Referee of the Soul (6)
You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3.17, 18
The tendency to drift
Being grounded in God’s Word and Spirit are the keys to nurturing a good and clear conscience; thus, failing to guard our conscience against all that is contrary to those good influences is a sure way to begin drifting off course (Heb. 2.1).
Paul saw his colleague, Demas, fall into the snare of loving this world more than Christ (2 Tim. 4.9). He failed to guard his conscience, and lost sight of the priority of the Kingdom of God for all of life. Instead, he began to value the things of this world more than the things of Christ, and, soon enough, he abandoned the Lord’s work for the “good life” in Thessalonica.
The same happened to Judas Iscariot. Over time, the allure of money became the dominant value in his conscience, and that value ruled his thinking and affections, not only to drift, but to destruction (Jn. 12.4-6; Matt. 26.14-16).
Why should we consider that we are immune from such betrayals and tragedies? We are not. But if we want to keep from going off course in our conscience, we shall have to be diligent to guard our consciences against every influence of lawlessness.
What does this require?
Recognize contrary influences
First, as Peter suggests, we need to recognize those influences, contrary to the Law and Spirit of God, which are seeking to achieve a beachhead in our values and priorities. As we increase in knowledge of the Law and the mind of the Spirit, we’ll be better able to recognize contrary influences and guard our conscience against them.
These contrary influences come at us from all directions, both from contemporary culture and from within the Church. Paul wrote that we are not our own; we have been bought with a price and we belong to King Jesus (1 Cor. 6.19, 20). Our time is not our own. Our possessions are not our own. Our work, wealth, relationships, roles, responsibilities – none of this belongs to us. It belongs to Jesus, Who purchased us out of sin with His own Body.
Of course, we are to love ourselves, and to seek earnestly to discern and pursue the calling God has for each of us. However, the guiding value and priority of our conscience must remain seeking Christ and His Kingdom above all else (Matt. 6.33). Anything which suggests that you are your own, or you ought to do a little more for you, or pay more attention to your needs than to those of the people around you – any such voice or influence can alter your values and compromise your good conscience, infesting your soul with mixed motives grounded in self rather than Christ.
Learn to recognize all such influences, so that you are not carried away with them and lose your stability.
Keep on the growing edge
Second, continue growing in the Word of God, including God’s Law. The psalmist writes, “I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies. I made haste, and did not delay to keep Your commandments. The cords of the wicked have bound me, but I have not forgotten Your law” (Ps. 119.59-61). The more we learn of the Law of God, letting it serve as a mirror, both of our condition and of God’s glory (Jms. 1.23, 24; 2 Cor. 3.12-18), the better we will know the holiness, righteousness, and goodness that God, by His Spirit, is seeking to write on our heart. We can never plumb the depths of the Law of God, so it is to our advantage to make the study of God’s Law an ongoing and regular part of our devotional lives.
Remember, the Law of God is holy and righteous and good. Who doesn’t want more of that? The Law of God is the key to loving God and our neighbors. And the Law of God is the cornerstone of all Scripture. You cannot understand the Bible if you don’t understand the Law of God.
Third, keep in mind the conscience of your fellow Christians (1 Cor. 8.10-12). Being considerate of others is an important component in Christian growth. Just as we would want others to keep in mind the influence they may have on our choices, we need to be careful not to cause others to compromise in their consciences (Mk. 9.42). And we need people in our lives who will help us guard our conscience by living positive, wholesome lives before us.
Finally, as David demonstrated in 1 Chronicles 29.10-18, we need an ever-expanding vision of the living God to keep us moving in the direction of goodness and uprightness in our lives, beginning in our soul – mind, heart, and conscience. Only the beauty, loveliness, majesty, splendor, glory, and righteousness of God, embodied in Jesus Christ (Jn. 12.45), can reset, maintain, and continually improve our desires, priorities, and values. The more we gaze upon His beauty, the more we will sense our own values and priorities coming into line with His. Remember that David said this was the defining priority of his own life (Ps. 27.4). Surely it should be so for us as well.
Guard your conscience! The conscience is the referee of the soul, helping our thoughts and affections work together to produce godly actions in our lives. If we fail to guard our consciences, we will thwart the proper working of our souls and find ourselves compromised in our walk with the Lord.
1. What are some ways the “spirit of the age” tries to undermine your conscience? How do you guard against this?
2. How can believers help one another to work hard for a good or clear conscience?
3. What is the relationship between a growing vision of God and a clear conscience? Suggest some ways of improving your vision of God.
Next steps – Transformation: Do you have an accountability partner? Someone who knows where you’re trying to grow, and can pray for and encourage you? See if you can find someone to help you in this regard, and begin meeting together for mutual encouragement and prayer.
T. M. Moore
What is the Law of God and how should we learn and obey it? Two books can help. The Law of God arranges the statutes and precepts of God’s Law under their appropriate number of the Ten Commandments. This book is an excellent tool for meditating on God’s Law and thinking about its application in our time. The Ground for Christian Ethics, on the other hand, explains why the Law matters and how we are to use it. You can order free copies of each of these here and here.
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.
Our book, Vantage Point, can help you learn to think with the mind of Christ, work for a good conscience, and see the world and your life as He does. Order your free copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.