Today’s Reading: 2 Timothy 1
The apostle Paul gets three verses into Timothy’s second letter as a young pastor and reminds him that serving God must be done with a clear conscience: “Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers” (2 Timothy 1:3, NLT).
Serving God with a clear conscience. This is paramount in our relationship with God. For the most part a clear conscience helps us to know the voice of God. One of my dear friends and mentors Winkie Pratney said: “A clear conscience is absolutely essential for distinguishing between the voice of God and the voice of the enemy. Unconfessed sin is a prime reason why many do not know God’s will.”
Your conscience is where you hear the whisper of God and feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The old saying goes, “Conscience does not keep you from doing anything. It just keeps you from enjoying it.” I love a small boy’s definition of what the conscience is: “something that makes you tell your mother before your sister does.” A clear conscience makes you stop before it’s too late. It helps you to slam on the brakes before you say and do something that you will regret later.
So many people skip a clear conscience and keep going till consequences show up. And so many Christians assume it’s okay to blow by the warning of their conscience and to continue on when really God has given us a mechanism to pause before moving forward.
Our goal is to have a clear conscience. There are different types of violated consciences in the New Testament, which are important for us to take note of. It comes after a conscience that was not kept clear:
• Paul warns Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:2 of a seared conscience.
• Paul tells Titus in Titus 1:15 to be aware of a defiled conscience.
• The writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 10:22 warns of an evil conscience.
I believe that every time we fail to keep our consciences clear, you border on a defiled or evil or even seared conscience. Do not dismiss conviction. It’s the brake for moving forward into regret. Many of us have regrets because we did not respond to conviction. And so it’s important for us to respond to conviction instead of waiting for consequences.
What makes us stop and pause? Conviction or being caught?
Conviction is when we feel something deep inside that is like an alarm telling us there is an intruder. Embarrassment will make us stop late, but conviction will go deeper to make us seriously pause early.
Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation and was about to say something that was not edifying about a person, something that was gossip, and you felt this feeling, Don’t say it. That’s God’s warning mechanism for a clear conscience.
Don’t finish that statement. Don’t start that joke—it compromises who you are. Don’t . . .
Stay in tune with the whisper of God. That will promote a clear conscience every single day, not just on Sundays at church. When you serve God seven days a week, you fight every day to keep a clear conscience.
There was a ship that had a regular route from California to Colombia. One day shortly before leaving for California, some drug dealers sent the ship’s captain a message that offered him $500,000 to allow a small shipment of drugs to get through to the United States. The captain replied with a no. On his next three trips, they raised the offer each time until they reached $2 million. He hesitated, and then said, “Maybe.” Then he contacted the FBI, which set up a sting operation, and the drug dealers were arrested. One of the FBI agents asked the captain, “Why did you wait until they got to $2 million before contacting us?” The captain replied, “They were getting close to my price.”
Do you have a price? Is it 20 percent off a coat or a dress using your friend’s employee discount, which belongs to them and not you? But since they said they would buy it and you can pay them back, it must be okay? It isn’t. Don’t violate your conscience. Keep it clear. As A. W. Tozer said: “An honest man is strange when in the midst of dishonest men, but it is a good kind of strangeness.”
The story goes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, played a prank on five of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to each one that said simply, “All is found out. Flee at once.” Within twenty-four hours, all five men had left the country. Their conscience wasn’t clear.
What if you received that note? Would you have left or stayed?