This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.
—1 Timothy 1:18–19
Apostle Paul gave this advice to a new preacher, Timothy. Paul had much experience and had many words of support for the younger Timothy, who was endeavoring in his new duty. We have also perhaps heard those words from fellow believers, “keep faith and a good conscience.” This loving advice from one weary traveler to another encourages us in our spiritual battle.
Faith is the gift that we most preciously treasure. We pray that God will preserve us in faith until we breathe our last breath on earth. Have you, though, ever paused to think about these words of advice? Why are you advised to “keep faith and a good conscience?" Why not just “keep faith”?
The Conscience Detects Temptation
How important to our faith is a good conscience? Let us pause first to consider what the duty of the conscience is. We inherently know its duty. The conscience has the role of detecting when sin and temptation approach us and it provides a warning system to avoid that temptation. When we fall into sin, the conscience also has the duty to remind us that we have erred. It continues to remind us of that until matters are cared for.
We can liken our conscience to a body’s nervous system—our senses. Our senses are crucial to our well-being, our safety and our life. Our eyes, ears, mouth, nose and skin tell our brain when we are safe or in danger, or whether a nearby object is a threat to our safety. If our nerves or senses become deadened, we may not be able to detect a danger that we face. Just as our bodily senses are integral to our safety and survival, so is our conscience integral to our faith.
If an accident occurs or if we are harmed in some way, our nerves continuously send our brain the message that we need help and care. If we fall into sin, our conscience continuously reminds us to take care of the matter. In both cases, pain encourages us to act. However, if our conscience becomes deadened, our faith may be in grave danger.
There are various conditions that may cause damage to our bodily senses, such as an injury or loss of blood. But how does a conscience become deadened? How does its effectiveness become diminished? This may be a difficult question to answer. As humans, we are tempted by sin.
Humans throughout time have struggled with desire to be wealthy, popular and influential. We humans are especially tempted by sensual desires. We feel such urges within us. Our conscience reminds us when temptations approach, no matter which form they take.
The Conscience Can Lose Its Sensitivity
But when we are tempted, we may take a little step…just to test the waters. Perhaps we are tempted to use an expletive while telling a story at school or work. Maybe we find ourselves listening to a worldly tune. Maybe we innocently open a link in an email or text message, not realizing that the content we’re about to view may bring our mind to a place not appropriate or healthy for a believer. If in these situations we fall into sin and ignore the warnings of our conscience, it may begin to lose its sensitivity. This is dangerous to our faith life. Ultimately, unforgiven sin makes the conscience become hardened. The voice of the Holy Spirit is no longer heard there.
The Apostle James reminds us, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (1:14–15). The devil knows our weaknesses. He may lure us into sin with a small temptation, but soon we may be engulfed in a place of sin we never intended to be in. We want to remember that our faith is a gift given to us by God. This gift must be watched over and cared for. Apostle Paul reminded the Thessalonian believers, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5:6). We want to keep our conscience clean so that our faith does not become shipwrecked.
We Need to Care for Our Faith
None of us believers are perfect. Paul reminds the Romans that “There is none that doeth good, no, not one” (3:12). We all need to care for our faith through the power of the gospel. We continue to take care of sin as it besets us or when sin remains on our heart and troubles our conscience. This is part of the endeavor of faith. We may grow weary in our daily battle, struggling against the threefold enemy.
Dear brother and sister, be encouraged today! We have a great gift in God’s kingdom. We can use the gospel that takes care of our matters. What better salve for our tired, sin-sick souls than Jesus’ precious blood that He shed for your sins and mine. The gospel of the forgiveness of sins has the power to heal our ailing conscience and to strengthen our weary faith.
We can be thankful today that God has brought us up to this moment. He has promised to carry us to our last day on this earth.