ECHOES FROM EDEN
CONSCIENCE IN THE GARDEN
"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, AND WERE NOT ASHAMED...and the women took of the fruit, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they KNEW THAT THEY WERE NAKED; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (Gen. 2:25; 3:6-7).
The first chapters in the Book of Genesis stand unmoved and immovable, as a record which is still more up to date than ALL modern human wisdom and knowledge. The first three chapters of Genesis are stupendous miracles of TRUTH. The entire plan, purpose, and economy of God are as visible there as the stars which come to the view of human eyes in the darkness of night. The word "genesis" of course means "origin" or "beginning," and the Book of Genesis gives the only true and reliable account of how ALL THINGS and ALL CONDITIONS and ALL STATES OF BEING came into existence. Gen 1:1 reads, "In the beginning God created..." In the Hebrew text this word "beginning" is in the plural number - "beginnings." There were many things begun all at the same time, as the manifold wisdom of God found expression in innumerable ways to bring forth into the realm of visibility the majestic purposes of God.
This truth forms the springboard for the thoughts we would share in this study concerning the CONSCIENCE. It is not difficult to understand the conscience. The word "conscience" is translated, in the Bible, from the Greek word "suneidesis" meaning, CO-PERCEPTION or A KNOWING WITH ONESELF. The root from which it comes means "to understand, to be aware, to see completely." When the Scripture says of Adam and Eve, "The eyes of them both were opened, and they KNEW THAT THEY WERE NAKED," it means that the eyes of their carnal understanding, sense knowledge, were opened and suddenly THEY KNEW THEMSELVES. Ones conscience indicates the nature of what he understands and perceives. To perceives right from wrong is one function of the conscience. To condemn or justify is another one of its functions.
THE ORIGIN OF THE CONSCIENCE
Let us now look at the origin of the human conscience. When did it first exist, and how did it come into being? The word "conscience" is used 32 times in the New Testament, but not appear at all in the Old Testament. This does not mean that the Old Testament has nothing to say about the conscience, merely that it is spoken of in terms other than the actual word, for man's conscience is clearly one of the myriad things that had its beginning in the first three chapters of Genesis.
"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed...and the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, Goth hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, THEN YOUR EYES SHALL BE OPENED, and ye shall be as gods, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And THE EYES OF THEM BOTH WERE OPENED, and they KNEW THAT THEY WERE NAKED; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (Gen 2:25; 3:2-8).
There is no doubt as to the innocence of Adam and Eve when they were first created. As man stood in the garden, he was neither holy nor unholy, he was innocent, brought forth by the hand of God, pure, innocent, undefiled, and to be sure, very unproven and untried. I know that most theologians will tell us that Adam was holy, but there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that. Holiness, as you know, is one of the attributes of God, eternal, unchangeable, and indestructible. If Adam had truly been holy by nature he could not have sinned! No, my brother, God did not create Adam holy, He created him innocent, without self-consciousness before God or the creation; the one thing Adam was conscious of was GOD and only of himself in relation to the One Whose will he was in a primeval state, like a newborn babe. At that time he was not ashamed of his nakedness anymore than a day-old infant is ashamed. This proves that within man there was NO CONCEPT OF GOD AND EVIL, right or wrong, showing that there was neither the feeling nor the function of the conscience.
Then the command was given, "But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, ye shall not eat of it, lest ye die." Now we have a law - the command is clearly stated - will we obey, or disobey. Sin is the transgression of the law. Obedience is under trial. God set up a law, and this law was a TEST for the creature. It spake of death in the midst of life. Strange, solemn sound! Adam's life was suspended upon his strict obedience. The link which connected him with Lord God was obedience. And here he failed.
The serpent enters with a bold question as to divine revelation, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" This was Satan's crafty inquiry; and had the Word of God been dwelling richly in Eve's heart, her answer might have been direct, simple, and conclusive, as was that of the Lord Jesus in the hour of His temptation in the Wilderness of Judea. So the serpent continued his harassment, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Let us now inquire how far Adam and Eve realized the serpent point in connection with the fall of man. God has so ordained it THAT IN AND BY THE FALL, MAN SHOULD GET WHAT HE PREVIOUSLY HAD NOT - A CONSCIENCE, a knowledge of good and evil. This, man could not have had before. He could not have known naught about evil as evil had never been experienced. He was in a state of innocence, which is a state of ignorance of evil. Let all who read these lines meditate deeply upon this great fact: Man in the image of God was NOT CREATED WITH A CONSCIENCE; the conscience is A PRODUCT OF THE FALL!
