Captives of Conscience

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As members of God’s end-time movement of mercy, AFM missionaries proclaim the everlasting gospel as per the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12. The gospel proclamation assumes that God’s end-time movement has access to the field to sow the seed of the Word of God before the end-time harvest is reaped, and despite diametric disagreement with the dominant narrative, social isolation, economic exclusion and ultimately the death penalty, earth’s inhabitants retain freedom of conscience sufficient to respond to the call to “Fear God . . .” Thus, the final proclamation of God’s mercy assumes freedom of conscience for earth’s inhabitants. But what exactly is our conscience?

Our conscience is a God-given inner faculty by which the Holy Spirit gives an awareness of the morality of given actions, decisions and thoughts. Through our conscience, the Holy Spirit both bears witness to what we already know to be God’s will (Romans 2:15) and also reveals God’s will to us and the community of faith (Romans 9:1). The Holy Spirit strives with men and women (Genesis 6:3), teaches (Luke 12:12), convicts of sin (John 16:8), directs the affairs of the body of Christ (Acts 13:2), intercedes for the saints with the Father (Romans 8:27), inspires the prophets (2 Peter 1:21) and sanctifies the believer (1 Peter 1:2).
Yet, our conscience may be seared through a repeated refusal to listen to the Holy Spirit and through willful indulgence in sin (1 Timothy 4:1-2, Romans 1:24), thus becoming an unreliable moral guide. Charles Spurgeon, preaching on “Daniel’s Undaunted Courage” on June 14, 1868, described vicars who kept their positions by publicly agreeing to theological positions they privately rejected. Spurgeon said they maintained “a convoluted conscience possessed of peculiarly complicated action,” later described as “rotating, double-action consciences.” 

To go against God’s will, as revealed by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit in our conscience, would be a sin (Romans 14:23). So our conscience is to be informed and nurtured by our study of the written Word of God, which is also truth (John 10:35, 17:17, 1 Peter 1:23), and which, like the Holy Spirit, leads us to the Incarnate Word of God, Who is also Truth (John 14:6). To protect and preserve our conscience, we invite the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, lead us to the righteousness of Christ, and remind us of how we are spared eternal judgment through our union with Jesus Christ (John 16:8). In our modern era of near-universal deceit, He is the “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13), and to a world crippled by pandemic-induced fear, He is the “Spirit of life” (Romans 8:2), bringing comfort (John 14:15-16) and pointing to the soon-returning Savior (Hebrews 10:37).

Jesus taught in Luke 11:9-13 that we may ask our Heavenly Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, no person can schedule the convicting power of the Holy Spirit for a more convenient time in personal or salvation history. We can choose how we respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon our consciences, but we cannot choose when or where we come under such conviction. As the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled, scheduled or manipulated. Nor can we keep the Holy Spirit in our back pockets as a card to be played later in the game of life. To even think in this way would be an act of blasphemy, for we would be determining when and where God has permission to appear in our lives.

At the Diet of Worms in 1521 A.D., when asked to recant his teaching, Luther replied: “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience would be neither right nor safe.” Thus the Protestant Reformation began, with consciences sensitive to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, informed and guided by the Word of God. And thus, AFM missionaries serve today—preaching, proclaiming and praying for the Spirit to bring the unreached into conviction, into conversion and into the Body of Christ.

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