I swim a mile everyday—when a neurologist tells you it’s swimming or a wheelchair, you learn to swim in a hurry. Most days I’m there in the morning; typically I’m in the water by 8:30, and I seldom leave the water until 10:00 or so. But, some days I can’t get there in the morning for whatever reason, and I swim my mile in the afternoon. If I’m at the pool in the afternoon, I often share the pool with a swim team. They practice and practice and practice. (yes, I find myself envious of how quickly those high school kids can move in the water).
The swim team trains. They train because they see a “battle” coming—they’re going to face opponents at meets, and they want to make sure they can do their best to beat the competition.
We, too, face an enemy—the devil himself who roams the earth seeking someone to devour. A properly trained conscience can go a long way in defeating Satan. Rejecting our conscience can lead to a shipwreck of our faith (1 Tim 1:19). An impure conscience leads to denying God (Tit 1:16). We can draw near to God “with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Heb 10:22). But, how can we go about having a conscience which acts as an appropriate guide? Here are some suggestions:
Spend time in the Word.
The Word of God is the most appropriate place to turn to strengthen our consciences. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11). When Satan came and tempted Jesus, the Lord did not violate his conscience, but he turned the tempter to the truth of Scripture.
How can you study Scripture to train your conscience?
Study the lists of sins ennumerated in Scripture.
Several passages (e.g., Gal 5:19-21) give lists of sins which will keep one out of heaven. Know those lists, know what danger is lurking when we fall into sin.
Examine how biblical characters dealt with temptation.
In some cases—our Lord, for example—we will see the proper way to handle our conscience. In other cases—Abraham’s lie about Sarah, for example—we see how consciences can go awry.
Pray that your conscience will grow.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). Pray for the appropriate wisdom to train your conscience, and God will answer.
Look to the example of other believers.
If you want a properly trained conscience, look to the example your fellow believers set. Paul urged the Corinthians to follow his example as he himself followed Christ: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7). We can learn a great deal from our fellow believers if we’ll simply slow down and watch.
Be with your fellow believers.
Spent time with your fellow believers in worship and out of worship. “Bad company ruins good morals (1 Cor 15:33). The reverse of that truth would also apply: Good company leads to good morals. Let your fellow believers “rub off on you” and learn from them.
May we seek to have godly consciences. God bless!