“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:” (I Timothy I:17-20)
The problem here has to do with an absence of faith rather than conscience.
And it is a common problem that sincere believers must face. Some more than others.
For a good portion of my young Christian life, I was afflicted by a kind of hyper conscience over a great many things. And on a couple of occasions, it almost destroyed me.
Controlled by Feelings
This tyranny of conscience might also be called the tyranny of feelings.
I won’t go into some long, drawn-out explanation of how this all came about. Let’s just say that I can understand, to some extent, how those who don’t know Christ are like ships tossed in a tsunami against the accusations of their own conscience and religious feelings.
It is not difficult to see how those who are given to great zeal toward a religious purpose can think they are doing God service when they are simply doing evil. Virtually every religion has its example of those who have engaged in purges, inquisitions, or a jihad “against the infidels”. All who believed they were doing right.
When, in fact, they were being deceived by an evil spirit leading them to commit terrible acts. While thinking they were following God or an angel. But really just a demon who had transformed itself into an “angel of light“.
The apostle Paul was one of those deceived religious zealots. Who persecuted the church. Who even pursued Christians to put them to death. All to follow the Law. So that he could be perfect as pertains to the Law.
Drawn to Secondary Hopes
Those who are truly Christians should expect to fare no better if we allow faith to take 2nd place in our lives. If we allow any pursuit of some secondary purpose or idol to deceive us. If we are drawn to some secondary source of hope.
Because fear in our lives can drive us to despair. And it can drive us to do things that we would not do when we “walk in the Spirit“.
Our feelings can tell us many things that aren’t true. And our feelings and our conscience can accuse us of many things that are not true.
But wait a minute. It is very true that we are not worthy of mercy. It is also very true that we do not deserve good things. It is also very true that we sin much too easily and far too often to call ourselves a Christian.
And we can become overwhelmed by an accusing conscience and feelings of despair and fear to think that we will ever be what we should be. That we will never have victory over a besetting sin. Or that we will ever be able to stand before the The Judgment Seat of Christ and hear Him say, “Well done!“
An Imputed Reality
So, on what then is the reality of our Christian experience truly based. If it is not based on our performance? Or not on our feelings? Or not on our good conscience?
If we have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ by faith alone, by grace alone, according to His word alone; if we have come before Him honestly with our sins and asked Him for forgiveness. Then we are saved.
Because we have believed what He promised. That is saving faith.
Faith is believing what the Lord has said in His written word. Faith comes from the word of God when it is applied by the Spirit of God to our hearts, minds, spirits, and souls.
We can Rest in this because, we now live an Imputed life as Christians. Imputed means that God declares something to be so that is not so; contrary to all outward appearances.
Because, God “calleth those things which be not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17) That is Imputation.
Even though all our outward senses and feelings and logic condemn us. And even when our conscience condemns us, “God is greater than our heart“.
Rest in Who He Is, Not in What You Do
A good conscience is a precious thing. But it is not gained through good works, Christian engagement in social or political activism, being more loving, practicing Spiritual Disciplines, or a million-and-one other things our modern churches would have us do to feel good about ourselves as Christians.
Or to prove that we are Christians. Or to prove that we are good Christians.
We are saved by faith; and we also must walk by faith.
Let us praise God that we have the indwelling Christ who is, Himself, our Righteous, our Holiness, and our Sanctification.
All because the Lord has said so!
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay