and left to ring, soon the battery expires and the alarm stops sounding.
So it is with us and our conscience. We have become immune to the sounding of the Holy Spirit’s alarm. In fact, for some, the Holy Spirit has been completely quenched so that the alarm no longer works. We have chosen to pursue the sin we love while ignoring the recharging of the batteries through the reading and application of God’s Word. We have decided to please self rather than God, and to remove the guilt of such rebellion we have unplugged the alarms God intended for our safety and security.
Some people claim their conscience is operating correctly, when in fact they are simply acting in response to the expectations of others. There is a difference between one who does right because of his own conscience and the one who is kept from wrongdoing because of the presence of others. A person’s honor is found in the consistency of the private life and the public. Michel Eyquem de Montaigne said it well back in the 16th century when he wrote, “A person of honor would prefer to lose his honor rather than lose his conscience.” Honor makes consistent choices no matter who is watching.
Others claim their conscience is operating correctly based on the idea that if they haven’t been caught they aren’t guilty. They have chosen to believe a lie that has eliminated the guilt that should exist in the heart, whether or not there is guilt in the courts. They have chosen to let man be the ruler of their conscience instead of God. The light of God’s holiness has been interrupted by the darkness of man’s pride.
God intended for our conscience to be illuminated by the Holy Spirit so that our minds are captivated by truth. Mark Twain said, “An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.” For most of us, unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to hair in our mouths. Something has to change. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 9:1, I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit. But we must understand that while it’s always true that the conscience reigns, it does not govern. We do. We have chosen to suppress the truth and live according to our own dictates.
That has left us as people in turmoil. John Milton wrote, He that has light within his own clear breast may sit in the center and enjoy bright day; but he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts benighted walks under the midday sun. Those who walk in the denial of guilt walk a lonely path in life. God did not intend us to live that way. He designed our conscience to be empowered by His presence in the Holy Spirit so that we can walk in His will and experience abundant life. We have instead chosen to walk according to the praise of men rather than God.
Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471) wrote, Great tranquillity has he who cares neither for praise nor criticism. He will be content whose conscience is pure. You are not more holy if you are praised; nor more worthless if you are criticized. What you are, that you are; words cannot make you greater than what you are in the sight of God.
It is time for us to become people of honor again. It is time for the people of God to pray for the healing of the conscience. It is time for us to become true people of honor, like our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. He wrote, I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me
May we be people of honor with a clear conscience – clear because we are completely controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. “Lord, heal my conscience. Show me the guilt of my sin so that I may repent of it. Let the light of your truth be energized and empowered by the Holy Spirit to sound the fire alarm of hell when even the smallest sin breaks the beam. Restore unto me the honor that comes from true integrity. Amen.”