God gave us the gift of a conscience to act as a moral compass, but if we ignore it, we may suffer shipwreck. When writing to Timothy, Paul charged the young man to keep the truths of the faith and a good conscience. Ignoring either piece of advice could have put Timothy in danger.
The conscience is an inner monitor that judges our actions as right or wrong, but it is fallen and in need of redemption. Depending on how it’s been programmed, our moral compass even has the potential to nudge us in the wrong direction.
Paul himself is an illustration of this. His formal education as a Pharisee had taught him that Christians were a threat to God and the Jewish faith. His conscience had been programmed to see killing them as service to the Lord. So he passionately hunted believers down without a twinge of guilt. Only after Christ met him on the way to Damascus was his inner sense of right and wrong transformed and his life’s course altered.
We need the truths of faith to shape our conscience so we can trust it to lead us in the right direction. Take a moment to ask the Lord if anything is clouding your internal signals, and trust in His promise to make your path straight (Prov. 3:5-6).
Friday was market day in the rural town in Ghana where I grew up. After all these years, I still recall one particular vendor. Her fingers and toes eroded by Hansen’s disease (leprosy), she would crouch on her mat and scoop her produce with a hollowed-out gourd. Some avoided her. My mother made it a point to buy from her regularly. I saw her only on market days. Then she would disappear outside the town.
In the time of the ancient Israelites, diseases like leprosy meant living “outside the camp.” It was a forlorn existence. Israelite law said of such people, “They must live alone” (Leviticus 13:46). Outside the camp was also where the carcasses of the sacrificial bulls were burned (4:12). Outside the camp was not where you wanted to be.
This harsh reality breathes life into the statement about Jesus in Hebrews 13: “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore” (v. 13). Jesus was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, a significant point when we study the Hebrew sacrificial system.
We want to be popular, to be honored, to live comfortable lives. But God calls us to go “outside the camp”—where the disgrace is. That’s where we’ll find the vendor with Hansen’s disease. That’s where we’ll find people the world has rejected. That’s where we’ll find Jesus.
“Stand firm therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14).
True righteousness begins with a right relationship with God.
A Roman soldier would often engage his enemy in hand- to-hand combat. At such times, the weapon of choice was the short sword, with which he sought to penetrate his opponent’s vital organs. For his own protection he wore a molded metal breastplate that extended from the base of his neck to the top of his thighs. It helped deflect any attacks aimed at his heart and abdomen.
The Roman breastplate has great symbolism in Paul’s analogy because to the Jewish people, the heart represented man’s mind and thinking processes; the intestinal area or bowels represented the seat of feelings and emotions. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (KJV). Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jesus added, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21).
During spiritual warfare, Satan’s primary attacks target your thinking and emotions. If he can condition you to think and feel contrary to God’s Word, he has won a significant victory. That’s why he attempts to fill your mind with lies, immorality, false doctrine, and half-truths. He tries to blur the line between righteousness and sin by surrounding you with evil influences that increase your tolerance for sin. He clothes offensive sin in the blinding garment of entertainment. He puts it to music and masks it in humor to confuse you and deaden your spiritual senses. Satan wants to corrupt your emotions and draw you into sinful desires.
Putting on the breastplate of righteousness begins with a right relationship with God, who is the source of true righteousness. From that relationship flows the commitment to cultivate righteousness in your own life by learning and applying His Word. Therein lies the protection you need to safeguard your mind and emotions from satanic deceptions.
Suggestions for Prayer
Focus on strengthening your relationship with God today. Commune with Him in prayer. Meditate on His Word. Seek His grace in responding thoughtfully and righteously to the temptations you face.
For Further Study
Read Proverbs 10, noting Solomon’s description of righteous people.
[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.
— Philippians 2:13 (AMPC)
Most of us desire the good life God has planned for us, but sometimes we fail to recognize the areas our lives that need to be changed. Many times, you set out to make those changes, yet in spite of your best efforts, you seem powerless to make those changes happen.
Trying to bring about change through your own strength and plans will always result in frustration. God is waiting for you to stop trying to change and start trusting Him to change you.
If you need to make changes in your thoughts, attitudes, and behavior, understand that you can’t do it by yourself. Spend time with God and ask for His help—after all, if He can’t do it, it can’t be done. But He can…and He will!
Prayer Starter: Lord, thank You for helping me to change. I know I can’t do it without You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Jesus was the Lord High Admiral of the sea that night, and His presence preserved the whole convoy. It is good to sail with Jesus, even though we may be in a little boat. When we sail in Christ’s company, we cannot be sure of fine weather, for great storms may toss the vessel that carries the Lord Himself, and we should not expect to find the sea less boisterous around our little boat. If we go with Jesus we must be content to face what He faces; and when the waves are rough for Him, they will be rough for us. It is through tempest and storm that we will reach land, just as He did before us. When the storm swept over Galilee’s dark lake, the faces wore anxious frowns, and all hearts dreaded shipwreck.
