“Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace.” —2 Corinthians 1:12
If I feel that I may have done something wrong, whether it is saying something hurtful to someone or commenting negatively on someone’s Facebook wall, I cannot sleep. No matter what I do, I just can’t sleep. Maybe this is me thinking too much or making a big deal over small things, but I have spent nights feeling uneasy, replaying in my mind what I did and speculating how the other party may have been hurt. The problem is that these convictions come to me when I lie down, which is mostly deep in the night, when everyone except me is already sleeping. I can’t do anything about it until morning, which means that I will have to spend the night in restless agony.
I am honestly not sure of the order: if the awareness that I have done wrong hinders me from sleeping or if the fact that I can’t sleep means I must have done wrong. Whatever it is, once the Spirit activates the “moral radar” of my conscience, my soul becomes restless. Wesley says it well: conscience is “the tribunal in the breast of men to accuse sinners.” The Spirit witnesses to my spirit that I have gone beyond my limit or fallen short of the standard so that I could be brought to repentance and godly character.
I recognize clearly that those sleepless nights are moments when my bedroom becomes God’s sanctuary, where my godly sorrows are seedbeds of divine character being planted in my life. Without the work of God on my conscience, I would move on with my life, unmindful of my shortcomings and therefore stunted in my Christian growth.
As Paul wrote, “our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations . . . with integrity and godly sincerity” (2 Corinthians 1:12). We need this divine work in our lives. We can be so blind about our weaknesses and can easily overlook wrongdoings that become part of our routine. We can even use our personality as an excuse for the things we do and don’t do. We can be the most oblivious person about the big stain in our own faces. It is helpful to have friends who are honest and kind enough to point them out to us, but what if we don’t have such friends?
Thankfully, God has provided for us everything we need, especially for right living, through our knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:3). He does not leave us to ourselves to figure out what is right and wrong or good and evil. He has given us the Holy Spirit to convict us and lead us back to the right path.
I am certain that the uneasy feelings are not mere mental perceptions but evidences to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, reminding me of my behavior. This is a part of God’s continuous and gracious transforming work in my life—slowly but surely—into His image. Conscience works in our favor, no matter how painful it may be. The gentle persuasion through the Holy Spirit is powerful because it brings us back to the authority of the Word in our lives.
Dick Eugenio is the academic dean of Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary and discipleship coordinator for the Philippine-Micronesia Field.
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