Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spiritual Warfare and the believer's conscience

Prayer: Father we are spiritual beings who live in the physical realm. As we study this portion of your Word please illuminate our heart and minds that we might better understand our inner man. In Jesus Name Amen. Our enemy, the Devil, is an enemy who operates in the area of extremes. He will either tempt us to harden our conscience or cause it to become overly sensitive. Either extreme will do great harm to our walk with the Lord. Please read Hebrews 9:1-4. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews directs our thoughts to Christ. In doing so, he addresses one of the bugaboos with which we live and must deal, the conscience deep within each one of us. This powerful inner voice can prod us or punish us. It can be wrongly programmed to make us feel guilty when guilt is undeserved. On the other hand, our conscience can be seared and hardened, giving us the feeling of approval when we should in fact feel wrong. Thanks to Hebrews 9, we are given valuable instruction regarding the conscience. First, the internal external distinctions. Externally, we have a body that can be touched and handled. Internally, we have a conscience that sends us gut-wrenching signals or strokes of confirmation. There are also tangibles without. Both the Old and New Testaments contain passages showing the relationship of our externals to our internals. Note several examples (I Samuel 16;7; Matthew 10:28; II Corinthians 4:16). And there are tangibles within. Inside our amazing bodies are networks of interrelated feelings and impulses. The soul, will, and spirit from which these extend are closely tied to that powerful, but unseen, force: the conscience. No doctor can perform surgery on the conscience, even though it may give us terrible pain. Second, there are external regulations: the Tabernacle. There is the arrangement of the furniture. The ancient place of worship was a temporary, portable structure. Within it was a variety of furnishings placed in particular positions to assist the people in their worship of God. Then there was the activities of the priests. Nothing was wrong with the duties performed by the priests and recounted by the writer of Hebrews. However they had two limitations: first the ritual changed nothing within a person and second, the ritual represented something of greater importance and was itself only a symbol. Perhaps we could say that the activities in the tabernacle were something like a religious play: the movements lacked power in themselves, but were "imposed until a time of reformation". The point is clear: you cannot, by doing something external, solve a problem That's internal (Note Numbers 21:4-9 and II Kings 18:1-4). Third, the internal restoration: the Christ "But when Christ appeared" With these four words, the writer introduces the significance of the inner person, that dimension which is of far greater value. When Jesus died, arose, and ascended into heaven, He replaced symbol with lasting reality. Four things regarding His priestly ministry should be noted. 1. The tabernacle He entered was not made with human hands. 2. The blood He brought to the altar was not that of a bull, a goat, or a heifer. 3. The blood He offered was His own. 4. His sacrifice provided a permanent solution "Once for all." What was the result? Eternal redemption. What does His blood cleanse? The conscience-from dead works. Forth, appropriation for internal changes. God is anxious for us to turn our attention to the internals. To do so is to follow His own example. How do we do it? Simple: Stop emphasizing the externals. Get rid of the ritual religion onto which you've hung. Cease the empty motions. Put aside the symbols you've come to worship and for which you've fought. Start focusing on the internals. Go beneath the surface of the symbols and get to their significance. Place far more value on what is inside. Relax in what Christ has done for you personally. Remember: His blood was shed to wash your conscience from dead works so that you can serve the living God. How is your conscience doing? Are you programming it by a daily intake of Scripture? Do you deal with sin immediately, through confession, restoration and by keeping short accounts with God? We must take very good care of our inner sanctuary.

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