Links Daily Devotional

In Good Conscience, Part 2

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:4, NIV)

Those who play golf in close adherence to the Rules do so with this in mind: truth tellers sleep better.

“There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience” is a proverb alternately attributed to French, German, or Russian origins. No matter where it came from, its meaning is the same—when we do things according to the good our conscience leads us to do, we are free from anxiety at the end of our day. So the golfer who calls a penalty on herself even when no one else sees the transgression goes to bed knowing that she has done what is right. And we might add, “As God is her witness.”

So if our conscience does indeed tell us what to do—if it bears testimony to what is right and what is wrong—are we good to go on trusting it all the way to heaven? That is, when our days are concluded can we stand at the judgment seat of God and say to him, “I’ve done everything my conscience told me to do”?

In answering that question we do well to consult two pivotal passages of Scripture, both presented by the apostle Paul.

The first of these is quoted above. Paul, who championed the role of the conscience in the Romans 2 passage we considered yesterday, now steps back and says that the conscience is not the end-all. Above our own conscience, God sits as judge.

Why is this? One answer rests in that fact that we are always biased in our own direction. We may in our own justifications absolve ourselves of the guilt that our conscience testifies to. Thus, I may go to bed and sleep well not because my conscience has released me but because I have reasoned my way around my conscience. This is why we need the judgment of God. Note: Paul was not fearing the judgment of God in 1 Corinthians 4 but rather inviting it, saying in essence, “I’ll entrust myself to the Lord’s discernment, which is of course superior to my own.” He was willing to do this because while he knew that God’s view of us is absolutely true, God’s grace toward us is completely able to rescue us.

A second important passage about the restrictions of our conscience comes in the opening of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, where he wrote: “…fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith” (1 Timothy 1:18-19). Do you see that it is possible for a person to reject their good conscience, to turn from the very things that God would have you do in righteousness? Indeed, later in the letter, Paul warned that there are those who make this choice so often that their consciences are “seared.”

How do we summarize our learning then? We do well to go in this direction:

– Ask God for an active conscience, one that adamantly reveals right and wrong to us.

– Ask him too for the faithfulness and strength to follow the promptings and warnings of that conscience.

– Then endeavor to follow your God-provoked conscience every step of the way, allowing that conscience to correct you when necessary and clear you when you have done well (2 Corinthians 1:12).

– Finally, at all times in humility defer to the judgment of God over and above the testimony of your conscience.

Jeff Hopper

June 11, 2013

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