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Conscience, Conviction, Character and CommitmentOctober 26, 2016
I have heard it said a lot during this election cycle that we simply need to go into the voting place and vote our conscience. But what does that really mean? What is our conscience and where does it come from? Are we born with it or is it shaped and developed over time? Paul says that even the most pagan people have the law of God written on their hearts and “their conscience bears witness” to this reality (Romans 2:14). Paul also says that we are all born with an awareness that God is and that there are certain standards of right and wrong that we recognize to be true (Romans 1:18-32). He also argues in that same text that we all from birth and by nature suppress that basic truth from God about who He is as God and what He desires as God from us who live in the world as His creation. So it seems that we are all in some sense born with a conscience but we are also born as sinners. Being born as sinners means that we are born with a bent toward what we want to be, to live as we desire to live. We are from the beginning set on a course that will always choose what we perceive to be best for us providing for us the very best life possible here and now. Thus, letting our conscience be our guide may not always be the best course. Our conscience alone is not enough. What we need beyond our conscience are some very clear convictions that form the core values for our lives.
I am a professing Jesus follower. Some days I follow closer than others. Some days I fail miserably. Some days I can see Him close enough to know who He is and what He desires; other days I just get a distant sighting. But the desire of my heart as much as I can know it is to know Him. To know Him requires that I spend time with Him in prayer and meditation and that I listen to Him as He makes Himself known in the Bible. He is the center and soul of that Book. If I want to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and obey Him; I must read and study the Bible. Reading and studying the Bible over time with the help of the Holy Spirit and particularly when done in connection with other believers will help in forming my core convictions. These core convictions will form the foundation for my core values which I pray will give both shape and substance to my character as a child of God. What has come over time to mean the most to me was at one time in my lived in such a way that there was some distance between what I professed and what I practiced. What has become increasingly important to me is the conviction that what I communicate about who I am in relationship to Him must be lived out both publicly and privately. My conviction about who God is in Christ as Lord indwelling my life in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit shapes my convictions, my core values, my character, my conscience, and my choices. It is not and must not be my conscience which is my guide but my conscience as controlled by the Holy Spirit led life of a person seeking to live out the Lordship of Jesus under the authority of the Word of God.
If you have tracked along with me up till now then you must see why this election season is so intensely difficult for those who are devoted to Jesus as Lord. We do not want to make choices that would corrupt our character or compromise our convictions. I want, for example, to be able to explain to my grandchildren with honesty and integrity why I voted the way I did. And I want to be able to recognize realistically and truthfully that at the end of the day our living our lives consistently as those committed to Jesus Christ as Lord is far more vital than our vote for president of the USA. That is why in this season when some are saying “Trump Never” and others are saying “Trump Only” that we say at least that neither of these positions will be able to divide the Body of Christ in our devotion to what matters eternally. I have good friends and brothers on both sides of this aisle. Some have made one choice; others have made another. What I am most concerned is that our choice whichever way it goes is made out of a conscience informed by clear convictions and core values that shape our character. It is character that matters most. And not so much the character of the candidates, neither is a person to take home to meet Mom as a potential mate; but our characters. Can we have the kind of biblical convictions that have so shaped us that our character as Christians is such that no election could ever divide us so that when it is all over we will just keep doing what we know best: Love God as His people as we seek under the authority of His Word to exalt Jesus in worship and witness to the glory of His grace so that we can see many come to Him and be saved.