It is said that history merely repeats itself. “That which has been is what will be, and that which has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9. One thing I find encouraging from studying history is that, those who suppress truth never win. They may reign for a while, but their fall is inevitable.
21st Century: Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberto, Canada remained opened during the coronavirus disease outbreak lockdown, despite much pressure by the Government to close down and multiple imprisonment of their pastor. “As I head into another weekend facing threats of arrest for leading my church to gather in worship… I believe a clear conscience is a more desirable than staying clear of unpleasant consequences.” – Tim Stephens (May 14, 2021). The church body has since experienced a growth in number with hundreds joining them in worship. Having recently outgrown their present facility, they are now in the process of acquiring a much bigger facility which they are praying that God will use to further advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh! What a blessing! To God be the glory.
17th century: John Bunyan (1628 –1688) was a wonderful preacher and a faithful man of God famously known for one of his writings, “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” During the reign of Charles II, Bunyan was imprisoned for 12 years for preaching without a license. He could have been released at any time if only he agreed not to preach the gospel any longer. But no, Bunyan did not compromise his conscience or his worship of God, and for that he suffered. “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience… If you release me today, I’ll preach tomorrow.” ― John Bunyan. It was during his imprisonment that Bunyan wrote the Pilgrim’s progress. To this day, the Pilgrim’s Progress is said to be the second greatest book ever written after the Bible. As a testimony to his character, Charles Spurgeon (the Prince of Preachers) said of John Bunyan: “Prick him anywhere, and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.” John Owens (the Prince of the English divines) once said that he would gladly relinquish all of his learnings if only he could possess Bunyan’s abilities for preaching.
16th Century: To most protestants, Martin Luther remains a legendary reformer who rescued the gospel from the clutches of the papacy when it was obscure. The Bible was not made available to the general public. “Martin Luther had not actually seen a Bible until the first year of his novitiate, when he was becoming a monk, and he was lent a Bible for a year only. And, that’s a real indication of how ordinary men and women knew nothing about the Scriptures.” – Sinclair Ferguson. Luther became troubled by the heretic preaching that sins could be forgiven by the purchase of a letter of indulgence approved by the pope. This provoked Luther to write his 95 thesis which he nailed to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. When Luther nailed those 95 bullet points, he had only hoped it would spark debates about the issues of indulgencies; he was not aware as to how deep the rabbit hole would go. As a result, Luther was summoned by Charles V to appear before a panel of government and religious leaders. During the first hearing, the authorities demanded of Luther to recant of all his writings. In response, Luther requested to be given 24hrs to think it all over. He used the time he was given to pray in his distress to God while held in a cell. The next day, when Luther returned, and again, the question was put before him,
“Will you now recant of these teachings?” He replied,
“Unless I’m convinced by sacred Scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant for my conscience is held captive by the word of God and to act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.” – Martin Luther.
Luther in other words was saying, “I am under obligation to obey God for HE has bound my conscience, and to act against my conscience is sin, for it is written – that which is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:13).” That moment Luther stood against the whole Roman Catholic Church was the watershed for the protestant reformation. “The protestant reformation was about two things. It was about who can say what’s true and it was about how to reconcile who we are with who God is. It recognized that God’s Word is the ultimate authority in this world, and that the perfect life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ are the only answer for evil and the only basis on which sinners can stand before a Holy God.” – R.C Sproul.
God alone has the authority to bind the human conscience and he does so by his law. Not only is there the written law of God we find in the Bible, but there is also that revelation that God gives of his law through our con(with)-science(knowledge). To some degree, we all have the knowledge of the law of God in our conscience (Romans 2:15). You don’t need to go up to mount Sanai to know that it is evil to steal or to commit murder of another human being. “The single greatest restraint for evil that God has put in this world is Conscience. And the most wicked person, even people who are described as been without conscience, has been sociopath, or psychopath, nevertheless have not been able to annihilate altogether that voice of right and wrong that God has implanted in every human creature” – R.C Sproul
Our consciences can err, it can be distorted, twisted, defiled and even seared (Titus 1:15; 1 Tim. 4:2). Romans 1:18-21 speaks of how we ‘dull’ our conscience through unrighteousness. The right way to have conscience strengthened, so as not to err, is to have our conscience informed by God’s word. Scripture always takes precedence over conscience. “Our conscience is not safe unless it is rooted and founded upon that which God says. And where does God say it? In Scripture, in the Bible, alone, and nowhere else. And to the glory of God alone; Soli Deo Gloria” – Derek Thomas.
I like to think of the conscience as a tablet with words written on it, and our sins like mud that we splatter all over that tablet. It gets more and more difficult to read the more mud we splatter on it, but it is still there, intact. And also, repentance is what happens when we clean off the mud from the tablet so that the words on the tablet can be clearly read. “What brings about repentance? It is when the Holy Spirit brings a sense of guilt upon the conscience like a heavy weight that won’t go away.” – Conrad Mbewe. The Holy Spirit uses the conscience to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgement. As a result of the conviction of the Holy Spirit leading to repentance, our conscience becomes more clearer because there isn’t such a thick layer of wickedness distorting our conscience.
Regardless of the opposition or the temptation we may face, it is dangerous to overrule our conscience because it is simply a warning device. The conscience bothers the mind. It puts question to our understanding so as to accuse or to excuse us. And it is often the case that when our conscience accuses us, one of the hardest things for any human being to do is to admit guilt. We don’t want to face up to the reality of our sins. In many ways, we have perfected the act of excusing, justifying or denying our sins, and thus silencing our conscience by saying to ourselves – everybody is doing it, or I have the right to do my own thing; And in doing so, we attack the very foundation of righteousness itself which is the law of God. “No sin is more destructive than the sin of the mind. It is the most destructive sin there is, you know why? because it only has the conscience to fight it.” – John MacArthur. Is your conscience tender or hardened? Either way, bind your conscience with Scripture so that you may grow in Christian liberty and enjoy the liberty that Jesus purchased for you.