“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” I Timothy 1:19 (NLT)
Paul is giving a warning here. If we deliberately violate our conscience, if we continually ignore and suppress that sense of right and wrong, there is a price to pay. Our faith will suffer and could be shipwrecked. What is our “conscience”? Vines Expository Dictionary defines it as, “That process of thought which distinguishes what it considers morally good or bad, commending the good, condemning the bad, and so prompting to do the former, and avoid the latter.”
We all have a conscience. Paul writes in Romans 2:14-15 “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” Conscience is that part of us that tells us when we have done wrong. It is that prick that makes us uncomfortable with a choice.
Having a clear conscience was very important to Paul. He wrote, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” Acts 24:16 (also mentioned in 2 Corinthians 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:3 and Hebrews 13:18) Initially our consciences are cleared only through the blood of Christ. “How much more ,then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:14 He points out in Hebrews 9:9 that our human efforts are unable to clear the conscience. But, once the blood of Christ has cleansed our consciences, what happens when we sin? We still need cleansing. Paul said he strives to keep his conscience clear before God and man. Once we have accepted the forgiveness of Christ and received the cleansing of His blood, we keep our conscience clear by confessing our sins and trusting in His love and forgiveness. Also, by being willing to repent and turn from those things He does not want in our lives. To have a clear conscience before men, we may need to ask forgiveness of a person or persons we have wronged.
I am sure we have all heard the saying, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Is it always a reliable guide? God’s word says our conscience can be corrupted and sometimes even seared. Titus 1:15 says, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” I Timothy 4:2 is even more sobering. In referring to things taught by demons, Paul writes, “Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” He also teaches that some have a weak conscience meaning they may feel wrong about things that are not truly sin. (I Corinthians 10:23-33; I Corinthians 8:7-13) But even in those cases, he instructs us not to judge them for their lack of freedom or encourage them to go against their conscience. Paul teaches, “When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” I Corinthians 8:12 Keeping a clear conscience before God and man is important. If we go against our conscience, we are on dangerous ground.
Do I keep my conscience clear? When I go against my conscience and I feel that conviction, do I listen or do I try to ignore it? I want to keep my heart and my conscience soft. I don’t want to have a hard heart or a corrupt conscience. I don’t want to struggle with my faith because I violated my conscience. I have done this before. I remember I time in my life when I did this and my faith suffered. I went through a period of time when I just kind of put God on a shelf. I was living for myself and not really thinking about seeking God. I did not listen to my conscience and over time it caused me to struggle with my faith. Thank God in His mercy, he brought me back to Him! I have also observed others whose faith suffered. It started when they chose to indulge in a certain behavior. A behavior the Bible is clear about being sin. I have noticed that if someone does this for a period of time, soon they are questioning their faith. May we be those who cling to our faith and keep our consciences clear.
LORD, Please help me remain sensitive to my conscience. Help me cling to my faith and act on what I know to be right. Help me not to be careless or to take your grace for granted.