The approval of one’s own conscience is a very heavy draft; and specially for those who are not accustomed to it.
C.S. Lewis speaking of Mark Studdock in That Hideous Strength
An interesting question to mull is: Why do so many people actively fight their conscience? It is a painful, unnecessary and unsatisfactory war. The conscience – a gift from God that makes us human, rather than just animal – is a tool that can be used by the individual to guide them in making moral and ethical decisions. But once that tool has been foregone consciously over and over again, the individual finds the tool falling into disuse; rust and corrosion break it down and the humanity of that person fades into animalistic tendencies that reveal very little in their intelligence beyond instinct (ironically even a self-destructive instinct which is not found in the animal world).
Indeed I believe that the conscience is one of the most powerful ways in which God’s Spirit speaks to us and guides us. The scary prospect of that belief is that the shunning of the conscience then corresponds directly to what is mentioned in Matthew 12 and Mark 3 where Jesus talks about what has been called the “unforgivable sin” (i.e. blasphemy of the Holy Spirit). I think that it’s important to realize that the context of those passages was in talking to the Pharisees and teachers of the law who had seen Jesus’ miracles and heard Jesus’ teaching first hand, but then refused to accept His actions and words as truth … no matter how much the Spirit had pricked their hearts.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law had so hardened their hearts to anything outside of themselves and their own expectations and predispositions about the coming Messiah that it was impossible to accept Jesus’ leading through His Spirit in the inner man. It was a direct and purposeful numbing of the spiritual senses to the truth that permeated the words they had studied most. In spite of in-depth study and parsing of the Torah and the Prophets – which, incidentally, all pointed to Jesus – they had become “ever seeing but never perceiving” (Mark 4:12).
Just as powerfully as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day missing the truth in their studies is Paul’s missive on the ‘wise’ (of every generation) in Romans 1, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse … Although they claimed to be wise, they become fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom 1:20,22). If the religious leaders missed the God revealed in the Holy Scriptures which they studied, the scientists and scholars missed the God revealed to them in nature and instead replaced Him with themselves or with the lesser things which He had made. It was a direct and purposeful numbing of the spiritual senses to the truth that permeated the natural things which they had studied most. The character referenced in the C.S. Lewis quote above fell into this category. He was so convinced of his own infallible knowledge that he missed the simple and elegant truths that surrounded him and even made their homes in the very things which he had dedicated his life to study.
But there is a third category of those who blaspheme against the Spirit by suppressing their conscience: the selfishly lazy. This is by far the largest group of Spirit blasphemers. This group may care … to an extent … about the God revealed in the scriptures and in nature, but it doesn’t matter enough to them to actually CHANGE them. They never make a conscious, purposeful decision to suppress what their conscience (the Spirit) is telling them, they simply allow their momentary appetites to overwhelm their need to do something about the truths they see. This group’s selfishness doesn’t necessarily reveal itself through haughty attitudes or even a disregard for the plight of others. It shows instead through neglect and laziness. If the Spirit leads them to an action or word at a particular point in time, they put it off ‘because the time isn’t right,’ or ‘there is a better way to do it,’ or ‘there will be a chance to do this in the future.’ Their current appetite trumps their spirit and the physical world trumps the spiritual world. It is an IN-direct and UN-purposeful (perhaps) numbing of the spiritual senses to the truth of their interactions with others and the revelation of God.
No matter the way in which the conscience is suppressed, when it falls into disuse and is suddenly allowed to work as a welcome guide again, it feels an uncommonly powerful instrument to the one who receives its leading. The “very heavy draft” of spiritual leading sends the un-exercised spirit of the person receiving it reeling. It interrupts and suppresses the effects of the person’s selfishness and hubris, somehow making life more understandable, ordered and worthwhile. The heady experience of coming to ones right mind in regard to the world, how it was created and by whom it is sustained suddenly sets aright the bent worldview of the suppressed conscience and reveals the true, unerring guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is a direct and purposeful reverence for the spiritual leading of God. How could this kind of interaction be anything less than mind-altering, body-altering and spirit-altering? That God – the creator and sustainer of all things – would deign to establish a relationship with us at the beginning, come to earth to RE-establish that relationship with us after we had destroyed it, and then to guide us to Himself through every moment of our lives, is exhilaratingly powerful and reveals the truth of the physical world and all of history for what it always was meant to be: a walk of the righteous with God throughout eternity.
Lord, may we never suppress Your Spirit in His guidance of our troubled souls in this fallen world. Please take away our religious hypocrisy, our hubris and our laziness and reveal to us anew Your glory.