As soon as man fell by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we read, "And the EYES OF BOTH OF THEM WERE OPENED, and they KNEW THAT THEY WERE NAKED...and Adam and his wife HID THEMSELVES FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD GOD amongst the trees of the garden." There is bitter pathos in this scene. Two people, conscience striken, overwhelmed with a sense of sin and shame, furtively slink away into the shadow to hide from God! "The eyes of them both were opened," no doubt about it; but, alas! to what a sight! - it was only to discover their own nakedness and shame. They had gained knowledge but had lost peace of soul and mind. No human tongue could possibly describe the awful nightmare that must have scared their souls when they awoke to their nakedness, unclothed, nude, undraped, disrobed, bare - BEFORE GOD! It was not any fresh knowledge of heavenly excellency they had attained, no fresh beams of divine light from the pure and eternal fountain of life and glory - alas! no; the very first knowledge that came was the shocking discovery that they were naked - followed swiftly by a chilling fear!
Do not forget for one moment, dear ones, that God, omnipotent, omniscient, PLANNED ALL THIS. Adam was intended by God, ere the morning stars sang, and the Sons of God shouted for joy, to take part in his own development unto perfection by a series of moral choices, with ensuing failure, sorrow, redemption, and discipline, whereby He would transform him FROM INNOCENCE INTO HOLINESS!
THE WORK OF THE CONSCIENCE
Now, it is well to understand how the conscience works. Some students of Scripture have divided the Bible into seven dispensations: the dispensations innocence, conscience, human government, promise, law, grace, and the kingdom. The first three dispensations are categorized according to the principle of government. In the dispensation of innocence we see the principle of GOD'S RULE; in the dispensation of conscience, the principle of SELF-RULE; and in the dispensation of human government, the principle of MAN'S RULE. Of the three kinds of government, the one which is under the rule of SELF is the one related to the CONSCIENCE. Before the fall, no sin barrier existed between God and man. This was the so-called dispensation of innocence, when man was ruled directly by God. He lived before God and was responsible to God. Man failed under God's rule in innocence and became sinful within and without: so the holy and righteous God drove man out from the realm of the Kingdom of God.
Consequently, from the time of Adam's expulsion from the Garden of Eden to the time of Noah's departure from the Ark, God established the conscience within man to represent Himself in ruling over man. This is the so-called dispensation of conscience. In this period man was ruled by his own conscience and was responsible to his own conscience. Under this self-rule, man again failed. He ignored the rebuke and control of the conscience, and God judged this dispensation by the flood. Paul writes of this rule of the conscience in Rom. 2:14-15: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another." The conscience represents God in ruling over man. Just as a nation governs its people through the police force, so also God governs the fallen man through the conscience. God set up the conscience within fallen man that man might govern himself according to the principles and laws of the knowledge of good and evil. If anyone acts contrary or is about to act contrary to this knowledge of good and evil, his conscience immediately condemns him and restrains him from going further astray and falling into corruption. Therefore, the major function of the conscience is to govern man.
LIVING ABOVE THE CONSCIENCE
There are man sacred realms of the revelation where I often fear to tread, not because I doubt their truth or fear to embrace the wonders which their truths portray, but I fear those reprobate souls who would with roughshod feet and unbowed head stomp in to gaze with unsanctified eyes at the burning bush of God's sacred revelation, and who, like those men of whom Jude wrote, with corrupted hearts turn the truth of God into a lie and the grace of God into lasciviousness. I now proceed to write of these sacred truths with godly fear and much prayer to God that He might safely hide the deep things of God from the carnal heads of the "wise and prudent" men and reveal them unto babes who walk in the love and fear of the Lord.
We have already noted how the first three dispensations of innocence, conscience, and human government reveal the principles of government: in the dispensation of innocence we see the principle of God's rule over man in the blessed realm of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth; in the dispensation of conscience, the principle of man's self-rule by the inner knowledge of good and evil; and in the dispensation of human government, the principle of man's rule over man by force.
Before returning to the rule of the conscience, there are a few things I should like to mention concerning human government and the principle of man's rule. After the flood, God told Noah, "Whose sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed (gen. 9:6). Because man was neither subject to God's rule nor obedient to self-rule, God authorized man to represent Himself in ruling over man. Therefore, not long afterwards there was the beginning of nations; there came into being among the human races the rule of political authorities, police and military authorities, the power of society and laws, and the control in the family. For example, in the nation there are the president, the officials, and the police; in a factory, the supervisors; and in a family the parents. These are authorities set up by God to represent Himself in ruling over fallen man. This is why Rom. 13:1-2 says, "Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority excepts from God - by His permission, His sanction; and those that exist do so by God's appointment. Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged. And those who resist will bring down judgement upon themselves - receiving the penalty due them" (Amplified Bible). This is the dispensation of human government, by which man is ruled by man and is responsible to man. All those who live under human rule are living before man. They dare not do many things because of the fear of man. Whenever they are not under man's jurisdiction and observation, they do as they please!
