As a writer I’m dependent upon and thankful for that handy dandy little thing called spell-check. It underlines at least a few of my words in red most every time I write a paragraph or two. And then with a simple right-click of the mouse on top of that burgundy underlined word I can see a list of possible right choices and easily, usually, select the correctly spelled word. In fact, spell-check just saved me from spelling burgundy with an “a” instead of a second “u” as in burgandy. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. So not only did spell-check keep me from making a mistake, but it taught me a little something as well.
Our conscience works something like a spell-check. It lets us know when we’ve made a wrong choice, stops us in our tracks, warns us that if we don’t correct things we’re going to make a big mistake, and then, just like spell-check, leaves the choice up to us. We can correct our path or stay on the wrong course. And just like with my spell-check feature, if we choose to go with the choice we’d previously made, the wrong one, our conscience will eventually even leave us alone about it. It doesn’t auto-correct. It doesn’t push us to do the right thing. The red underline goes away and the choice, just like the word, is printed permanently upon the records of our life for all to see. It’s wrong, but we’ve chosen to ignore it and perhaps we forever will. Still it’s wrong.
In Acts 24:16 Paul said, “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” Paul knew the value of heeding his conscience just like I know the importance of making the recommended corrections when my words are underlined in red. He didn’t want permanently printed mistakes in the annals of his life. He wanted a clean copy.
But our conscience is no more perfect at correcting our choices than spell-check is 100% at pointing out our spelling errors. Why not? Well there’s the little problem of manual override for one thing. Just like when I choose to ignore the menacing red line of spell check it eventually disappears from my computer screen, I can choose to ignore my conscience until it eventually stops throbbing with guilt. Before I know it, I’m going right along with my day, blissfully forgetful of my error in judgment.
Plus I’ve managed to tamper with my spell-check feature enough to where it’s no longer as accurate as it once was. You know the feature. The one that pops up right along with all the right spelling choices. The one that lets you “add to dictionary.” We can do the same thing with our consciences as well. We can “add” new options for right and wrong, more current ones, more culturally relevant ones, more tolerant and open-minded ones. Get my drift? Before you know it the red lights no longer come on when we choose to cheat, lie, fudge, entertain certain thoughts, listen to certain words, or go certain places. We’ve adapted our “dictionary” of right and wrong to fit our personal style so it’s no longer right to the letter.
I haven’t figured out how to erase words I’ve “added to the dictionary” on my computer, but I know how we can eradicate the adaptations we’ve made to our consciences. We start by allowing the Holy Spirit to take over. Did you think our conscience and the Holy Spirit were synonymous? Far from it. Everyone has a conscience–some are more intact than others, but we all have one. But only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior have the Holy Spirit abiding within. Still some of us who have been sealed with the Spirit of God have quieted His voice much like we’ve adapted our consciences to our culture. But we can change that.
We can tune the Holy Spirit in more clearly by spending time in the Word of God. You see the Word of God and the Spirit of God speak in unison. They confirm each other. So the more familiar we are with the Word of God, the more accurately we will hear the Spirit of God. His voice will resonate with our conscience, a conscience that has been retrained by biblical truth.
Do you ignore the little red lines of spell-check? Probably not unless you just really don’t care about the final product. But you may have ignored the red lights of your conscience because it seemed expedient and easier than making the necessary adjustments. I know I’m guilty of tampering with the mechanics of my conscience in certain areas until it no longer even underlines the wrong options. And our culture just affirms those adaptations as though they are some sort of “alternate spelling.” Hmm. But if I want to have a clear conscience before man and God, I’ll need to get my conscience back in line with His holy Word and the voice of His Spirit. So that’s what I’m working on today…this week…for a while.
Will you join me?