Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. (Acts 23:1-2)
Although Paul had lived with a “good conscience before God”, it had not prevented him from persecuting Jesus. The human conscience can never be the final judge of sin and righteousness, nor was it ever intended to be. The function of the conscience is to advise a person of right and wrong conduct based on how the conscience has been trained in what is right and wrong. A poorly trained conscience will not warn a person of a sinful act (as when Paul persecuted Christians). A conscience can even be seared so that it is no longer sensitive to sin (1 Tim. 4:1-2). Be careful to train your conscience with the truth of the gospel. A good conscience relies on God’s word to teach it what is right and wrong. Then, it will function well to warn you of sin and encourage you to do what is good. Do not “let your conscience be your guide” (your conscience may be wrong); Let God’s word guide your conscience. Your conduct will then please God, and you will “have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).
“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.” (Colossians 1:21-23)
Sin separates from God; it makes us God’s enemies. In sin, we were God’s enemies before our conversion. Yet, God’s love and grace is so great that he sacrificed his Son Jesus Christ to reconcile us to God. “Through death” you were presented to God as holy, blameless and above reproach in His sight. But, please take note of what follows: “—if indeed you continue in the faith…not moved away from the hope of the gospel”. Without a doubt, this statement shows that salvation is conditional (“if”). Your hope is sure “if indeed you continue in the faith”. So, it is possible to return to sin and move away from the hope of the gospel. Make it your aim today to remain “grounded and steadfast” and not to be drawn away from God and back into sin. Why would you want to become God’s enemy again?
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:37-41)
In fear his disciples awoke Jesus and scolded him for sleeping as the storm threatened their lives. At his word there was a great calm, provoking fearful amazement and wonder in the disciples: Who could Jesus be? This is yet another proof that Jesus is the Son of God. But, here is today’s lesson: Jesus Christ calls on us to have faith not to worry over things that are under his control. Faith fully trusts God, never doubting that what he has promised, he is able to accomplish (see Romans 4:19-22). What we perceive as disastrous, the Lord sees as our opportunity to have faith in him. So, instead of scolding the Lord when trials come and he does not act on our timetable, keep putting your faith in him. This is our faith: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” (Luke 11:45)
Jesus did not set out to insult people when he taught heaven’s truth. Through no fault of his own, many were insulted by the plain truth he spoke. This lawyer (scribe of the Mosaic law) felt the sting of rebuke from Jesus as he pronounced three woes on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (see Luke 11:37-44). God’s truth cuts in all directions, exposing every sin and error of one’s heart and life. The question is, will we be insulted when we learn God’s truth, or will we be humbled and corrected by it? How you react to the truth of the gospel says a great deal about who you are – and who you want to be.
“Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 4:4-5)
The sweet psalmist of Israel advises how to avoid sin when your heart is provoked. When you are agitated and anger is looking for a place to abide in your heart, choose a different course. Meditate on God and do not sin. Ponder the calming assurance of God’s favor and blessings as you pillow your head. Instead of giving in to anger’s loss of self-control, pause and redirect your energy toward righteousness.
When you are tempted to be angry toward others, speak graciously and act peaceably toward them. Calm your soul, avoid the sin of anger and put your trust in the Lord.
“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Colossians 2:9-10)
No one else is like Jesus; he is utterly unique. He and he alone fits the description in today’s passage. He is both divine and human; all the fullness of each dwells in him. Jesus is God (deity), fully and completely. And, Jesus is human (flesh and bones, blood, sweat and tears). This is the core of our faith and the reason for our hope and joy. Jesus fully supplies us with every spiritual blessing. He saves us, guides and disciplines us by his word. He has secured for us access to the throne room of the Father where our prayers are heard and answered. He is our Redeemer and Savior, our Intercessor, our King and our Lord. Put your faith in Jesus and abide in his word, and he will abide with you. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. “When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me” (Abide with Me, Henry F. Lyte). Always remember, “you are complete in Him”.
“For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)
It is easy to justify bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior. Growing up we learned the maxim that “two wrongs don’t make a right” (I wonder, is that still taught today?!). Similarly, comparing ourselves with others does not make us right in God’s sight. If that is how we go about justifying ourselves then we will always compare ourselves to someone less desirable in character and conduct. That way, we feel like we are okay – even when we are not approved before God. So remember, somebody else’s sin is not your righteousness. Compare yourself to the standard that is always right, the word of God. Then, you can correct yourself and have God’s blessing (read James 1:21-25).