Know Your Bible

VOL. 14                                                                                                                         April 24, 2016                                                                                                                            NO. 6




Let’s Make Plans Now To Put God First!



In Matthew 12:41, Jesus said, "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here." According to Jesus, the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah. 

You remember the story, don't you? God had commanded Jonah, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me" (Jonah 1:2). Now Nineveh was not only a city filled with wickedness, it was also the capital of the Assyrians, hated enemies of the Israelites. Jonah didn't want to go.  He fled from God's presence. However, after being given some quality time in the belly of a fish to reflect and pray, Jonah decided to obey God.  Jonah walked through the city proclaiming the judgment of the Lord upon these pagan people: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (Jonah 3:4).

The people of Nineveh repented. They "proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them" (Jonah 3:5). When word came to the king of Nineveh, "he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes." He decreed that "neither man nor beast, herd nor flock" were to eat or drink and that "every one" was to "turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hand" (Jonah 3:7-8). 

The text says that, "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them" (Jonah 3:10). God can read men's hearts. He knows more about what is going on in our heads than we do ourselves. But He did not need to read the minds of the Ninevites to know that they had repented.  He "saw their works, that they turned away from evil". When the men of Nineveh repented, nobody was left to wonder whether or not their repentance was genuine. Nobody was left guessing about their intention to stop committing evil. Nobody would have doubted they had actually repented of their sins.

We really need to learn this lesson from the men of Nineveh. We need to learn how to act when we repent.  Repentance isn't just saying "excuse me," "my bad," or "forgive me," and then going on with our lives as if nothing happened.  Repentance should produce real change in our actions.  We are to "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Matthew 3:8). I am afraid that too many of us think that our repentance should go unnoticed. We are incognito repenters!  And while God hardly asks us to don sackcloth and ashes today, He does ask us to "do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20).

Let's resolve to turn away from sin in our lives, and make sure that we behave in such a way that folks can tell that's what we've done! 

—Steve Klein

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The Scriptures speak of the conscience 28 to 31 times, depending on the translation. Different word authorities put the definition in different words, but the definition of pretty well states the idea expressed by most definitions:

“The inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action.”

It seems to be a sense of “ought” and “ought not;” or “right” and “wrong” that God made an integral part of the human psyche that is needed to push one in the direction of what he believes to be right.

The conscience is a great moral and spiritual navigator, but an awfully poor map. The advice often given, “Let your conscience by your guide,” is not the best advice. The best advice is, “search the Scriptures daily to see if the things are so,” and then conscientiously follow the “things that are so.” (Acts 17:11). Saul of Tarsus was able to persecute Christians with a good conscience (Acts 23:1), because he verily thought that it was the thing he ought to do (Acts 26:9). The conscience can only react to what one THINKS to be right or wrong.

Though one cannot blindly follow his conscience, he still must always follow it. But, you say, that contradicts what you have just said. No, it is just that one must make sure that which the conscience feeds on is the objective truth revealed in the Scriptures and not his own subjective views or that of some other person. Even after one has intelligently determined the truth from the Scriptures, he still needs a sensitive conscience to push him in the direction revealed in the Scriptures and to pull him back when he errs from that direction.

For this reason the Scriptures seems to go out their way to keep the conscience tender and responsive under all circumstances. We are warned against violating our consciences and not to try to influence others to violate theirs (Rom. 14 and 1 Cor. 8). It is important that the conscience be not seared or dulled (1 Tim. 4:2). This is likely what happened to those who Peter said, “cannot cease from sin.” (2 Pet. 2:14). The conscience must be kept tender. Continually overriding it hardens it. That is why that even in doubtful things we must not override our doubts. To do so is sin. (Rom. 14:23). Not only must we not override our doubts, we must not say or do things that would put others in a position, in order to please us, that they would have to override their conscientious doubts. Love for our brethren demands this. So, we must both protect our consciences and that of our brothers and sisters in Christ. It might be that further study of the word of God might settle those doubts and our love for others would suggest such study. But as long as a brother’s doubt persists, even if I have no doubts about the matter at hand, love for my brother demands that I help him keep a good conscience.

Now, we are not speaking of those things that Scriptures and conscience say that must be done. In those things one must do them regardless of the effect it has on others. But, we are talking about that area of things that one has the LIBERTY to do (authorized liberties), but does not have the OBLIGATION to do. It is something that one may do or not do and still have a good conscience toward God – while at the same time a dear brother cannot do and is grieved at our doing it. Should not love override our freedom in such cases.

Let brotherly love continue.” (Hebrews 13:1)

—Edward O. Bragwell, Sr.

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