Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Right and Wrong--How to Know the Difference

I would like to start by looking at two sentences in the Bible that are not very well known. They were written about 1,500 years apart.

If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible. (Leviticus 5:17)

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:4)

Not knowing about a sin does not keep a person from being guilty, and having a clean conscience does not make the person innocent.

There is a reason for this. My knowledge and my conscience does not necessarily reflect the absolute value system of God. To bring my conscience and absolute “right and wrong” together, there are a few basic truths to follow:

1. I must be a Christian.
At the time of my conversion my conscience is made clean and senistive to God's moral law.

2. I must know the Scriptures well.
The scriptures give absolute (Exodus 20) and relative (Romans 14, I Corinthians 8) standards. There is no excuse not to know the requirements.

3. I must choose to obey them.
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

Knowing the teaching does not train. Knowing and doing is what trains to distinguish good from evil.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)

4. I must walk in the light.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Continuous cleansing keeps the conscience clean and working right.

When the apostle wishes to communicate something more certain he says it this way:
I speak the truth in Christ— I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1)

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)

He points to his own conscience, to every man's conscience and to God. His own conscience is confirmed by the Holy Spirit.

These are strong unequivocal statements. God is the source of truth, of right and wrong. Relativism does not enter the picture.

On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. (1 Thessalonians 2:10)

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