Seek a Clear Conscience

In my last article, I spoke about the idea that some attempt to brush aside past wrongs from their conscience. It would be a mistake that any of us should suppose that Believers are not tempted to do the same thing. Many Christians do experience bad consciences due to unconfessed sin. The Christian that fails to deal with his sins is reminded about the consequences he must face. The Bible is explicit about those who attempt to conceal their sins will not prosper (Pro. 28:13). Adam attempted to hide, but God found him and led him to deal with his disobedience. Instead of avoidance and denial the Christian must confess sin and repent of it. If, he does, God assures us that the redeemed will receive mercy.

Yet, the world seeks to squelch any talk about guilty consciences by training people to ignore feelings of personal guilt. Therapists, who seek to boost their patients self-image, and instead of bringing them to see that their bad behaviour is the cause for their guilt, they look to blame childhood upbringing, repressed feelings as Freud imagined, or lack of education. The idea of feeling guilty is not conducive to dignity and self-esteem. But the Bible teaches that personal guilt is real and that the aim of the conscience is to recognize it and inform us so that we can deal with it.

An important section on conscience in the Bible is found in 1 Cor. 10:23-33. If applied it would serve to mend internal divisions and guide the Corinthians into a Christ honouring fellowship. Paul speaks in positive tones throughout this section. He begins by stating a universal Christian principal that love does not seek its own good but that of others. Love’s objective is to limit its own liberties for the sake of edifying Church members. However, love alone is not sufficient for even our inner man has been tainted by sin. Yet, love in conjunction with Gods moral laws ingrained in all of us is more than suitable to meet the challenge that guilt presents. Shakespeare once wrote that “the disease of an evil conscience is beyond the practice of all the physicians in the world.” For the Believer the solution is not denial or blame-shifting, but to face our sinful actions and confess them to Christ and make restoration, if need be.

A major dilemma that Paul sought to resolve was dealing with wounded consciences over the issue of eating meats previously offered to idols. At that time much of the meat that had been previously offered to pagan gods was being sold in the marketplace and some Believers were upset that it was being eaten by some of their own Brethren. Facing these conditions, Paul taught that Christians are to restrict themselves from doing things that may cause others to stumble. One of the ways that today’s Christian may become a stumbling block to fellow Believers may be over their sedimentary approach to church attendance. Many Christians absent themselves from Church meetings on a regular basis. Several years ago, while at a prayer meeting, a new convert was somewhat surprised and even disheartened over the seeming lack of interest in prayer by those not in attendance. It was not too long afterwards that she too stopped coming to meetings. Christians should be concerned about their own example before the Church and the world. To deny your conscience when it is telling you to do something which you choose to avoid will only hamper its effectiveness and may in fact affect others as well. Some think that a conscience will clear itself in time but that is wrong; it will only fester and create anxiety and other emotional problems. In order to maintain a clear conscience confession and forgiveness of sin is needful. A clear conscious is an indication that the spiritual whole is healthy. In the Holy Scripture conscience is sometimes referred to as the “heart”. In the Sermon on the mount the Lord Jesus Christ compared conscience to the “eyes” by which can be seen the moral condition of the individual. The eye is the lamp for the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your light is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness. (Mat. 6:22-23)

The Decline of our Nation’s Conscience

It is not unusual to find individuals who wish to forget something from their past lives. That may not be a good idea when considering what Paul had expressed to Timothy about in his letter to him. Paul taught that true salvation produces love for God from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Ti.1:5). While the Greek term for good refers to that which produces satisfaction and pleasure, conscience is a self-judging faculty wherein God’s law has been written in each man’s heart. God has given to each the capacity to know the difference between right and wrong. Still the conscience must be protected otherwise it can become lax and even be corrupted. According to the terms Paul used in his writings, the conscience can be seared, and defiled, or conversely, it can be good and clear. Since the mind is the conduit to the conscience, whatever forms our thinking impacts the conscience. The divinely installed warning system in man will normally conform to whatever system of values learned. Taking this into account, the conscience acts as a window or guide, and though not the source or moral values, it remains an expression of what the mind has accepted as true.