Sadly, the condition of many Christians today is the same! Their behavior STILL REQUIRES THE RULE OF MAN. Students must be controlled by their teachers, children by their parents, Churches by their Headquarters, ministers by their bishops, and believers by their pastors and elders! If that rule is not there they don't know what to do, nor how to walk, and their spiritual lives become disoriented and weak. This proves to a great degree that THEY ARE STILL LIVING IN THE FALLEN CONDITION OF BEING RULED BY MAN! We praise God for every Spirit-anointed ministry that God has set for the encouragement and strengthening of the body of Christ, they are examples to the flock, and we rejoice in that flow of life that emanates from each one, but I do not hesitate to declare to you, beloved brothers and sisters, that if you still need a man to RULE OVER YOU AS A LORD, whether apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, or elders, then you know nothing yet as you ought to know of what it means to be a Son of God led by the Spirit. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, THEY ARE THE SONS OF GOD" (Rom. 8:14).
But, let me ask you, is the principle of self-rule, of living by the conscience, superior in any way to the rule of man? I declare to you that it is not! Conscience means A KNOWING WITH ONESELF, and is, simply, the carnal consciousness of WHAT WE ARE. Many are astray as to this; they think that the conscience will bring us to God. Did it operate thus in the case of Adam and Eve? Assuredly not! In the very moment when their conscience sprang into life within their bosoms, the first thing they did was run from God and try to hide from Him! There is not sinner in the whole of the universe who has ever come to God by his conscience. Millions have come to God by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, certainly, but not one has been brought by his conscience! How can they? How could the sense of what I AM ever bring me back to God, if not accompanied by the faith of what HE IS? Impossible. Man's conscience will testify only of his shame, remorse, fear and self-reproach. It was acquired in and by the fall, it only proves that he sees himself, naked, and it drives man away from God. It was conscience that drove Adam behind the trees of the Garden, but it was THE REVELATION OF GOD WALKING AND SPEAKING that brought him forth from his hiding place into the presence of God. The consciousness of what he was terrified him; the revelation of what God was tranquilized him. The reality of what I am is met by the reality of what God is...and here is salvation!
Since man has been degraded from God's rule to self-rule and human rule, God, in saving man, and bringing him into the Kingdom of God, must recover man not only from human rule but also from self-rule, that man may once more live before God in simplicity and under His direct authority. In salvation God is not restoring us to the rule of the human conscience, but to the rule of GOD HIMSELF BY THE SPIRIT, that we may now pass through the conscience realm and live in the presence of God! Consider now how great are the words of the Lord Jesus, and with bowed head and yielded heart listen as He explains the wonder of an eternal life, saying, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (Jn. 17:3). The loss of the knowledge of God was death; but the knowing of God is life. Conscience is the knowing of self, and this knowing brings death. This necessarily makes life a thing outside of ourselves, and dependent upon what God is. Let me arrive at whatever amount of self-knowledge I may, it is not said that this is life eternal that I might know myself - but that I might know HIM! To know God AS HE IS is life eternal, blessed be the name of the Lord!
Self-rule and God's rule differ greatly. Self-rule means that a man lives by the feelings of conscience, being responsible to his conscience; whereas God's rule means that man lives BY THE REVELATION OF THE SPIRIT, being responsible to GOD. We know that God by the Holy Spirit lives in our spirit, and as new creatures in Christ Jesus we are now putting on THE MIND OF CHRIST. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST" (I Cor. 2:14,16).
The conscience has only the feeling of right or wrong. It condemns all that is wrong and justifies all that is right and good. But THE MIND OF CHRIST is above right and wrong, good and evil. The mind of Christ is above wrong and also above right; it is above evil and also good! It condemns all that is wrong and all that is evil, but it does not necessarily approve all that is right and all that is good. It accepts not only that which IS OF GOD, OF THE SPIRIT, AND OF LIFE.
Let me illustrate: Lying is condemned by the conscience while truthfulness is approved. If we live by the conscience, all is well as long as we do not lie, but tell the truth. However, if we live in the mind of Christ, walking by the sense of God, then not only can we not tell lies, but also we cannot always tell the truth. We have to ask: Are these words of God or of my self? God does not want us to lie, but neither does he want us to speak the truth. What God desires is that we speak HIS WORDS, WORDS THAT ARE OF HIM, OF THE SPIRIT, AND OF LIFE; not our own words, even if they are the truth! Therefore, when one is ministering the Word, whether he is speaking the truth or not will be witnessed to by the conscience. But as to what he should minister, what God is in mind for him to speak - this only can be witnessed by the Spirit. The conscience is unable to do anything in this respect. Only through the mind of Christ can one touch the mind of God and led by God to speak His words. These differences between the conscience and the mind of Christ are also the differences between self-rule and the rule of God! We have all had the experience of hearing someone give a good teaching, minister a good word, yet knowing by the Spirit that they had missed the mind of God and were not giving the word for that occasion. I have heard many so-called prophecies over the past years that were good so far as what they were saying, I could find no fault with the content, the words, yet I knew by the Spirit that they proceeded out of zeal, not out of anointing; out of the intellect of the speaker, not out of the mind of God. The saints judged the prophecy by the sound of the words, the truth of its message, and all shouted amen! never realizing that GOD HAD NOT SPOKEN ANYTHING.
