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Saturday, 10 March 2018

A clear conscience.

An Indian was asked by a Bible translating missionary to define the word "conscience". After having thought for a minute, the man pointed a finger at his breast and said: "It is a little three-cornered thing in here. When I do evil, it turns around and hurts very much. However, if I keep on doing wrong, its sharp edges wear off, until it doesn't bother me any more." 

There was a lot of wisdom in those words, and his definition was amazingly accurate! If I disregard the warnings of my conscience, and continue in sinful practices, then that conscience can be impaired. If I abuse my conscience, it becomes "seared" and useless. So Paul writes to Timothy: "The Spirit says clearly that in later times some believers will desert the Christian faith. They will follow spirits that deceive, and they will believe the teachings of demons. These people will speak lies disguised as truth. Their consciences have been scarred as if branded by a red-hot iron." (I Tim.4:1-2). This is why we must never callously allow ourselves to mute the pleadings of our own consciences!

However, valuable as this "internal monitor" may be, we must admit that it has become dulled by mankind's fall into sin. No longer can it be an infallible guide to right conduct. It needs to be enlightened, and sensitised, by our being born anew of God the Holy Spirit, through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, the Son, by the grace and love of the Father. We then need to keep it in good condition by our daily reading, and studying, of the written Word of God, and by daily communion with Almighty God in prayer. Only then can we follow the leading of our consciences with safety!

When a disciple of Jesus does find this inner voice accusing him/her of wrong deeds, or words, or thoughts - or, indeed, of the failure to do, and speak, and think as we ought! - then we must come before the throne of grace and, confessing our sins - of omission as much as commission - before our heavenly Father; receive the forgiveness that was gained for us at Calvary; and seek the ongoing sanctification that is available to us by the work of God ther Holy Spirit in our lives. I have a little home-made, laminated, plaque on my study wall - just above the desk at which I sit for my devotions. It is a play on words in the English langiage, and reads: "In this life I shall never be sinless; but, by the grace of God, I may sin less!" (emphasis not in the original!).

Perverse attitudes, and evil practices, cloud the spirit when we resist the "soft whisper" that warns. It is only as we ask the Lord to cleanse us anew, and allow His Word to direct us , that we may say, with Paul as he made his defence before the Roman governor Felix: "... I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people." (Acts 24:16). As someone has said: "Conscience can only be our compass if the Word of God is its chart."

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