Typically, leaders who have enacted immoral practises and laws have been some of the worst violators in history. The National Post recently had an article about several American soldiers that while in Afghanistan had rescued a young boy from being sexually assaulted by an Afghan leader. After the altercation, one of the soldier’s was reprimanded for breaking rank and not adhering to internal policy that prevented intervention in such matters while on foreign soil. According to U.S. policy makers, the idea is to avoid upsetting the ruling Afghan elite who mostly excuse such actions as cultural. The exploitation of children should, if anything else, never be tolerated. Along with the gross injustices and the incalculable damage done to the innocent, the conscience of those who were and still are expected to commit to such a heinous policy suffer as well. At creation God had placed in each of us a conscience. Any failure to act in accordance to His Will, or action taken to correct wrongdoings, will only serve to harden the conscience. Paul’s instructions in Romans 1 points out that when the truth of God is continually suppressed and supplanted instead by evil it weighs heavily on the conscience to the degree that it loses its usefulness. Such reprobate conditions help explain the sorted behavior of men as Hitler, Stalin, Sadam Hussein, Reinhard Heydrich described as the man with the iron heart who relocated and sent 60,000 Jewish people to death camps, Osama bin Laden, Henry Morgentaler, Ayotollah Kuhmeni, Nero, Idi Amin, Pol Pot and Vald Dracula, the latter actually existed and was renowned for the methods he used to torture and kill people, along with a host of others including large numbers of Islamists in the Middle East, who justify murder and rape as legitimate means to further their cause. As evil is being felt around the world, many of those who are involved have become de-sensitized to it.

In North America the leaders of our nation have either decriminalize or institutionalized abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, prostitution, gambling, cage fighting, common-law relationships, and drug usage to name a few. In the last decade we have experienced a great swing to our value system from Christian-Judea to Paganism. Just consider the abortion laws that we all live under. Inasmuch as we spoke earlier about the children that are being violated under the very noses of the military in and around the Middle East, on our own soil are the deaths of babies in the clinic on Bank Street and in some of our public funded hospitals here in Ottawa. This much is certain, that the killing of unborn babies have become so common that politicians openly campaign on it as though it has merit in order to win votes. When evil stands unopposed, and receives enough exposure, acceptance soon follows and from that point, you can expect a decline in the nation’s collective ability to make sound moral judgements. Not too surprisingly, that is happening now. A defective conscience becomes more dangerous than “the guns and bombs” that currently threatens our existence. Unless moral conditions change radically, the ruin of our nation may be much closer than what we dare admit. The Bible says that righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach to any people (Prov 14:34). The solution is to admit to our sins and repent of them by looking to Christ for forgiveness and restoration. It is not too late, if we are willing to humble ourselves and receive His gracious gift of salvation.

In two weeks Part 2

Pastoral Leadership (Part 2)

As I continue my series of articles on the topic of “Pastoral leadership – What should it look like?”, I would like to turn to the very important topic of love.

A pastor needs to love the sheep God has giving him! Love for his congregation should be one of the things that fuels him when he visits those that are sick in the hospital, when he talks to those that need counselling, when he prays for them or when he visits them in their homes.

In 1 Corinthians 13 verses 1 to 3, Paul reminds us that “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” This applies also to pastors as they lead their church. If a pastor preaches amazing sermons, baptises many, sacrifices to serve his flock, has incredible faith, has helped his congregation memorize tons of Scripture and knows the Bible inside out but lacks love, then, according to God’s Word, it profits him nothing!

Love for his people should be one thing that motivates a pastor (we will look at other biblical reasons for his motivation in future articles). One motivation that has no place in pastoral ministry is doing it for the paycheque. 1 Timothy 3:3 says specifically that a pastor should not be greedy for money. When a church thinks about finding a new pastor, they need to be careful to make sure that this man will do a good job because he loves people and not because of the monetary gain.

Going back to 1 Corinthians 13, Paul concludes this chapter by saying in verse 13 that love is greater than faith and greater than hope. Churches, when choosing a pastor, often focus on the faith of the man and on his ability to bring hope to people. The apostle Paul points out that love is what matters most! When selecting a pastor, a church needs to make sure that the candidate is a man of love, even more than a man of faith.

What should pastoral leadership look like? Love!