Acts 24:10-23

            We all have a conscience.  It is the moral compass, the intangible guidance system, and the sense we cannot always explain which is constantly with us giving us insight beyond mere facts and objectivity.  Without a conscience we are bereft and aimless in this world.  But paying attention to the conscience and allowing it to do its vital work in our lives will serve us quite well.  It is the constant angel on our shoulder, directing us to better things and the good life.
             When we allow the conscience to dictate a course forward, we are neither influenced toward inaction in the face of stress, nor spurred to sinful activity and words when in trouble.  The conscience tempers our inbred fight-or-flight syndrome so that we engage properly in each adverse situation.  The Apostle Paul, when standing trial before Governor Felix, gave testimony to his Christian faith.  Paul gave a cogent apologetic for his life and ministry not because he was trying to get off the hook or because he thought it was his duty, but because of his conscience:  “I always strive to keep my conscience clear before man and God.”
             I will suggest to you that the reason Paul was able to accomplish so much in his life without fear, and his effective engagement with others came from his God-given inner resource of the conscience.  I cannot help but think:  What if I shared this same concern as Paul to always have my conscience clear before both God and others?  What if sought to make decisions and live my life continually in conversation with my conscience?  What if my church all did this?  What if everyone did this?  We would be in much better world, for sure.
             Gracious God, you really do provide everything we need for life and godliness in this world.  Help me to keep my conscience clear and tender toward your will so that others might experience through me the life-giving message of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Timothy 1:18-20

            “Some people have made a mess of their faith because they didn’t listen to their consciences.”  Most people really know better.  They didn’t just wake up some morning and decide that being an alcoholic would be a good decision, or that spending more money than they possess would be just fine.  They didn’t make a snap decision that God wasn’t there or doesn’t really care.  Their consciences let them know well before they ended up in exorbitant debt or with a DUI that the daily choices being made were not wise.  Faith is either built up or torn down; there is no neutral ground to it.  And it doesn’t occur quickly.  Faith either slowly erodes over time or it is consistently built by listening well to the conscience and following its counsel.
            Listening to the conscience requires stopping long enough to hear it.  The conscience is malleable; it can be seared into impotence through constant busyness which presses on with no heed to substantive thought.  We don’t want to hear it.  We have things to do, and have no time for this conscience thing.  But in the end, if we ignore it, we will be ruined.  Our faith will be a mess.  Eventually, there will be no faith left to hold onto.
            But if, like Martin Luther facing the crucial decision about whether to please people or God, our consciences are held captive to the Word of God, we will speak and act with integrity and truth.  There will be peace, even if circumstances are difficult, because we have done the right thing.  The real test of character is doing what you know you should do, even if it is hard, inconvenient, or not what you really want to do.


            Faithful God, you stand at the nexus of my schizophrenic spirituality where I wander in and out of making wise and foolish decisions.  Help me to listen well to the conscience you gave me.  And let it be informed by your Holy Word in all things, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.