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A clear conscience

“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, ‘Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day'” (Acts 23:1, ESV).

Who can’t help but think of Pinocchio’s little Jiminy Cricket when thinking of the word “conscience.” Remember how overwhelmed the little insect was trying to keep up with the little puppet’s antics?

In a moment of candid self-evaluation Paul declared that he had lived in all good conscience. This suggests two things:

a) No one ever suggested Paul was a hypocrite, acting a way he did not feel; with him, what you saw was what you got! When he was convinced of something, he was thoroughly convinced, and that’s the way he acted! If he believed Christianity was wrong, he did not merely talk about the “Christianity problem”; he acted – arresting and imprisoning Christians, pursuing them to far away Damascus. Once convinced that Christianity was true, however, no one made a more thoroughgoing disciple of Jesus than Paul. Unlike old wooden-headed Pinocchio, Paul listened to his conscience.

b) Paul was sincere, but at times he was sincerely wrong! Many think today that all that’s needed in pleasing God is sincerity, but a moment’s reflection will tell you how much damage a zealot can do!

Was Paul sincere? Yes. Dead wrong, yes, that too!

For a conscience to be effective, it must be trained to see things the way God sees them. A conscience can be “seared as with a hot iron,” deadened and insensitive to spiritual ways (1 Timothy 4:2). A conscience can also be purified, however (1 Timothy 1:5). Most people, I suspect, err by ignoring their consciences when they speak, squelching its voice, stifling it with the pillow of their own evil desires. Little crickets don’t have strong voices, and they can be drowned out.

So when facing a moral or spiritual decision, be quiet for a moment. Do you hear some chirping?

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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