Mike Novotny - Can I Trust My Conscience?
Well we are ending our week of great questions and biblical answers with an interesting one. The question someone recently sent me was simply this. "Can I trust my conscience"? Think of how massively important that question is. Right now your conscience is telling you, it's evaluating, accusing or defending the way you do everything in life. Like, the way you treat food. The way you eat. Your relationship with alcohol. Is that a good relationship or a bad one? Your conscience is answering that question. The way you treat your mom or your dad, your brother, your sister, your son, your daughter, your neighbor, your boss, your coworker.
Like, are you good towards them? Or do you need to change? Your conscience is answering that question. Do you believe the right things about God? Are you sorry for the bad things and embracing the good things? Is your relationship with Jesus alright? Your conscience is answering that question. So, when it comes to all of our beliefs and all of our behavior, that's massively important. Can you trust the way you feel about yourself? And the Bible says, "Maybe". "Maybe".
There's such a thing as a sharp, accurate, informed conscience. And there's such a thing as a hardened heart, a darkened conscience and an ignorance about the things of God. Here's what the Apostle Paul shared with his friends in Ephesus. He had been their pastor for three years and later on he writes in this letter we call Ephesians. Those verses struck me. Like, the futility of their thinking. They're darkened in their understanding. There's ignorance that is in them. They've lost all sensitivity.
You see, Paul knows something that you've probably experienced. That the first time you do something wrong, your conscience will tell you that's wrong. But, the 16th time and the 21st time you do it, well, maybe you lose your sensitivity and you get used to it. I actually learned this in a recent podcast about people who are trained in terrorism. Now, the terrorists would go their first time and they'd have to hurt someone or torture someone or actually kill someone. And these young men admitted, like, they just felt sick. They were traumatized. They couldn't function or sleep because they felt so terrible. Their consciences were convicting them. But do you know what the veteran terrorists said?
"You'll get used to it. That's normal. You'll be fine the fifth time". You don't have to be a terrorist to learn a lesson from that. Like, if you talk back to your parents and trash them when they're not around. Like, the Holy Spirit will convict you the first time in church. But then you get used to it. If you're breaking God's rules for respect or gentleness or kindness. If you're trying to get what you want in marriage. It's like, it will bother you for a bit. But then you'll minimize it. Then you'll justify it. Then your heart will get hard. Then it won't bother you one bit. So, be careful. Be careful when you sin and you feel bad that you make the vital choice to repent of it. If not, you could end up like the people Paul talks about in this lesson.
So, what's a better option? Well, it's what Paul says next. He says in Ephesians 4. How do you end up with a good functioning conscience? Well, you have to learn and you have to hear and you have to be taught and you have to get connected to the truth that is in Jesus. Instead of just trusting what you feel or what you think or what your parents told you or what our culture generally agrees upon. You have to learn and listen to what God says. To what Jesus is teaching. And this is why it's so, so important for us, not to get caught up in, kind of, this cultural movement that we're all going to be individuals and we're going to be individuals and we're going to be spiritual but we're not going to live in an organized community of faith.
You know what happens? You start to justify things. You know, you can pray to God. But if he doesn't talk back in this book, how is he going to inform your conscience? That's why personal Bible reading and going to Bible studies and a good church with faithful preaching is so important for your conscience, your future and your soul. And so I pray that you stay connected to the truth. I pray that when you sin that you feel it. And you repent of it. So that on the last day God looks at you and your conscience affirms what he will say, "Well done. Good and faithful servant". Let's pray:
Jesus, none of us wants to think that we're good with you when in actuality we aren't. You once taught that on the last day you're going to look at people and say, "I never knew you". And they're going to be surprised because their consciences didn't work. God, help us to see if there's some sin that we are living in that we don't realize. Give us a person in our life courageous enough to tell us. Give us a message that really gets to our heart, that pierces through all the sins that we've justified and brings us back to you. Jesus, in the same way, none of us wants to live with guilt and shame and question our relationship with your if we're good, if we are forgiven, if you accept us right now. So free us from both errors and help us to find our confidence in the truth. We pray this all in the name of Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. Amen.