Who You Are Is Not Who You Were

The Bible clearly teaches that we will be judged by our actions. Revelation 20:12 tells of judgment where “…I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” The books (Old Testament and New Testament) reveal the standard of what we must do in order to please Him (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 1:3). Paul clearly links our actions to eternal punishment or reward (Romans 2:6-11 – note the variations of “do” and its direct relationship to the results). Jesus says that we will even be called into judgment for every careless word (Matthew 12:36). What we do and say impacts our eternal life.

But our actions also enrich our earthly life and the lives of others. I think the scripture makes it clear that God does not want us to live holy lives to prepare for a grand accounting, but in order to share in His holiness and to be like His righteous Son. Jesus lived the life of a servant and had a tremendous impact on the lives of those He touched. A life that serves God and others is the life revealed in God’s word.

The Bible teaches that we have all fallen short of the standard God has set (Romans 3:23). The question is, how will you react to your failure to be holy? You can beat yourself up and say that you’ll never be able to live up to God’s standard but, in truth, you are blaming God for your lack of effort. You can say that you have too many sins or you have messed your life up too much, but that is accusing God of having insufficient grace. However, God wants you to take two important steps.

First, be reconciled to Him through His Son. We must believe what the gospel says about Jesus and confess Him as God’s Son (Romans 10:9-15). We must also turn away from a life that is dedicated to honoring self instead of God and the sin that separates us from God (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19). We must also submit to baptism, immersion in water, which is a burial and resurrection with Christ, so that our sins may be cleansed (Romans 6:1-14). Note that it is not the actions themselves that save us but obeying the will of God that commands these things. When we sin after we are baptized, we can repent and pray to God to forgive us (1 John 2:1-5).

Second, as a child of God you have the duty and privilege to bring others to God to receive the forgiveness, hope, peace, and joy that you received. The reaction of the Samaritan woman in John 4 is a great example of one who lived an unrighteous life but used the testimony of her past (“Come see a man who told me all things I ever did”) to bring others to Jesus. If you have overcome a type of sin or habit you are in a better position to help others overcome that sin or habit better than someone who has no experience with it. We should not indulge in sin so we can help others–we must strive for holiness–but when we do fall, we should use our failures to help others succeed. God can help us use our defeats to bring victory in our life and the lives of others.

Do not let yourself be defined by failures of your past. What has been done cannot be changed, only forgiven. But yesterday’s actions do not demand the same actions today. When we give up because of past sins, we allow history to steal the present and hinder the opportunity for a brighter future. When we give our sins to God, make the choice to reject sin, and strive for holiness we will become more like Jesus and less like what we were. Jesus can clean up a polluted life, fix what is damaged, and create a wonderful child who lives a satisfying life and makes a positive imact on the lives of others.

A Seared Conscience

I hate going to the dentist.  I hate the smell of the chemicals when I walk in the door.  I hate to sit in the chair and wait for the dentist as a convict on death row would wait for an executioner.  Most of all, I hate the pain.  I really hate the pain.  The dental assistant will usually come in before the ordeal begins and give me a shot to deaden the nerves around the offending tooth.  I’ve learned that their definition of “this won’t hurt a bit” and mine are quite different.  Though I hate the shot, I could not imagine the pain of the dentist’s drill without the Novocain.

No one, except someone who is mentally unstable, enjoys pain.  We seek to avoid emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual pain if possible.  Some pain is good.  Body pains can warn us of serious internal problems that need medical attention.  A slap on a child’s bottom for almost sticking a bobby pin into an electrical outlet is preferable to the child “plugging himself in.”  (Trust me on this one~)  Spiritual conflict, or a pained conscience, can help us choose good behaviors over bad.

God gave us a conscience as a decision making aid.  When we do what is right, our conscience will approve our actions.  When we sin, our conscience is pricked, we feel uncomfortable, and, hopefully, are motivated to correct our sin.  A bothered conscience has stolen many hours of sleep.  The conscience will sometimes relentlessly torture us if we feel we have grossly violated our core beliefs.  This is good.

We should not want to have a troubled conscience; on the contrary, we ought to live so that our conscience is relatively quiet.  When we do what we know we should do, our conscience gives us no argument.  Though the conscience is very important, it cannot be (with all due respect to Jiminy Cricket) our only guide.

The conscience is good only when the Word of God has trained it.  The Bible is the standard of right and wrong.  As we study the Bible and learn its precepts, principles, and the example of Jesus, we train our conscience how to judge right and wrong correctly.  Often the conscience will call to mind specific scriptures that we have violated when we sin, or will commend us with scripture when we have done what we should.

However, the conscience does not dominate our thoughts.  We can ignore its warning rendering it ineffective.  When I lived in Florida, it was nothing to see people ignore hurricane warnings when a storm was just off the coast.  Many die in tornados and hurricanes because they do not listen to the warnings.  We can hear alarms but choose not to react.  People may, through selfish desire, ignore their conscience and continue in sin until finally the conscience is silent. 

Paul warned of these people in 1 Timothy 4:2 whose conscience had been “seared with a hot iron.” If you sear your flesh with a hot iron, the nerves in that area will die.  You can stick the skin with pins but will feel nothing.  These false teachers continue in sin until their consciences, seared by disobedience, cease to be effective. 

Others sear their conscience through ignorance.  In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul warns that those who persist in ignorance of God’s will “lose feeling” and indulge in lewd behavior.  Neither the holiness of godly living nor the common sense of avoiding a self-destructive life motivates them.

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