by Mike Ratliff
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:1-7)
People are such illogical creatures. The fallen nature we all inherited from Adam reveals itself at the most maddening of times. Our Christian scholars, ministers, and theologians are not immune. It seems that our lack of humility is Satan’s most valuable tool in defeating us. I have a Blog as part of my writing ministry. I also participate in theological discussions on other Blogs. Some of those discussions can become chaotic situations at times. There are times when the ones contending in these “discussions” become so adamant about their polarized positions that the situation becomes ripe for frustration, anger, and bitterness.
The conscience is part of each of our Spirits. This part of our spirituality condemns us when we violate the “standards” it holds high. It also commends us when we do well as far as those “standards” are concerned. The condemnation it sends into the Soul makes us feel guilty and unfulfilled. The commendations it sends into the Soul leads makes us feel fulfilled. God designed it to condemn us when we are not experiencing His glory. This makes Man religious. Those outside of Christ have no way to contact God’s glory because the Spirit that the conscience is part of is deadened to God. The regenerated believer’s Spirit is not deadened to God. In fact, the Holy Spirit resides there. The believer has the ability to experience God’s glory directly via his or her Spirit; however, only maturing believers have learned to do this consistently. This is covered in detail in my first book, Walking the Walk by Faith.
The conscience’s role in our spiritual walk is huge. The immature Christian’s heart is relatively hard when compared to that of the maturing Christian. When I speak or write about our “hearts,” I am not speaking of the physical muscle in our chests that pumps blood to keep us alive. Instead, I am referring to our spiritual hearts. The “heart” is made up of the Soul and the conscience. When the Bible refers to “hearts of stone” or “hard hearts” it is speaking of a condition where a person has not heeded their conscience as they should resulting in a callous layer of hardness (Romans 2:5) or greasy fat (Psalm 119:70) separating God’s value system, which resides in the conscience, from the Soul.
A hard heart is one that has become defiled and possibly impure. That means, the person with a hard heart is not heeding his or her conscience. In extreme cases, this blatant denying of the conscience will actually sear it. Serial killers are said to have done this.
The Christians who have hard hearts are in trouble. They may be unaware of the danger they are in as well. However, their hard hearts blind them and deafen then from hearing their consciences condemn and blame them about their sinful behavior. With each act of disobedience, their hearts become more and more callous towards God. However, when the believer responds to God’s calling to repent and turn his or her heart back to Him a miracle takes place. God will cut away the callousness from the repentant heart. He will circumcise the repentant heart making His ways, His values, His Law, and the reality of His grace apparent to that believer’s Soul. This enables the Walk by Faith.
The believer who is walking the Walk by Faith has a relatively tender heart. He or she is Spirit-led. The heart of the Spirit-led believer has a clear conscience. That means when the Spirit-led believer is in a situation ripe for judging others, forgiveness and grace are extended instead. When others are poking fun at someone by commenting on their looks or whatever, the Spirit-led believer will not participate. Instead, he or she will comment on that unfortunate victim in a positive way or say nothing at all. Gossip is abhorrent to the believer with a clear conscience. Why? They treasure their clear conscience as one of their most valuable treasures. Any act that can defile it must be avoided. Lying, stealing, gossiping, lusting, coveting, et cetera bring instant condemnation from the pure conscience. That means before the sinful desires behind these sins can take root and produce their fruit, the believer turns his or her heart away from them and back to God. This turning, or repenting, is the active processes a maturing believer utilizes to maintain their Spirit-led walk. This is taking every thought capture and placing them on the altar of self-sacrifice. This is becoming a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:1) A pure conscience in a Spirit-led heart is how a believer “purifies” self as in the following passage.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
The maturing believer seeks to be pure. What is our motivation? The Father has given His love to us so that we should be called children of God. The “we” here is all believers. When did God promise to make us His children?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Part of all believers’ salvation is a result of God’s election and purpose to make them holy and blameless before Him. He predestined them for adoption through Jesus Christ. Why? It was done according to the purpose of His will. It is God’s plan to purify all believers. What is the believer’s part in this?
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
God draws believers into the sanctifying processes that He has set before them for their maturity through His pruning. These processes humble and mature the believer who “works out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” If a believer turns his or her back on God and refuses to submit to these processes their maturing stops. Their hearts become hard and they lose any closeness with God they did have. However, a penitent believer who draws near to God experiences God’s closeness as He prunes and matures that one’s heart.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6-10)
The results of these processes are a tender heart and a pure, clear conscience. Will the believers seeking closeness with God as their hearts soften and their conscience becomes clear judge others. If they do, their conscience will quickly bring condemnation and guilt. Repentance soon follows because believers who walk the Walk by Faith have learned that their conscience is God’s tool to lead, guide, and direct their paths. To ignore it brings spiritual disaster. To heed it brings fulfillment and closeness with God.
Those who do not heed their conscience believe to do so will lead to some sort of loss. It appears costly. However, they are using a worldly measuring stick. The godly Walk by Faith appears so costly to the believers who are conformed to this world they simply refuse to heed what their conscience is directing them to do or not do. They flee from God’s presence. Their closeness with God is nil. Their spiritually is nearly non-existent. However, Jesus told us that those who desire to follow Him must count the cost.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Luke 14:26-35)
The “believer” who remains hardhearted by their refusal to repent and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is probably not genuine. However, we must count the cost and see that our treasure is in Christ not in what the world has to offer. When we do this by submitting to His Lordship in all things, He will give us the grace to bear fruit for the Kingdom. He will prune away whatever is keeping us unfruitful. He will do this so we will bear more fruit. (John 15)
The maturing believer’s conscience is in the process of cleansing and purification. Judging other hypocritically is a sin. Gossips and slanderers are guilty of that sin. Believers are called to be cleansed of that sin. Their clear conscience is a mighty tool in the hands of their Almighty God to lead, guide, and direct their paths away from this defiling sin.
Oh Lord, give us clear consciences by drawing us into repentance. Please examine our hearts for any hurtful way in them. Show us what must be denied and thrown away. Cut away whatever is keeping us mired in immaturity Lord. Warn us when our sinful natures attempt to draw us into judging others Lord. Oh Lord, your will be done as it is in Heaven. I pray for Your Kingdom to Come Lord, soon Lord. In Jesus Name—Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.