Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fight to remain pure in your faith (guarding the conscience)

1 Timothy 1:18-20 "This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, 19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. 20 Among these areHymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme."

Introduction and Review
For the past couple of days we have been exploring what Paul meant in 1 Timothy 1:18 by the phrase "fight the good fight". Thus far we have discovered that we must fight for our victory of faith and fight for the faith itself. Today's post will wrap up this series by suggesting that in fighting the good fight, we must also fight for the purity in our faith.

Fight to remain pure in your faith (guarding the conscience). 1 Tim 1:19
The Apostle Paul emphasizes the need to not only keep one's faith in the process of "fighting the good fight", but also one's conscience. I assigned the idea of "purity" to this point for the fact that keeping one's conscience pure is so vital in the overall process of Christian growth. The Apostle Paul in writing this instruction to his protege in the ministry, Timothy, practiced keeping his own conscience pure before God. Acts 24:16 records Paul saying - "In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men." 

What exactly is the conscience? Why is how we treat the conscience so important in the Christian life? In your human soul, which is the true you, there is your soul's thinker - the mind; there is the feeler - the emotions; there is the chooser - the will and there is the seat of convictions - the conscience. Think of your conscience as the dashboard of your interior life that warns you if you have went to far or have transgressed some type of moral and spiritual boundary. David for example in 1 Samuel 24:5 "It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe." The conscience is that function of your soul that can voice accusation when you've done something wrong or commend you when you have exercised a right course of action. (Romans 2:15) Inside a Christian, when the Holy Spirit has taken up residence inside the persons innermost part - the human spirit, the conscience is made more sensitive to the things of God and awakens the mind, emotions and will to yield to the Spirit's leading. (Romans 8:14-16; 9:1)

Whenever a person contemplates giving into temptation or violating their conscience, the conscience can be weakened. (Romans 14:1; 1 Corinthians 8:7,10)  We could cite numerous other texts that warn about the seriousness of violating one's conscience. The act of ignoring and violating the conscience, or influencing another Christian to violate their own is viewed so severe in scripture that it is tantamount to sinning against Jesus Christ Himself. (1 Corinthians 8:12)

By identifying the conscience, it ought to be easy to see why it is important to be careful how we treat the conscience. After all, the conscience is where our convictions about right and wrong, and for the Christian, righteousness and unrighteousness are reinforced and expressed. The conscience is the super highway between the mind and the heart or the human spirit. If we clog up the conscience with poor choices and ungodly acts, we deaden our ability to hear the Holy Spirit addressing us in our human spirit. With a clear conscience, I can direct my mind to bring every thought under the authority and sway of Jesus Christ, which is the heart of true spiritual warfare. (2 Corinthians 10:3-4) Other passages such as 1 Peter 3:21; 2 Peter 1:3-11 and 1 John 3:1-3 all emphasize the need for purity and either imply or explicitly draw the connection between the need for Christian purity and the conscience. When my conscience is clean, I will take to heart what I read in Proverbs 4:23 to guard the heart, since from it flows forth the issues of life. 

Whenever we prioritize fighting for the purity of our faith, we are more effective witnesses for Jesus Christ and are in the position to hear God speak most clearly through His word. This is why Paul made it such a point to get across to Timothy the need to guard the purity of his faith in the realm of his conscience. To not do so is to be in the sad state of affairs like Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1 Timothy 1:20. Truly the Christian life is all about fighting the good fight.

Closing thoughts
These last few days have been dedicated in unfolding what Paul meant when he said to "fight the good fight". We discovered that in fighting the good fight, we are...

1. Fighting for our faith's victory
2. Fighting for our faith. 
3. Fighting for the purity of faith or guarding one's conscience.