On Sunday, we talked about what Romans 14 teaches us about the need to both train and maintain a tender conscience. I compared our conscience to the tingling “Spidey senses” that Spiderman has (in the comic books, at least. I don’t think that particular super power was ever on display in the Spiderman movies). I also compared the conscience to a spiritual Geiger counter that warns us about spiritual dangers we may be facing. And I said that we want to make sure we are working to calibrate our conscience so that our early spiritual warning system is in alignment with God’s word.
On the way home from church, Mary Ann asked a good question that I hadn’t touched on in my message. “How does the conscience function differently than God’s Spirit in our lives? How can we know which is which?”
Let’s see if this metaphor can help answer that question.
One of the ways the Holy Spirit operates in our lives is to prompt our conscience. Think of it this way. Your conscience is like and instrument in one section of an orchestra and the Holy Spirit is like the conductor. The Holy Spirit is working from a fixed point – the sheet music. God’s word. And His job is to bring every part of who we are into alignment with God’s purposes and plans for our lives.
The conscience belongs to us. It’s our instrument, given to us by God. Training our conscience involves practice. A well-trained conscience knows how to pay attention to the sheet music (God’s word) and to the conductor (the Holy Spirit). But the musician (that’s you) can decide to tune out the conductor. Or to ignore the sheet music. At that point, the conscience (the instrument) starts going wherever we decide to take it.
R.C. Sproul uses an interesting, if perhaps “earthy” illustration to demonstrate what happens to our conscience when we tune out the conductor and the sheet music.
“Almost fifty years ago,” Dr. Sproul writes, “Xaviera Hollander wrote a bestselling book with a strange title: The Happy Hooker. Hollander, a prostitute herself, sought to silence the people who believe that no prostitute in America could find joy in what she was doing. In her book, Hollander celebrates the joy that she experienced in her profession, saying that she never felt guilty about what she was doing. To be sure, Hollander said, the first time she involved herself in prostitution, she felt pangs of guilt. But over time, she got to the point where her feelings of guilt dissipated.
“However, there was one important exception to this. When Hollander heard the ringing of church bells, her conscience would flare up. She was reminded that what she was doing was under the condemnation of Almighty God. Even this hardened professional prostitute could not totally destroy the conscience that God had placed within her.
“We learn,” Sproul wrote, “how to turn the volume of our conscience down so that our ethics align with how we want to live and not how God tells us we should live.”
Put another way, the conscience, John MacArthur says, “entreats us to do what we believe is right and restrains us from doing what we believe is wrong. The conscience is not to be equated with the voice of God or the law of God. It is a human faculty that judges our actions and thoughts by the light of the highest standard we perceive.”
The Holy Spirit, like a good conductor, will work to regain the attention of a wayward conscience. He will tap His baton. But ultimately, it’s the musician who must decide whether he is going to ignore the conductor and play whatever he chooses, or pay attention to the conductor and rejoin the orchestra, following the sheet music.
So if your conscience is bothering you, how can you know if the problem is an overly sensitive conscience, or if it’s God’s Spirit trying to get your attention?
Here’s how. Check the music.
The Spirit may use our conscience to alert us to some kind of spiritual danger or an area where we need to be more spiritually alert. The more our mind is being regularly renewed by the word of God, and the more we are purposing to live our lives in accordance with HIs purposes, the more we will recognize God’s Spirit when He taps his baton.
When your conscience is troubling you about some choice you’re facing or about some action you need to take or cease, you should pay attention. And then you should ask yourself “what does the sheet music say?”
And if you’re new to the orchestra, it wouldn’t hurt to ask someone who’s had more experience playing his instrument. The wise counsel of others can help you tune your conscience to know if what you’re sensing is coming from the Conductor or not.
Your conscience is not infallible. But God will often use this spiritual warning system to get our attention.
Are you training your conscience to stay alert?
“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Hey, you should be pretty excited about what’s happening at church every other Wednesday this summer.
So this morning was the second of four Summer Kids Fest events. Jen and her helpers had 18 or 19 kids this morning. They continued to look at 1 Timothy 4:12, where Paul tells his young protégé Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because he is young, but instead, to set an example for the believers. Jen explained to the children how their lives can be an example for other believers, even when they are young. Then she gave out this idea sheet full of ideas about how to serve others – not just by raising money for school supplies for kids at David O Dodd, but by finding ways to be kind, helpful and servant hearted:
The next Summer Kids Fest is three weeks away, on Wednesday morning, July 11 from 9:00 – 11:00 AM. If you’d like to help out or if you have any questions, contact Jen Gurney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And don’t forget, engage your children (or if your kids have grown, support our students) by bringing some school supplies – a stash of crayons, notebooks and notebook paper, #2 pencils, scissors, colored pencils, pencil sharpeners – things kids need and use regularly in the classroom. Drop them in the collection bin in the lobby at church.
It’s now less than two weeks away! Redeemer Community Church night with the Travelers, Tuesday night, July 3. The Travs play the San Antonio Missions, and there are post game fireworks! More details soon. Invite some friends to join you and make plans for a night at the old ball game on Independence Day eve.
After four weeks in Romans 14, we’re taking a break Sunday to look at the supplements the Apostle Peter says we should be adding to our faith to grow in grace. Do you know what those supplements are?
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!