Conscience; January 13, 2023

Acts 2:23 “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

For once, I am writing on a verse that is underlined in neither the English nor the Japanese, but God is pointing something out to me through it. The first is that the Jews utilizing the Romans to actually execute Jesus didn’t eliminate the Jews’ responsibility in the matter. We have quite a record of trying to do that, both from the side of “I was only following orders” and from the side of “I didn’t pull the trigger.” Even human law is clear that someone who arranges for a “hit man” is guilty of the murder. Pilate touched on this directly when he wanted the Jewish leaders to deal with Jesus themselves, but they objected that by Roman law they weren’t allowed to put anyone to death. (John 18:29-31) The other side of that is the Roman soldiers who did the actual crucifixion. The NIV here calls them “wicked men,” but in a footnote concedes that the Greek says, “those not having the law,” in other words, Gentiles. (The Japanese says, “lawless people.”) Those Roman soldiers weren’t innocent, certainly, but they were indeed following orders, doing “the right thing” in their context. Just yesterday I read an article by Dennis Prager talking about the unreliability of “conscience.” Different cultures have different rules, and we tend to twist those rules to suit ourselves. We can convince ourselves that almost anything is OK! Paul spoke of people “whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” (1 Timothy 4:2) We need to have humility before God and ask Him to show us what is right or wrong. The closer we get to God the more sensitive we will be to things that aren’t pleasing to Him, and the quicker we will repent of such things and cling to Him.

I have too much familiarity with this, having built myself a shell of spiritual pride that numbed my conscience pretty thoroughly. In God’s incredible grace He tapped me on the shoulder, and when I turned He had a mirror, in which I saw, for a brief instant, the blackness of my own soul. I was devastated, because I thought I was a “fine, exemplary Christian.” I wish I could say that I have been a totally obedient and responsive child of God in the years since then, but like Paul, I am acutely aware that I am still “under construction.” I am all too adept at self-justification, when that is a trap of the devil. At the moment I face over two months of a very empty schedule, which means the devil will go into overdrive trying to distract me from how the Lord wants me to spend this time. There are plenty of things I believe the Lord wants me to do, and I am not to accept any excuse the devil offers me for not doing them. I am to receive each day as a gift from my Lord, to be used exactly as He directs so that His will may be done on His schedule for His glory.

Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Dennis Prager, and for His faithfulness to write the article he did. May I indeed let You be my conscience, my “good heart” as the Japanese puts it, to know and to do what is right in every situation, for Your glory. (Philippians 2:13) Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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