2003-06-02 - Conscience

Acts 23:1 "And Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, 'Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day'"

I recently read a story of a shipmaster and I would like to relate it and try to seep some useful thoughts from it. It was last published in 1838, so don't go hunting for it at your local bookstore. It is something that took place in 1818.

It seems that the shipmaster was traveling in Scotland from Stirling to Glasgow where he intended to take a ship to America. The Rev. John Thomson of Dysart, Fifeshire was on the same ship and noticed how filthy the mouth of the shipmaster was. The man had gathered quite a crowd about him as he related stories in the most profane manner. Thomson began to pray that he might have an opportunity to speak with the man. This would not be much of a story if they never talked and so, as you might expect, the shipmaster eventually sat down right next to the minister.

So the profane swearer planted himself right down next to the minister. The minister did not lose the opportunity and asked, "Do you think that swearing confers any bravery on man?" The swearer said that he did not think it did. The minister then followed up by asking if the man thought that swearing was sinful. The shipmaster replied that he thought it was sinful because the Bible said it was sinful. He even knew the passage, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11.

The minister then admonished the man to repentance and left the man to ponder his sin. He paced the boat for about 15 minutes and returned to find the man in tears. There are many other particulars concerning this story and I will only relate one in passing. The man had been in a French prison and had made a vow to serve God with his whole life if he got out. He had not exactly carried through on his vow.

However, I don't want you to think this devotional is about cursing. Rather it is about conscience. The man, when confronted with his sin, was broken. It is the fitting response that we should all have when confronted with sin. It should break us. When we see our sin, whether it is revealed to us by another or whether we discover it for ourselves, we should be broken. However, if I am honest with myself and I think if you are honest also, we will all have to admit that our response to discovered sin is not always what it should be. This is the result of what has traditionally been called a seared conscience. My hope is that we can let the Lord speak to us through our conscience as this shipmaster did and that our conscience does not become seared and unresponsive.

The shipmaster had the very response that we also should have to our indwelling sin when we become aware of it. Sanctification is a process and is not something that we master in this life. We must be ever sensitive to the process of weeding out sin and putting on the righteousness of Christ. A great part of that process is remaining sensitive to the prodding's of the Holy Spirit upon our conscience as we become aware of areas in our lives where we miss the mark. Let us seek to be sensitive to such prodding's this week.

Soli Deo Gloria,

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