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ReVision

Reaching the Conscience

The Gospel can do it.

Referee of the Soul (7)

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2.37

Challenge settled convictions
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for every believer in Jesus Christ to work diligently and faithfully to nurture their own soul in the things of the Lord. We need a strong soul to serve Jesus in these increasingly secular days – a well-kept heart, a sound mind, and a good conscience. Our focus in this part of our study is on the conscience, the referee between the mind and the heart, to bring them into harmony for loving God and neighbor.

But the mind and heart are frequently written and preached about, while, in my experience, little attention has been given to the conscience and its care and nurture.

Our text shows us what happens when the Word of God penetrates a conscience, throwing all previously-held values and priorities into confusion: “Men and brothers, what shall we do?” People will not come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ until they see the value, indeed, the necessity of salvation, so that they desire Him more than whatever false gods they’ve been clinging to heretofore. In our witness for Christ, as well as in our ongoing work of disciple-making, we must strive to reach the consciences of people, to challenge their settled convictions and values, and to spread out the demands and priorities of the Kingdom of God in clear and compelling ways.

The conscience is the key to the will, and no one will be saved or will grow in salvation whose conscience has not been invaded by the Good News of Jesus.

A two-edged sword
This is a two-edged sword. First, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 10.23-29, we must at all times take care to guard our own conscience and to resist the temptation of denying our conscience, either because we don’t want to offend someone, or we simply fear what others might think. At the same time, we must have regard for the consciences of others, lest by negligence or compromise we reinforce false values in the soul of our neighbor.

We will never reach the consciences of others if we don’t keep our own conscience good and clean, or if we are reluctant to let our good and clean conscience assert itself when appropriate (v. 29).

We must be straightforward, bold, and emphatic about proclaiming the truth to others and living it before them. The truth of God will reach the consciences of others when it has first reached and transformed our own values, priorities, and convictions. Paul wrote, concerning his own witness, “But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 4.2, emphasis added).

There is nothing like the truth of God, plainly and unequivocally lived and declared, to penetrate the changeable conscience of our narcissistic age (Prov 28.4).

But which aspects of the truth, in particular?

The truth that sets them free
First, the truth about sin. We must speak openly and confidently about the sinful issues and trends of our day. And we must not fear to say to the people in our Personal Mission Field that, like us, they are sinners in God’s sight. We must explain why that is so, that God has revealed His will and we have flouted it, and there’s a price to pay. Here again is why it’s so important for us to be grounded in the Law of God, since, as Paul explained, by the Law of God comes the knowledge of sin (Rom. 7.7). God intends His Law to convict sinners of sin. When we include the commandments of God in our witness, the Holy Spirit may pry open a door of conviction into a sinner’s conscience. Admitting we are sinners is the first step toward breaking the bondage of sin.

Second, we must explain the Gospel of the Kingdom. We call people to see and receive a Kingdom – a whole new realm and way of life – over which Jesus Christ reigns as King. Jesus has dealt with our sins and forgives us when we turn to Him. He has paid the price we owed. Now we are no longer our own, as Paul explained (1 Cor. 6.19, 20); we have been bought with a price, and we belong to Jesus. He intends to own them like He owns us, and to fill their lives with purpose, peace, righteousness, love, and joy as well, so that we may glorify God in even the most everyday details of our lives (1 Cor. 10.31). But this will not happen unless, hearing the Good News, they give themselves freely and fully to our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel strikes like an arrow to open the conscience by its convicting power, creating a hunger for relief from sin and the desire for newness of life.

But this arrow cauterizes as it wounds, setting people free from sin into everlasting life with Jesus (Jn. 8.32).

Finally, the need for repentance. No one can come to Jesus, nor enter His Kingdom, unless they repent of their sins and turn to walk a new path. The call to repentance is an essential component of our Gospel witness (Acts 17.30, 31). It is a challenge to face up to our values, priorities, convictions – the stuff of the conscience – and the practices that those values permit and encourage. As the Word exposes false values and priorities, and the new and more glorious values and priorities of the Kingdom are explained, people will feel their hearts pierced and their consciences quickened in what can be life-changing ways.

But for this to happen, we who know the truth that is in Jesus must live that truth before the people to whom God sends us, keeping guard over our own conscience and life; and we must be ready, as opportunities arise, to proclaim the truth and the hope that we have in Jesus (1 Pet. 3.15), as we explain, like Peter, what is necessary for coming to faith in Him.

That is, we need the truth of God to reach our conscience every day, exposing our sins, leading us to repent, and pointing us to Jesus, that we might be made more like Him (Ps. 119.59, 60; 2 Cor. 3.12-18).

If we are faithful in telling people the truth – of sin, Jesus, and repentance – we can expect that God will do through our witness what He did through Peter’s and Paul’s – reach and pierce the consciences of many of our contemporaries, upset their settled values and priorities, and leave them seeking a way to the new life in Jesus Christ that is freely offered to them in His Kingdom.

For reflection
1.  How can you tell when something has reached your conscience?

2.  How do you think the good conscience of a believer affects the consciences of others?

3.  Why is it important, in sharing the Gospel, to try to reach the conscience of the person to whom you are witnessing?

Next steps – Preparation: Pray for the people in your Personal Mission Field, that the Lord will give you an opportunity to speak to each one about the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom.

T. M. Moore

Two books can help you develop a more consistent and more effective witness for the Lord. The Gospel of the Kingdom explains why the Kingdom is such Good News. And Joy to Your World! shows you how to bring the joy of Christmas into your Personal Mission Field every day. Both books are free by clicking 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.

Thanks for your prayers and support
If you find ReVision helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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