“Conscience is God’s throne in man, and the power of it His prerogative.”
Men and women have been led to great utterances. We’re not talking about speaking in tongues here; that is a subject of much controversy and beyond the scope of this simple post. I am speaking of a clarity that sometimes happens.
I can explain it better this way.
I am blessed to teach a Sunday School class. My students are at times unruly and very often ignorant, but I do my best. That was flippant by the way. My class consists of senior saints ranging in age from late fifties to early eighties (one of whom is my mother). I am humbled by them often and wonder why God has blessed me with the call to teach them. I often wonder what exactly it is that I can teach them.
Every week I attempt to make the lesson relevant for my people. It’s a general lesson provided by senior pastors commissioned by Lifeway (an imprint of the Southern Baptist Convention), so it has to be tweaked for a specific audience. In my case, that audience is a specific group of senior adults.
I prepare an outline and always have in mind what I am going to say, but I leave the specifics for the situation and the questions that are asked. During these lessons, I sometimes am blessed with insight I know is not mine. I believe that I am guided in these lessons by the Spirit. He gives me the answers and the words to say when I need them. When I look back at something I have said and realize there is no way I could have reasoned that answer, I am humbled. God is good!
Not that anything I say could in anyway be mistaken for “great”, but I am often amazed at what the Holy Spirit says through me. If you have ever witnessed to someone else (as I trust you have), taught a class or preached, you have likely been privy to the same understanding. We are but tools in the Master’s hand. And I would say that we should all be awed, fearful and grateful that we are used thus.
But all of this doesn’t get at the meaning of the seed we are provided with today.
William Penn was a Quaker who, seeking religious liberty (as many were at the time), left England for the American colonies. Being favored by the King, he was given a large land grant he called Pennsylvania. You may have heard of it. He founded the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia (famous for its rowdy, unforgiving sports fans).
Penn realized that we are not the captains of our own fate (as some poets would have us believe), God is. He sits on the throne no matter how many times we try to elbow Him out of the way.
How does He control us? Through conscience.
But don’t nonbelievers have consciences also? If that is the case, how can we say that God controls by using that device? An interesting conundrum maybe, but is it. Or, maybe God answers the question already.
God causes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous alike and the rain to fall on both likewise (Matthew 5:45). Job’s detractors learned the lesson that God was (and is) in control of all things when He answered the last charge for Job. There are many other examples of God’s control over events large and small. One such example can be found in I Kings 19:11-13.
“Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and he went out and stood in the entrance to the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””
What is our conscience? Is it a large voice that demands compliance (it can sometimes feel that way), is it the insistent chirping of an overly self-important cricket (Jiminy Cricket that is), or is it a gentle question? To Elijah, and I would argue to each of us, it is the ‘still small voice’.
So, God controls all and He talks to us, through our consciences, in a still small voice. What drowns Him out? Why don’t people listen to His voice?
I think the answer is twofold. One reason for the unsaved, and the second for the believing and the unbelieving.
- The unsaved don’t have the immediate, indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian, I acknowledge, and am blessed by, the guiding of the Holy Spirit. Christ sent us a Comforter Who is also God within us. He gently guides out path. Conscience is His prodding.
- Sin can be found in the wind, earthquake and fire. So, if the Holy Spirit is there for us, why do we not always hear Him? Why isn’t the pressure He exerts always felt? One word…SIN. The sin in our lives (whether we are saved or unsaved) creates a noise that drowns out the Spirit.
- Why don’t all people come to Christ…sin.
- Why do Christians wander from the path…sin.
- Why don’t we have the constant victory God offers us…sin.
Of course, Christians know why we fail; we don’t heed I Thessalonians 5:19. So you don’t have to look it up, it says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Although that can be interpreted many ways, I believe it is talking about not allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us along the “narrow way”. It is about following our own path.
Getting back to Penn’s quote…God’s power is demonstrated in His use of conscience. He exerts a gentle pressure, but He also expects us to heed it. It is “His throne” and “prerogative”. Basically, it is His basis in our lives (the throne) and it is His right to control.
When we give God His throne in our lives, we also give Him the right to guide our lives. That is what Mr. Penn was saying. He was saying…
“Hey Christian! Don’t quench the Spirit!”