Commentary on "Guilt""
Day 4: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - Sapped Strength
“What things that once bothered you now don’t? If so, might that be a seared conscience at work? Try to step back and take a good look at things you do that don’t bother your conscience but perhaps should.” (Teacher’s Quarterly, Page 58)
The lesson’s statements regarding a “seared conscience” sound good, until you read the entire passage from 1 Timothy.
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 1:1-5 NASB)
Far from being a recommendation from Paul that Timothy get into the habit of asking for forgiveness, lest Timothy eventually suffer from a “seared conscience,” this is Paul’s warning that false teachers already were at work among the members of the body of Christ.
What was the cause of these teachers’ falling away from faith? “Paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” How were these messages from the spirits and demons spread? “By means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.” What messages were these false teachers bringing? They were “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared…”
It is clear that these teachers’ seared consciences were the result of paying attention to the spirits and demons. It was not the result of their failing to confess their sins.
In short, this is a warning against legalism, and, as usual, legalists try to “spin” the warning away from its true meaning. Adventists are by no means alone in this. I have heard similar teaching from nearly every denomination. Some are worse than others, but all miss the point.
Here is what the Bible teaches. It is grace, the very indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, that teaches us to say No to ungodliness (see Titus 2:11-14). It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict me of sin, not in terms of bad behaviors, which are the symptoms, but in terms of my failure to believe in Jesus, which is the root cause (see John 16:8-9). It also is the Holy Spirit’s job to convince me that I have eternal life (see 1 John 5:9-13). It is the Holy Spirit’s job to renew my mind (see Romans 12:1-2). It is the Holy Spirit’s job to reveal the meaning of God’s word to me (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-16).
The Holy Spirit is the sole source of truth regarding my relationship with God, because the Holy Spirit is God. There is plenty of discipline (see Hebrews 12:1-13), but no punishment (see 1 John 4:14-18). Why? Because the Holy Spirit has sealed me for salvation (see Ephesians 1:13-14).
All this talk of guilty feelings and a seared conscience is the result of a behavioral approach to salvation, justification, sanctification and the end of days. If we would let the Bible speak for itself, let Jesus be Who He claimed to be, accept His gifts of forgiveness and eternal life, allow Him to love us, allow His love to spill over to others around us and praise Him for His total victory – now and in the future – we just might be surprised how quickly guilt turns to joy! If we would take our eyes off ourselves and fix them on Jesus, we will be changed.
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