When every attempt to ride it out proved useless, the resting Savior rose and with a word transformed the billowing tempest into the deep quiet of a calm. Then all the other boats were at rest as well as the one that carried the Lord. Jesus is the star of the sea; and though there is sorrow on the sea, when Jesus is on it, there is also joy.
May our hearts make Jesus their anchor, their rudder, their lighthouse, their lifeboat, and their harbor. His Church is the Admiral’s flagship; let us attend her exercises and cheer her officers with our presence. He Himself is the great attraction; let us always follow in His wake, observe His signals, steer by His chart, and never fear while He is within reach. Not one ship in the convoy shall be wrecked; the great Captain will steer every craft in safety to the desired haven. By faith we will raise our anchor for another day’s cruise and sail with Jesus into a sea of tribulation. Winds and waves will not spare us, but they all obey Him; and therefore whatever squalls may occur on the outside, faith will enjoy a blessed calm within. He is always in the center of the weather-beaten company: Let us rejoice in Him. His boat has reached the harbor, and so will ours.
Devotional material is taken from Morning and Evening, written by C. H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Have you ever gotten ready for school in the morning and decided you did not like your outfit? Maybe you did not like that color of socks. Maybe that shirt is uncomfortable. Maybe your shoes were too tight or too dirty to wear. Unless you are short on time, it is usually OK to change your clothes. People do it all the time.
Have you ever realized that a food you used to hate is starting to become a favorite food now? Maybe you used to hate spinach. After all, it is slimy and green. Your parents made you try it when you were little, and you wanted to spit it out! But let’s say that you just tried spinach again recently. (You had to, because it was in Grandma’s manicotti dish, and you love Grandma’s manicotti! So you tried it again – you put it on your fork, turned it around so you could get a good look at it, tasted it thoughtfully, and swallowed it right down! And you could not believe your tastebuds! After all those years of hating spinach, you are starting to love it. People are like that. As we grow older, our tastes change.
Did you ever lose track of someone who used to be a good friend of yours? Maybe you moved to another town, or maybe you just got busy with things going on at church or with your schoolwork. Maybe something happened in your family, and you just have not been seeing the same friends every day anymore. Or maybe your friends and you have just become interested in such different things that you do not need to spend much time together. That happens to people. Some friends will always be a part of our lives. But some of our friends will change over the years. We make new friends. We may never forget the old friends, but we might spend less time with them.
Change is a part of every human being’s life. Things change around us. We have to deal with that change. Other people change around us. And we ourselves change, both inside and out. We change our minds about little things like favorite clothes or what to drink at breakfast-time. We change our minds about big things, too, like whether we will obey our parents and what we want to be when we grow up. Sometimes it takes a very long time for us to change – it takes a long time to grow taller or wiser! On other things, we might change overnight – it does not take too long to decide whether or not to obey, does it?
Every human being has to change. But one encouraging thing about Jesus Christ is that He is always the same. He is God, so He will always have the great character that only God has. He will always be perfectly good and perfectly great in every single way. Jesus Christ does not have to decide every day whether or not He will love His people. He does not have to think about whether He will keep on being gracious and merciful and sinless. He does not have to wonder about whether He ought to be all-powerful.
Because Jesus never changes, we do not have to wonder about Him, either. We can trust that Jesus will always be exactly Who He always has been. He will never lose love for His people. He will never forget us or let us down or change His mind about us. He will never make mistakes. He will never do wrong. Because He is faithful and never-changing, Jesus deserves our trust and worship. What a great God He is!
The Lord Jesus Christ is always going to be exactly Who He always has been.
My Response: » Do I ever doubt whether Jesus is still the same Person He was in Bible times? » Do I ever wonder how Jesus could keep on showing grace to me every day? » How should I respond as I learn more about the unchanging goodness and greatness of Jesus Christ?
Death is not the final chapter in your story. John 11:25 and 26 assure us that in death we will step into the arms of the One who declared: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
Winston Churchill believed this. The prime minister planned his own funeral. Two buglers were positioned in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. At the conclusion of the service, the first played—the signal of a day completed; the second played reveille—the song of a day begun.
Death is no pit, but a passageway, a corner turn. Isaiah wrote, “Your dead will live…all you dead and buried, wake up! Sing!…the earth is bursting with life, giving birth to the dead” (Isaiah 26:19). So play on bugler. Play on!
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