Don’t Forget Your Compass!

Paul frequently compared the Christian experience to war. He refers to Christians as “soldiers” and
charges us to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). In 1 Timothy 1:18-19 Paul charged
Timothy to “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience, which some have
rejected, concerning the faith and have suffered shipwreck.”

We often run to Ephesians 6 to talk about the “full armor of God” and the weapons of our warfare, but
here Paul reduces the list to just two items we should be holding while fighting our spiritual battles –
“faith and a good conscience.”

Whether on land or sea, the compass is an essential item for determining direction. During the day
one might utilize the position of the sun and during the night one might use the position of the stars,
but when you have neither the compass becomes the pointer that helps ensure you are moving
forward in the right direction. For the Christian, our compass to avoid shipwreck is both faith and a
good conscience.

When Paul says “faith” he is not talking about a blind walk through the thick fog with your fingers
crossed, hoping you don’t run into something bad or go in the wrong direction. Paul defines faith in
Romans 10:17 as hearing God’s word. In other words, if you are using faith as your compass you are
listening to God speak through His Word; the Bible is your guide and compass.

In addition to faith we have the conscience. This too is an important element of the Christian
compass, although we seldom talk about it outside of the Romans 1 context which refers to Gentiles
prior to the Christian era as a people without a written codified law. Paul says the Gentiles had a law
of sorts written on their hearts, the conscience. However, we are usually quick to then point out the
conscience is not a very good guide as it can become seared, callused, or poorly managed. We are
quick to cite Jeremiah 17:9 and Proverbs 14:12 as evidence that man should not be left to guide
himself. We then become susceptible to dismissing the conscience altogether – “throwing the baby
out with the bathwater” so to speak.

Paul tells Timothy a “good conscience” is essential to fighting the good fight. Of course, the important
thing to note here is that the conscience must be “good,” which means it must be properly educated
and protected by the hearing of God’s Word. What a wonderful blessing for God to make us with an
“operating system” (to borrow from computer terms) and also gave us an “anti-virus” utility/diagnostic
tool as well.

Our lives are filled with situation that require us to make a moral decision. In these instances God’s
Word must always be our guide. In addition to knowing something is wrong, the conscience is there
to ensure it feels wrong too. If your gut is uneasy and your mind is flashing yellow lights, you would
be wise to pull back from action “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
If we stop listening to God and begin to ignore our conscience there is only one outcome waiting for
us on the other side – Shipwreck!

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