This blog series poses the challenge that our lives can be changed in 2017 if we are willing to demolish the strongholds we have allowed to be established in our hearts and minds. We can break free from encrusted attitudes, set old fears aside and know victory over behaviors that have become unhealthy habits. For me, I want to experience the Holy Spirit’s work of “restoring in me the joy of my salvation.”
How about you?
In these beginning weeks of 2017 it is critical for us to acknowledge that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Our enemy seeks our destruction and his tactic is to set up “strongholds” in our lives; places where we have allowed the seeds of sin to blossom into attitudes and behaviors that are at war with the values of the kingdom of God to which we belong.
If we want a different story to unfold for us this New Year, then we must understand two very important truths about our life with Christ. In this battle God secured the final victory, and God provides everything we need for daily victory.
We claim this victory and demolish the enemy’s strongholds when we deploy the weapons of spiritual warfare. We defined a weapon as anything you use that destroys the enemy’s ability to wage war against you.
Over the next few weeks we will focus on five such weapons available to every follower of Jesus:
- Clear Conscience
Today we will look at the disarming power of a clear conscience. Webster’s Dictionary defines conscience as, “the sense of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one’s own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good.” I like Dictionary.com’s version, “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action, the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.”
God created us with a conscience and, under the control of the Holy Spirit, He can use it to guide us as we make the decisions that mark our path and define our character. This “complex of ethical and moral principles” can be instructed by Scripture and empowered by prayer to provide us with a reliable resource for the choices that confront us daily. For the Apostle Paul, speaking truth comes from the conscience that is under the control of the Holy Spirit,
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit. (Romans 9:1)
It is not surprising that Paul would state,
I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:16)
God values a clear conscience. When Abram lied to the king, telling him Sarah was his sister, the King took her as his wife. When he found out about Abram’s deception he cried out to God, and, “God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.’” God spared the King because his actions were done with a clear conscience.
The danger we face is that our conscience can also be numbed, muted and silenced. Paul charges that some followers of Jesus will abandon the faith and follow deceptive teachings.
Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (I Timothy 4:2)
He warns that idolatry is a sign that our conscience is compromised.
Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. (1 Corinthians 8:7)
The enemy delights in weakening and searing our conscience. The weapons he uses are unholy attitudes, unresolved conflict, and unconfessed sin. He has victory in our lives whenever we hold grudges, harbor resentment, withhold forgiveness, justify sin or wallow in cynicism. The fruit of a seared conscience include prejudice, greed, divisiveness, anger, malice and arrogance. The amazing truth is that, with our consciences becoming weak and calcified, we will not recognize that these cancers have taken root in our souls. We become both self-deceived and self-righteous. And we wonder why we never experience God’s abundant life – the life of contentment and joy in Him. Such is the power of a compromised conscience.
So how is your conscience? Is it clear or conflicted? Is it Holy Spirit guided or weak … even seared?
There are signs that can help you with this answer. When you lie on your pillow tonight and look up into the darkness, examine your heart. Listen to your inner voice as you survey the terrain of your life. Bring to mind images of the people and relationships that surround you. What does your heart say? Pray to God to make you sensitive to what you hear and feel. Is your heart at rest? Is your spirit at peace? This is not about being sinless, or living without conflict or dysfunction or disappointment or frustration. This is not a measure of whether or not you are experiencing the storms of life, but whether your heart testifies that God is your captain and you are seeking to be faithful as He guides you through. It does not require perfect relationships, but only the assurance that you are seeking peace and healing in the midst of strife.
If your conscience is not clear, take heart. A clear conscience is the fruit of repentance, humility and faithfulness. They are yours through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Claim them in His name. Submit to His authority and be willing to be made clean under the scouring power of His hand. Let Him create in you a clean heart and put a right spirit within you. He can put to death in you those things that disturb your spirit and eat away at your peace. Let Him demolish those strongholds and replace them with a humble and faithful heart. In their presence, the enemy is powerless.