“Whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)
The work of the Holy Spirit within us is to increasingly sanctify our conscience. He “cleans it up.”
Years ago, Ken Magid wrote a book titled High Risk: Children Without a Conscience. He described children who cannot trust and cannot love. They grow up to be charmers, con artists, amoral entrepreneurs, pathological liars, and more. He recognized that we can so sear the conscience that it no longer guides us. It’s a disturbing reality.
Yet, when we die to sin and self, and rise to new life in Christ (Romans 6), the Holy Spirit takes the seed of conscience which remains in us all — linked to the image of God within us — and begins to renew and reform it.
If you’ve walked closely with Jesus for a while, you know how this works. Things that once appealed to us, lose that appeal. Things we did without thought, now make us stop and think twice.
In Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket provides the voice of conscience for the little wooden boy. In reality, the Holy Spirit turns our conscience into the spiritual control center from which he directs our lives.
At the end of Romans 14, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to listen to this Spirit-shaped conscience: listen and follow.
It’s quite simple really: If you have doubts, don’t.
Something happens as we practice this principle. Each time we pay attention and respond obediently, we grow better attuned to the Spirit at work within us. And He uses our obedience to conform us to the image of Christ. Our hearts soften and we grow more aware of His Presence.
On the other hand, each time we ignore the prompting, we develop spiritual deafness and the heart hardens just a little. We find ourselves out of sorts, out of touch, and a little off-kilter. Eventually, of course, we may grow entirely immune to the promptings. High Risk: Christians Without a Conscience.
We must remain vigilant to one particular danger related to our conscience.
Legalism likes to lurk in the back alley-ways of our conscience. It’s a constant temptation to take what the Spirit lays on our hearts … and foist it on others. Let’s resist the efforts of legalism to usurp the work of grace that the Spirit is doing within those around us.
Whatever violates the Spirit-shaped, Christ-centered, God-honoring conscience within us, is sin. May we have softer and more responsive hearts today.