by Mike Ratliff
18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20 ESV)
I had an aside conversation for several days a few weeks ago via email with a person claiming that he wasn’t emergent. However he continually proclaimed their teachings while trying to cast doubt about what I proclaim as the pure unadulterated doctrine from the Word of God. His point that he kept trying to pound into me was that it wrong for me to be associated with the Christian Research Network. Why? He kept trying to show me how divisive everyone one at CRN was and that I shouldn’t associate with them.
His point of contention was that the posts and comments from the writers and researchers at CRN were causing disunity in the Body of Christ. My counterpoint to all of his arguments was that it was wrong to compromise the truth for the sake of unity. I suppose it finally became obvious that I would not budge from my stand on the truth being the truth because he finally stopped emailing me. Then I posted What my Obedience to God Costs Other People. That resulted in a few days of conflict with several other people who also claimed not to be emergent, all the while proclaiming emergent teachings. They were determined to get me to back off of my position on the truth that genuine Christians are those who are called to obey God in all things. Then I heard from the one that initially contacted me. He claimed that I was a lost cause. He repented of wasting his time with me and trying to get me to change.
It was through these conflicts that I realized that the battle I was in was spiritual. For example, when I read that last message there was a voice in me that tried to blame me for hurting his and all those other fellows feelings. It was trying to get me to compromise. However, I did not let that “thought” take root. I prayed. I asked God for help. I prayed for wisdom. I was led to examine my motives. Was I resisting these people for my sake or was it for the purity of the truth and the Holiness of God and His Word? I did that and my conscience did not blame me. That voice or whatever it was in my Soul could not stand against that. With a clear conscience we can stand and not fall. Our helmet of salvation, our assurance, combined with a clear conscience will keep those “doubts” from causing us to be deceived then stumbling into despair.
Our conscience is a wonderful gift from our creator. God designed it to be our Heart’s warning system. It allows us to contemplate our motives and actions along with making moral evaluations of what is right and wrong. The conscience operates with the highest moral standards it can grasp. There are no higher standards than God’s. Therefore, if a Christian becomes Spirit-led or Spirit-filled it is because he or she has drawn near unto God, while being immersed in the Word of God and dedicated to praying continually. Along with this, he or she will obey God by submitting to others as God directs. Their character is humble and Christlike. What do you suppose happens to the conscience during this? Isn’t it being exposed to God’s truths and values and standards continually? This makes it’s standards as high as they can get. As the Spirit-led believer walks through the day their hearts are tender towards God so both the warnings and commendations from the conscience work to direct them down paths of edification and God glorification. On the other hand, if a Christian is in rebellion a callous layer of hardness grows to separate the conscience from their perception. This causes the warnings from it to be muted and dulled and so their rebellion becomes easier and easier. However, since that Christian is hard hearted there is little, if any, commendation coming from it to the Heart. This means little, or no, joy of the Lord for them.
The Spirit-led believer is strong in the Lord and can fight spiritual battles and not fall. The Joy of Lord is his or her strength. Doubts can always be quickly checked out via the conscience and the Word of God. Behaviour that can cause others to rant and rave at them for their stands of righteousness can definitely cause those doubts to rise, but their conscience is clear and vibrant and it’s commendations override that voice pretending to be the conscience. Here is a Biblical example.
12 For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12 ESV)
Paul was continually having to explain his motivations for how he addressed some people. He was very direct and could easily be misunderstood if people did not know why he said what he said. The Corinthian Church was a mess. The book of 1 Corinthians is one long rebuke and correction of their behaviour. Some were claiming that Paul was not a real Apostle and he was writing severely to them because he was jealous or simply mean-spirited. He was causing disunity in their body by his divisive writings. In 2 Corinthians he explains much of what motivates him and what doesn’t. In 1:12 we see that Paul tells them that he has a clear conscience with all he has done for them. Is he clear in his conscience because his actions were evaluated in light of human reason? No! It is by the grace of God that he evaluates his motives. We should do the same thing. When people accuse us of being divisive and destroying unity in the Body we must not simply back away. Instead, we must go to God, seek His face and check out our motives via His grace. This means that if our conscience blames us then we have a motive problem, but if it doesn’t then our motives are pure.
God used Martin Luther to get the Protestant Reformation started in Europe. Others had come before, but Luther was the first one to take on the Roman Catholic Church, not recant, and still survive. At the Diet of Worms in 1521 Luther was called to the court of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V by ecclesiastical prosecutors to recant of his writings or face martyrdom. The Pope threatened excommunication. Charles V demanded a complete recantation. Luther’s writings were called divisive. It was causing turmoil in the Church because many who read them were questioning the veracity of Roman Catholic Church and the system of popery. He was pointing everyone to the authority of scripture and away from a corrupt religious system.
On the first day of his trial he agreed that the books in question were his, but he asked for time to pray before answering the charges against him. He was not defiant and he definitely had fears and doubts. He was human. The next day he was called back to court. His prosecutor demanded to know if Luther would recant or not. Here is his response.
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen. – Martin Luther 1521
He faced certain death and fully expected to be burned. However, he was kidnapped and hid away for a year. During that year he translated the Bible into German. The Protestant Reformation was on and there was nothing the Roman Catholic Church could do to stop it.
Look at Luther’s statement. No argument from anyone about our faith should be accepted as valid if it is not backed up by scripture or by evident reason. That evident reason means in light of Holy Scripture not outside of it. The Bible never errs. People are not perfect and do err. It is the authority of the Word, which bears the image of our Lord Jesus Christ, that gives us a perfect plum line in which to check out whether an argument or stance or doctrine is Biblically sound or not. When our conscience is captive to the Word of God it will never blame or condemn us when we are obedient to God. Instead, it will commend us and bring joy and fulfillment to our hearts no matter who rants and raves at us.
I am convinced that most people aren’t even aware they have a conscience. It wasn’t until God turned me around and pulled me from darkness in 2004 that I even considered it. It was through that revival or restoration or whatever it was that I learned about it and how God uses it in His children’s Hearts to enable them to obey Him and be fulfilled. It is as I battle my own “doubts” and bad attitudes that I understand that I am actually in a spiritual war. It is as we tell the truth to all even though they may condemn us and do all they can to discredit our testimonies, that we learn the cost of obedience. A clear conscience is a wonderful thing and one that is Captive to the Word of God is one that will enable us to obey our Lord no matter what.
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