Thursday, August 11, 2016

Training the Conscience

God has given human beings a thing called a conscience. This conscience helps to remind us of what is right and wrong. It causes us to feel guilty when we do what we believe is wrong. It can help us see the need for doing what is right as well as our need for repentance and forgiveness when we do what is wrong.

But the conscience does not determine what is right or wrong. It only arouses certain feelings of guilt when we do, or plan to do, something we feel is wrong. It is dependent on our sense of right and wrong. But our sense of what is right and wrong is not, by nature, necessarily accurate. Usually, with most people, our sense of right and wrong comes from the way we have been raised by our parents growing up plus certain choices about the values we will live by, choices we have made in our lives.

But the things our parents have taught us, our traditions, can be wrong, and likewise the choices we make from human reason about what is right and wrong can be in error.

Many people outside the Church of God think that sin is doing something against your conscience. There is a saying, "Let your conscience be your guide".

But we in the Church of God are committed to accepting God's definitions of right and wrong in the Bible. That is one of the things that makes us different from the world. We believe the Bible.

I remember Mr. Armstrong explaining that when Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-13), they were taking to themselves the production of the knowledge of good and evil, that is, deciding for themselves what is right and wrong rather than letting God determine for them what is right and wrong.

But it is God who decides what is right and what is wrong, what is righteousness and what is sin, and God defines these things for us through His law. The Bible, God's word, teaches us that law of God.

It is the violation of God's spiritual law, the law that defines God's nature, the law that is the basis for the two great commandments (Matthew 22:35-40), the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:5-22), and the three weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23), that is sin. "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4, KJV).

And it is the Bible that accurately defines God's law, not the reasoning of men.

We in the Church of God understand this, and it is what makes us different from the churches of this world.

Our consciences, to accurately reflect God's law, must be trained by the Bible. The Holy Spirit helps us in this process by helping us understand the Bible accurately as we let the Bible interpret the Bible and as we strive to believe and obey what God says in the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:6-16), and the Holy Spirit reminds us of what the Bible says (John 14:26).

This training process is something that new people coming into the Church of God will be aware of. For as they begin to let the word of God, the Bible, teach them they learn that some things they thought were wrong are not wrong and some things they thought were not wrong are wrong.

Some have thought that all alcohol consumption is sin, but when they come into the Church of God, they learn that moderate use of alcohol is not wrong. How do they learn this? By the Bible. They look at the examples of how wine is used in the Bible and they see that drinking wine in moderation is not, of itself, sinful. Moreover, they find that there is no commandment against drinking wine in moderation. So they retrain their consciences to no longer think of moderate use of alcohol as sin. Before they come into the Church of God their conscience would bother them if they had a glass of wine, but once they have trained their conscience to be in harmony with the Bible they can drink wine without a guilty conscience.

Likewise, before they came into the Church they did not know that God requires that Christians observe the seventh day Sabbath. They would work on Saturday without feeling guilty. But after coming into the Church, they let the Bible teach them that they should keep God's Sabbath and they retrain their conscience. Now, their conscience warns them against working on the Sabbath, and if they break the Sabbath their conscience will make them feel guilty, which tells them that they need to repent and seek God's forgiveness.

In determining right from wrong, we need to let the Bible, God's word, train our conscience, and we do that by spending the time to study the Bible and by believing what God says.

Then our conscience can be the help to us that God intended by warning us away from sin.

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