Tent-maker, disciple-maker, and writer of thirteen of our New Testament books, the Apostle Paul said, “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24:16).
Our call and vocation is not ultimately to something but to someone—the Lord Jesus. We adopt His character, ways, and mission, as revealed in the Scriptures, as our sole standard and uncompromising point of reference. As His disciples, we want to do nothing that ever diminishes His character in someone’s eyes, taints the goodness of His ways, or misrepresents His mission to a watching world. Like Paul, we must “take pains” to make sure we are walking cleanly in our conscience with God and the people around us.
Our conscience functions like an inner truth rudder. It is sharpened by the Word of God and calibrated by the Holy Spirit living within us. When we detach from what the Scriptures teach and become unresponsive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit, we find ourselves drifting into the waters of time. It happens subtly, one small turning from the truth at a time. Done often enough, we become disoriented and turn towards deception. If we continue this trajectory, we become acclimated to, and even defend, a virtual reality that is far from the course of where we once sailed with a clear conscience before God and man.
Luther’s occupation was as a campus pastor, college professor, biblical scholar, and writer. He understood, however, his vocation to be true to the Word of God. When asked to recant his writings to the pope before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms, Luther references the high calling of his vocation in order to defend himself. When asked, “Will you recant?” he simply replies, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise; here I stand, may God help me. Amen.” [Hans Schwarz, True Faith in the True God: An Introduction to Luther’s Life and Thought (Minneapolis: Augsburg Books, 1996), page 24.]
Luther’s vocation was regulated by his conscience. Bound by the truth of Scripture, it would not allow him to go against his calling to be faithful to God and his conscience—even if it meant losing his life.
1. How have you handled your conscience in light of your vocation as a disciple of Jesus?
2. Has your conscience been clouded in the pursuit of status and position, the allure of sin, the buzz of celebrity, the chase of gain, and the sizzle of success?
3. Have you ignored the conviction of God within? If so, you can restore your inner truth rudder by responding in repentance towards God and restitution towards man. Now would be a great time to move toward a clear conscience.