Awakening Your Conscience
September 8, 2001 § Leave a Comment
The apostle Peter describes the gradual steps a true Christian will follow on his or her path to perfection. These steps are a natural progression. They aren’t forced upon the person. He or she will undergo these phases in a very smooth transition, while the Holy Spirit works within them:
“And beside this, giving all dilligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” 2 Peter 1:5-9.
These steps or traits are very important for a Christian to know, and they will be discussed in more detail in another article. What I want to talk about here is the awakening of your conscience. What does it mean? When does it occur? Why does it occur? How does it happen?
First of all, let’s talk about what it means. Awakening your conscience is a phrase that refers to the result of following the path to Christian perfection. It means that you are now able to sift through your thoughts, your actions, the actions of others and your world in general, and realize what is wrong and what is right. It can also be referred to as an effect, and it occurs quite early in your progress. It comes with the first trait described in 2 Peter, namely virtue. Webster’s Dictionary defines virtue like this: “conformity to a standard of right: morality; a particular moral excellence… ; manly strength or courage: valor; a commendable quality or trait: merit; a capacity to act: potency.” The Bible defines virtue even more precisely. In Mark 5:30, the apostle writes: “And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” The apostle Luke refers to it in the same context: “And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” Luke 6:19 and “And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” Luke 8:46. The apostle Paul further clarifies the definition of virtue: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there by any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8.
Let’s summarize. Virtue is therefore a power, a trait that belongs directly to Jesus, which he used to heal the sick. It means moral excellence, and refers to truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness and good report. As Christians, we receive this gift from the Lord as soon as we have faith in him. It is His first gift to us! Isn’t this an overwhelming gift? It’s quite unbelievable to think upon the meaning of virtue, and realize that as Christians, we can expect to receive it as soon as we have faith on the Lord.
Now do you see why our conscience is awakened upon receiving virtue? We are imbued with everything that is right, just, true, honest, pure, lovely and of good report. Our conscience is brimming with virtue, and it now possesses the tools that it needs to sift the wrong from the right. It wasn’t the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden which gave us that power. Only God can give us this gift.
Having the power to see the good and the bad in things does not mean that we were not able to do it before. It rather means that we are able to do it in a much amplified manner. It can be compared to a person with rather bad eyesight, a myopic person. He is only able to see a blurry outline of things, and unless he is face to face with them, he cannot make them out. Let’s say his eyesight is corrected almost to perfection (I say almost because our conscience continues to awaken, or increase in power as we advance in our Christian life). Now he is able to see everything. What before was just a blur is now a tree. He can even see the leafs, and even make out the fruits on the branches. He can see insects crawling on the trunk, and a little birdnest cradled inbetween two little branches. He can see everything. Nothing is hidden from his sight. It is the same with us. Sure, we knew we had done something wrong if we stole something or we killed somebody. That’s obvious. Most everybody realizes the wrongdoing in something like that. But when our conscience is awakened by the power of the Holy Spirit, we begin to look at ourselves with a magnifying lens. For example, we realize that looking at someone’s body and its curves is quite wrong, and that it’s even more wrong if that person is already married or in a relationship. We realize that some of our comments either hurt other people or are loaded with perverse meanings. We realize that this great song on the radio or the TV is actually very crude and lewd, and that its lyrics should be kept far and away from our ears. Everything that we encounter now passess through a filter of much finer texture, and all of our sins are exposed in plain sight to our mind’s view. This is when we know that our conscience has been truly awakened.
Isn’t this a wonderful gift? Without it, we could not get closer to God. Without being made aware of our sinful and corrupt nature, we cannot ask forgiveness for our sins because we don’t really know the extent of our sinfulness. While we are here on Earth, God will actually never reveal the entire gamut of sins that we commit to us. It would be too much to bear. The burden would crush our spirits and we would quickly wish for death. But in His mercy, he reveals a little more to us every day, as we grow and are able to appreciate His gift. And as we get a better idea of ourselves, we become humbler, and we kneel down in prayer more often to ask for forgiveness.
So far, awakening your conscience sounds like a painful deal, doesn’t it? It is! As you grow in your faith, every time you sin will be more painful for you. As you commit bigger sins, the moment that you decide to go against His will and commandments, you will literally feel yourself falling from the grace of God. You will feel His presence leaving you. You will feel utterly alone and disgraced. You will want to cower and hide away. I cannot describe the feeling accurately enough even though I have experienced it repeatedly. But there’s a good chance that you either know what I’m talking about, or you will experience it in the future. It is an incredibly painful experience, but you know what? It is nothing compared to what God feels every time you sin. He gave his life for you, and you are crucifying Him over and over again every time you sin. You are spitting on his sacrifice when you sin, treating it like garbage. How do you think that makes Him feel? What you are feeling is nothing compared to His pain!
There are good news though! God will never leave your side. Even though Satan’s attacks are strongest just after you have fallen, and his evil spirits whisper in your ear that you are lost, that there is no hope for you, all you need do is kneel down and ask God to forgive you. God will forgive you! He always does! It is His guarantee to us. If we ask for forgiveness, He will give it to us, and restore us in His sight as if we had never sinned. This however does not mean that we can go on sinning. There comes a point of no return, when God says “Enough!”. There is no forgiveness after that.
This is why our conscience is awakened. As we walk along the path of Christian life, we are made aware more and more of each of our sins, and given the chance to correct them, to ask God for forgiveness and for deliverance from their influence on us. God imbues us with his virtue, and we see the true nature of our sins. We despise them, and if we leave ourselves in His hands, we will end up hating the sins that we used to commit. Our strongest desire will be to avoid committing them ever again. We will receive power over them, and over all the other sins in our lives.
Isn’t all this amazing? Does it not make you thankful that God works in such wondrous ways? Let us ask Him to receive virtue, that our consciences may be awakened and we may perceive our sinful natures, and let us also ask Him for forgiveness and deliverance from ourselves. Amen.