A Devotion for 30 October 2020 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 1 Peter 3:13-17 (KJV)
Believe it or not, there was once a time when the conscience of man was burdened by no sense of sin whatsoever, but the time was very brief – from Creation to Adam’s transgression before the deadly Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Without the knowledge of sin, there is no sting of the conscience. But every man and woman born on earth is born with a sense of right and wrong since Eden. That conscience is informed by an awareness of a Higher Power to whom we must answer both in the present and in the eternity future. To the rudimentary conscience, that Higher Power is represented by animals, rocks, trees, and other mortal beings; however, the conscience of the Christian is refined by the truth and Light of Holy Scripture which reveals the God that some tribes and tongues have yet to discover.
The Word of God is a Light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet. The nature of light is to reveal things previously hidden in darkness. The only true Light is the Lord Jesus Christ. His light reveals all wickedness and points to the path of righteousness in Him. The greater our studies of that Word, the deeper understanding our conscience gains in learning to warn of our emerging temptations. A well-informed conscience is the chart and compass the Holy Ghost employs to inspire us to moral living.
There are bad consciences such as those informed of evil thoughts and sentiments. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul: “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” Acts 23:1 (KJV) Paul is obviously speaking from the context of his life from the moment of his being struck down by Christ on the Road to Damascus for he certainly could not have claimed a good conscience in his role as Saul the Persecutor. That old conscience of Saul was informed of evil intentions and rebellion; however, the old Saul became the new Paul at the moment of his conversion which was complete. We should all be rightfully given a new name at conversion since we are made new in Christ.
There is a lesson for us all in the conversion of Paul. Before our coming to Christ, we may even have a conscience that cherishes justice and righteous actions, but cannot connect with the Source of all Righteousness and Justice which is our Lord Jesus Christ. There are just men, by worldly standards, even among the jungle savages.
“12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” Romans 2:12-16 (KJV)
But there are those in the world and, sadly, even in the church, whose consciences are motivated by greed and a hunger for power. These have consciences that are not nurtured by the study of God’s Word or the counsel of the Holy Ghost: “2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;” 1 Timothy 4:2 This kind cannot be influenced by arguments of justice or of right and wrong. All their eyes can behold are opportunities to lie, steal, and take from others. To that kind of seared conscience, only SELF can be worshipped and personal gain rewarded.
But the young child, having come most recently from the folds of glory, may not truly know God in a sense of intricate detail, does, indeed know God in a sense of love and motive. His conscience has yet to be corrupted by the world. So Christ profoundly proclaims, “2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt 18:1-6 (KJV)
There are two salient points in the words of Christ that must be observed – first, “ye be converted”; and, second, “becoming as little children.” Actually, true conversion covers both essentials. Christ does not mean that we become giddy and unrestrained as a small child, but that we become trusting and innocent of mind. Only such a mind can appreciate and understand the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. “Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. “ 1 Tim 3:9 (KJV)
The words of the charge for Holy Communion in our traditional Book of Common Prayer illuminates this quality ere reception of the elements in Communion:
¶ Then shall the Priest say to those who come to receive the Holy Communion,
“YE who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.”
The spiritual food of a good conscience is the Holy Word of God as delivered through the ancient Scriptures recorded with accuracy in the Received Text (Reformation) Bible. “12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. 13 For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; 14 As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 2 Cor 1:12-14 (KJV) Just as the body needs food for its endurance and physical strength, so does the spirit require daily nourishment for its health and disposition.
Without a Christian conscience, informed by love, truth, and a righteous dependence upon the merits of Christ, there can be no admittance beyond the Gates of Splendor for any.
NOTE: These are perilous times when weighty decisions must be made, especially in our current climate in America of unlawfulness and an apostasy from God our Maker. The Christian must be guided by a Godly conscience in ALL that he does (including his vote for the kind of person he elevates as leader over the nation). More than words, it is the action of the doer of God’s Law that must rule the decision.