Summer is one of those seasons where if we’re not careful we can nudge God further into the margins of our lives. Evenings are longer, events are constant and it's just easier to drift into a life of self-indulgence. This is where we need the great gift of our conscience.
What is the conscience? Romans 2:15 says, “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” The conscience is the God given psychological faculty which can distinguish between right and wrong. It's our divine moral sensitivity. It’s our inner voice where God speaks to us. Here’s the point; a good conscience is a wonderful gift from God that is to be nourished and led by the Word of God, not ignored (1 Tim 4:1-3).
If we’re honest, deep down, we don’t like to feel guilty. No one likes that inward sense of failure, but a clean conscience is not only a gift, it is essential to your holiness. This is why in Acts 24 Paul says, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” And in Acts 23 he says, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”
When we do ignore or violate that sense of right or wrong, even if the action isn’t itself ‘sinful’, the Bible says that we have sinned. Romans 4:23 says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” This means that if you don’t believe what you are doing is acceptable, then it’s not something you should be doing.
Okay, so how do we nurture and take great pains to have a clear conscious? How do you discern between a spirit of legalism, where you're tempted to earn a sense of right standing by your behaviour, and honouring your God given conscious? How do we judge ‘grey areas’ like what movies, television, music, events and activities to enjoy this summer?
Here are four questions and two principles I've gleaned from much wiser people over the years.
- The most helpful question I ask is this: Can I thank God for this? There's nothing wrong with a good movie, show or book, but in the end could you honesty say, "Jesus thank you for this movie.”
- Does it bring me under its power?
- Does it hurt others?
- Does it glorify God?
- Remember that your conscience has been washed and redeemed by the blood of Jesus and that every time God triggers your conscience it's an area He has already forgiven you in and is graciously redeeming you from. Respond to Him. This is a great gift of love not condemnation. And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Heb 10:21-22
- Remember you’re in a war for your heart and affections, So be vigilant in the little moments of your life. If you’re the kind of person that honours God in the little moment-by-moment decisions, you’ll be ready for the big ones. On the other hand, if you violate your conscience in the little things, (even though the action may not be forbidden), you’ll learn to disobey your conscience in big matters.
James Bonney has been a part of Westside Church for the last 4 years, where he currently serves as a Pastor for the North Shore Campus. He's married to Nikki and they have three beautiful children.