Phil Cox

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Conscience

7th June 2007

Last week, I wrote about how the importance of obeying God, even when doing so is impossible. This week, Iím writing about the related fact that we must do what is right, even if doing what is wrong could help ourselves (or others) to escape suffering. Your conscience matters. Peter wrote:

1 Peter 3:13-16
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience...

Sadly, there are times when we do suffer for doing whatís right. At least weíre in good company; Jesus experienced the same many times. But even when we suffer Ė or when we're afraid that we may be about to suffer Ė we must keep our consciences clear. Similarly, if there seems to be the opportunity for great gain through wrong actions, we must resist. Because our consciences are of great value. A clear conscience is one of the most wonderful gifts that Jesus offers us. Paul was able to boast about his:

2 Corinthians 1:12
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to Godís grace.

Don't you wish you could say the same?

Itís extremely important for us to work to keep our consciences clear as much as we can. Paul wrote:

Acts 24:16
... I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

Do you look after your conscience? If not, pay careful attention to what Paul wrote to his protege Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:18-19
...fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.

And, when Paul instructed Timothy about deacons (servants), Paul taught that, among other qualities:

1 Timothy 3:9
They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

Itís impossible to be sure of Godís leading without a clear conscience. I think this is part of what Paul meant when he said:

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Christís peace cannot rule completely in our hearts if we have a guilty conscience.

And itís impossible to really love God and our fellow man, if we have a bad conscience:

1 Timothy 1:5
... love, ... comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

So Ė your conscience is worth protecting. Even when a bit of compromise seems a good idea.

We all have plans and aspirations. We all have things, relationships, circumstances, people that we want to protect. And thatís quite right. But, when what we care about is under threat, itís so tempting to do what is immoral, because itís in a good cause. Or, at least, a cause thatís important to us. And, when something is important to us, itís easy to believe that the cause is good, even when itís selfish at root.

Sadly, churches Ė which should be the most moral, secure, loving communities on the Earth Ė can get involved in tensions about who does what, or how we do it. And we can really get passionate about things Ė because we really care about our church. The same is true in our families, our workplaces and schools, our towns and countries. But when things are in turmoil, we must keep a good conscience.

Donít succumb to temptation. Donít do what's wrong, because you hope it will provide a good result. God is judge of all the Earth, and He judges sin. What you hope will be a good result may well be ruined by Godís judgement on the sin you committed to get that result.

If the situation you find yourself in is really tough, then keep your conscience clear. That way, whatever happens, youíll know that your conscience is clear. The bad results were not your fault.

If you donít keep a clear conscience, then Ė even if the results are all you hoped for (and they probably wonít be) then youíll still know that youíre guilty before God.


One last word: Itís important to make sure that we care for our own conscience. But it's also important to take care that we don't dictate to another personís conscience . And itís important not to let another person mould our conscience:

1 Corinthians 10:29
... why should my freedom be judged by anotherís conscience?