Have you ever struggled with loving people around you? We are commanded to love one another as Christians. It is the New Commandment of John 13:34 and the thing that shows the world that Jesus came from God in John 17:22-26. Paul tells Timothy that it is the purpose behind the instruction in our churches.
1 Timothy 1:5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,
We looked at the first half of the verse last time The Purpose of the Commandment. This time we will look at how it comes together. There is an important series of connected concepts that are required to produce the love that we are supposed to get from the teaching. “The purpose of the commandment is Love from a pure heart,” but how do we get that out of the commandment? Well it comes from a “good conscience” and that from “sincere faith.”
How important are these steps? Absolutely necessary. The Love that we are supposed to receive and give is the fruit not just of faith but of “Sincere Faith.” That is a real and vital trust in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. He is God in Human Flesh who suffered as the innocent Victim in order to take the penalty for our sins and transfer to our account, His own perfect righteousness! But, in order for this to happen, we have to begin with our own guilt!
I know that guilt is a dirty word in modern American culture. Freud has taught us that it is bad and destructive to the human psyche. When it is abused it certainly is, but it is necessary for us as humans to acknowledge real guilt for many reasons, the most important of which is, that if we deny our guilt we will never be saved from its consequences. Christ died because we are guilty people! Therefore our “sincere faith” begins with a true assessment of our guilt and that begins in our conscience.
Our conscience is the thing inside of us that shows us our guilt. We can either allow it to do that and follow through with acknowledging and dealing with our guilt, or we can ignore it and pretend like it is not a problem. Unfortunately, we have been instructed by our culture that guilt itself is not our fault, but the fault of others. I know many people abuse others. I know that many people, religious people and institutions, abuse guilt for some kind of personal gain. That does not mean that guilt is bad, but that those who abuse it are! God made us with a conscience.
Romans 2:14-16 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Ultimately we will be judged by what we did with our conscience. The word conscience means “with knowledge,” we all know what is right and wrong at the deepest level. We are created in God’s image and a part of that is that the work of the Law is written on our hearts. Though it is heavily tainted and can be ignored, it is very real. We know when we have sinned. This knowledge of our sinfulness keeps us from God. It makes us run from Him in shame because we are aware that we are not what we should be. The Gospel does not just take away the penalty of sin, but it purifies our conscience too. It removes that barrier altogether!
Hebrews 9:13-14 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Once our “sincere faith” rests upon the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, our knowledge of sin, the thing that keeps us from God, is removed too. We are washed clean inside and out. We also get a “good conscience.” While our relationship with God is never in jeopardy if our faith is sincere, we still have a conscience that needs to be dealt with. We will continue to sin as Christians. We need to confess our sins regularly and to fix the things that we mess up. The Apostle Paul said in Acts 24:16 “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” Thus, we should also strive for the same. We cannot abuse the gift that God has given to those who trust Him. If we do, we run the risk of proving that our faith is not sincere.
1 Timothy 1:18-19 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck,
If we do not take sin seriously as Christians, it is because we really do not understand this. Guilt is not a big deal to us because we do not understand what it has done to us and our relationship to God. It destroys what faith we think we have. A true assessment of our guilt and God’s amazing grace in forgiving us leads to gratitude. It works itself out in what the Apostle calls “Love from a Pure Heart.” A heart that knows its guilt and sees God’s goodness is a heart that loves God more than any other thing. Jesus said it this way, “He who is forgiven much, loves much.” (Luke 7:47)
How is your conscience, Christian? Are you dealing with the sin in your life and striving to maintain a good conscience? If not, it may prove that you are less than you believe you are. If so, you understand the mercy and grace of our loving God who not only took away the penalty for sin, but its power to separate us from Him. Confess you sins. Deal with your situation. God is faithful. Doing this will give you a greater understanding of His love and allow you to love more like He does. After all, that is the reason for what we are supposed to be teaching in our churches.
Audio of this message is available by clicking on the link below.