The Lord’s signposts directing traffic to Himself are found on all of life’s roads. The beauty of creation, the “coincidence” of God-incidents, the emptiness of worldliness, the desperation of disasters, and the inevitability of death all point toward the Father. Even more compelling, yet perhaps most often ignored, is the GPS of a conscience God was gracious enough to provide us when we wandered off in the Garden of Eden.
Nowhere in life are we more distant from the Father, less likely to find our way home, than when we no longer acknowledge mankind’s sinful human nature and successfully snuff out our consciences. Without those flashing signals, a key component of the Father’s guidance system, we risk running off into a ditch when temptations and distractions come our way. Jesus came to heal those who knew they were sick, not the self-righteous without any sense of their own depravity. Christians and non-believers alike can lose touch with their need for Jesus, gradually quelling their consciences, convinced by conscienceless voices that they’re pretty good people.
A Fully Functioning Conscience
It is possible to have a conscience that is untainted by worldly influences, but only through faithful obedience to God’s Word. Paul declared on many occasions that his conscience was “clear”. Martin Luther boldly proclaimed at the Diet of Worms in 1521, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe. God help me. Here I stand, I can do no other.”
A Christian’s conscience becomes defiled when it is diluted by beliefs and morality contrary to Scripture. Many churches today teach that personal transformation and sanctification are not necessary, substituting dutiful compliance with religious obligations – the same myth Paul and Martin Luther spent their lives debunking. On the other extreme, a hyperactive conscience can push believers away from their faith, forgetting the power of God’s grace, allowing the guilt of sin to convince them they are no longer welcome in His family. Our Father’s love trumps shame but also demands obedience.
For non-Christians, receptivity to the Gospel hinges largely on whether they are still clinging to conscience or if it can be awakened within them. Repeating sin for long enough eventually represses remorse, self-justifying until good is called evil and evil good. Yet I find hope in the fact that many professed atheists attend “church” each week on this blog’s Facebook page, repeating trite arguments presumably to allay their own consciences or possibly hoping to be persuaded to believe. If any vestige of a conscience does still exist, it can be revived by life-altering challenges, undeniable miracles, unconditional compassion, and humble confession – all powerful demonstrations of God’s holiness, exposing suppressed sinfulness (by comparison). In contrast, latent consciences retrench further when Christians pit Team Jesus against Team World, as if being forgiven makes us “better” when we are in just as much need of grace.
The air war many churches conduct, dropping verbal bombs on those breaking laws of a God they don’t worship, advances the mission of powerful forces that are successfully convincing our culture that their consciences should be clear, obviating any need for forgiveness…
- Tolerance (of sin) is the highest virtue
- Pursuit of happiness is justification for practically anything
- Traditional values are outdated and irrelevant
- Religion is about oppression and control
- Christian leaders throughout our nation’s history were immoral
- Science and intellect can solve all our problems
- Secondary educators know better than parents how to raise their kids
- College students must be taught not just how to think, but what to think
- Government can be trusted for (financial) provision and (physical) healing
- Activism for a (socially acceptable) cause is the meaning of life
Overcoming conscience typically requires an outside force applying pressure or reassurance that, “It’s ok, everybody’s doing it.” The objective behind wiping consciences clean, selling the lie that human nature is good, is to engender faith in politicians, institutions and corporations who live by an enlightened society’s principles. Securing that trust translates into profits, power, and the opportunity to one day turn the tables on an unsuspecting populace.
The Church’s Conscience
America is increasingly building its collective conscience on the sinking sand of its own righteousness and not God’s. Our culture is influencing churches more than churches are influencing culture. Many spiritual orphans miss out on the love of our Father because churches haven’t practiced what they’ve preached when it comes to conscience…
- Rarely addressing the topic of sin boldly from the pulpit
- For those who do speak of sin, few confront it directly within their congregations
- Gossiping about sin behind backs rather than discussing face-to-face
- Never following Matthew 18 fully, sharing a member’s unrepentant sin with the whole body
- Some teaching that it is alright to live bad because God’s grace is so good
- Violating a new believer’s conscience, leading them to assume certain sin is acceptable
- Feeling better about ourselves as we spend more time with churchgoers who “don’t drink, smoke, chew, or go with girls who do”
As Christians quell their consciences, desensitized to God’s hatred of sin for which Christ suffered so greatly, they more closely resemble the rest of the world. Studies reveal most believers don’t stand out from the crowd. Yet authentic disciples should act and sound completely different, called to…
- die to self while humanity celebrates self
- live for eternity while “lost sheep” live for the here and now
- love and serve unconditionally while the worldly demand reciprocity
- be children of a loving Father while the fatherless search for identity
When the house of cards of Selfism crumbles, and it will, consciences will be awakened. We pray the consciences of believers will also be awakened by then so we’ll be recognizable, appear approachable to repentant prodigals, and be ready to give account for the hope within us.
The most compelling arguments our media, universities and secular leaders use to extinguish consciences is that God is bad and so are His followers. Discrediting the Creator is just as effective as claiming He doesn’t exist in eliminating any responsibility for obeying Him (or any guilt over disobedience). To sear consciences, mankind’s measuring stick for morality only needs to be higher than what they paint God’s to be. Avowed atheists ironically spend a good deal of time pointing out the “sins” of a God they profess not to believe in, while confessing no sins of their own.
- Claiming God is bad because He…
- Allows and/or causes terrible things to happen to “good” people
- Made human nature bad and then eternally tortures anyone who slips up
- Tempts mankind to violate His rules so He can punish them
- Slaughtered “innocent” women and children in the Old Testament
- Claiming Christians are bad because they…
- Think everyone else is going to Hell
- Pretend to be good but hate those different than them
- Discount “virtues” of those who haven’t chosen their narrow path
- Oppressed “innocent” victims throughout history
They then ask, “What kind of heartless psychopaths must Christians be to believe in a God like that?” To avoid those mischaracterizations of God and Christ-followers, many pastors have stopped teaching from the Old Testament or reinterpret Scripture to adapt to cultural norms, lowering standards for member morality. But playing defense ignores the underlying motive behind society’s assertion that its moral code is superior to Christianity’s – the goal and challenge of repressing their consciences. Sustaining their delusion requires keeping the truth of human nature and their need for Jesus as far away as possible – as well as consumption of a steady diet of people-positive messaging. While living the American dream of freedom from restraint and remorse, guilt and shame are always nipping at their heels. Being anywhere near God’s holiness threatens to turn on a light they would rather remain extinguished.
It’s Your Turn…
In the next post, we’ll discuss a biblical plan for restoring one of God’s greatest gifts – a moral compass within each of us pointing directly to Jesus. How would coming out of our collective conscience coma spark revival within our churches and our nation?