“So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” – Acts 24:16 (ESV)
A few weeks ago, we gathered as a family for a very special bonding exercise. We were in the basement, cleaning it out. Before you ask, my kids did actually help a fair bit. Lisa and I had been attending the recent EQUIP-Adult class called Enough and we decided that a good purging was long overdue. Within the of old VCR tapes—yes, we still had some, and no, we have no VCR—was the Disney film Pinocchio. The film includes a well-known character named Jiminy Cricket. In addition to being a rather snappy dressing insect who can carry a tune, Jiminy Cricket plays the part of Pinnochio’s official conscience. Telling Pinnochio to call on him whenever he’s in need of guidance, Jiminy Cricket gives the famous song lyrics:
When you get in trouble
And you don’t know right from wrong
Give a little whistle!
And always let your conscience be your guide
Consider that last line. Is it true or is it just a catchy song? Do we even know what our conscience is and how to tell when it is speaking to us? And more than that, is our conscience always to be trusted as the authority on everything?
In our world today, the word “conscience” is rarely used but the theme is alive and well. We are constantly told that what we feel deep inside should serve as the measuring stick and the guidepost for nearly every decision we make
In our world today, the word “conscience” is rarely used but the theme is alive and well. We are constantly told that what we feel deep inside should serve as the measuring stick and the guidepost for nearly every decision we make. We are told that concepts of “right” and “wrong” are not that simple, and as a result they regularly boil down to little more than personal preferences that change with the circumstances. As followers of Christ, we know that this isn’t true, but the other danger is to error by heading to the opposite end of the spectrum. We try to please God and avoid sin by creating rules on top of rules on top of rules. This was exactly what the Pharisees had done in Jesus’s day. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Luke 11:42.
Can we solve this crisis of conscience? No, but God’s Word can! According to Scripture, having a conscience is a gift from God, designed to guide us in making moral judgments by the power of the Holy Spirit. Having a conscience is part of what it means to be made in God’s image. See Genesis 1:26-27. Still, like all of God’s gifts, the conscience can be rightly used for God’s glory or else misused for our own.
Beginning on Sunday, January 27th at 10:20am between the worship services, we will start a new EQUIP-Adult class called Crisis of Conscience. Over two weeks we will look at the Biblical teaching on conscience—learning what conscience is, why God gave it to us, when to listen to it and when to ignore it, and what to do when our conscience disagrees with the conscience of another Christian. My prayer is that this series will EQUIP you to use the gift of conscience for God’s glory and your joy!