Today there are too few that are living completely under the rule of God! Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the prize of the High Calling of God in Christ Jesus, that I may be member of that firstfruit company which shall reveal His all-surpassing glory, bringing deliverance to the creation. Many saints are living in a condition which is a combination of the three kinds of government. The greater part of their being is under human rule; they still need to be ruled by man. Another part of being is under self-rule, the rule of the human conscience. But only a small part of their being is under God's rule so that they are controlled by God directly. This is a very abnormal condition. Therefore, there is the need to have God deal with us more thoroughly so that we can, on the negative side, be delivered from the need for human rule, and from self-rule and, on the positive side, enter into God's rule to be directly under His control BY HIS SPIRIT OF LIFE WITHIN.
CLEANESED FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE
This brings us to a most marvelous verse of Scripture in Heb. 10:22. "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, HAVING OUR HEARTS SPRINKLED FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE." When quickened by the Spirit of revelation this passage staggers the imagination with its wonder. Such things are too wonderful for me! In our fallen state while yet our eyes are dim through the ravages of sin and death and the weak and insipid rule of conscience, we can but see through a glass darkly. But now comes the word, "Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience," - having the "evil conscience" REMOVED FROM OUR HEARTS by the blood of Christ!
The heart is the center of human life, and the conscience again is the center of the heart. By his conscience man not merely realizes that he commits sin, but that he is sinful, and alienated from God. He who desires to enter into the life of God must have his heart cleansed from an evil conscience. The words are translated "our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience," but the word sprinkled indicates a cleansing. Mention is often made in the New Testament of a clean or pure heart. Jesus said, "Blessed are the PURE in heart" (Mat. 5:8). Paul speaks of "love out of a PURE heart" (I Tim. 1:5). Peter exhorts the saints to "love one another with a PURE heart fervently" (I Pet. 1:22). The word CLEANSING is also used. We read of those who are described as God's people that God purified (CLEANSED) their hearts through faith (Acts 15:9). The purpose of the Lord Jesus concerning those who were His was "to purify (CLEANSE) to Himself a people of His own possession" (Titus 2:14). As regards ourselves we read, "Let us CLEANSE ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" (II Cor. 7:1). All these places teach us that CLEANSING is an inward work wrought within the HEART. The heart is cleansed from an evil conscience. The evil conscience is the human conscience acquired through disobedience in the fall. It is the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus that avails. The precious blood of Christ, which is HIS LIFE, will cleanse your heart, removing the evil conscience as soap and water remove a stain of dirt from a garment. The INCORRUPTIBLE LIFE in the Blood of Christ must be so brought by the Holy Spirit into direct contact with our hearts that our hearts become cleansed from an evil conscience. The power of HIS LIFE WITHIN removes all self-condemnation, as well as all self-knowledge and self-rule, that we may now enter, by His life, beyond the veil, into the HOLIEST OF ALL to live, no longer unto our conscience, but unto GOD!
Little do most saints realize how "sin-conscious" we still are, when we need to be far more "GOD CONSCIOUS." We still have such an awareness, a KNOWING of corruption and sin that surrounds us, and far too little of AN AWARENESS OF GOD, A KNOWING OF HIS ABIDING PRESENCE, AND THAT HE IS IN CONTROL OF ALL THINGS. Oh, to purged from all the "knowing of sin" and the "knowing of self" and all the discouragement and frustration that attends this, that His truth might spring forth from every avenue of our being and bear witness to the glory of God that is set before us. It was the partaking of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil, an entering into state of duality with its consciousness of evil as well as good, which brought such a state of confusion. It is now the KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST DWELLING WITHIN that shall bring peace and glory!
PURGING THE CONSCIENCE FROM DEAD WORKS
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself spot to God, PURGE YOUR CONSCIENCE FROM DEAD WORKS to serve THE LIVING GOD" (Heb. 9:14). The words of this beautiful passage of Scripture cast a ray of eternal hope across the gloomy pages of human tradition and ritualistic religion with its static creeds, ordinances, ceremonies and programs that for centuries have blinded men's minds and made their feet to stumble and lose their way so that they have become lost from the glorious and eternal reality of THE LIFE OF GOD IN THE SPIRIT. Oh that men might know that it is the Holy Spirit alone who makes men alive, and it is the Holy Spirit alone who must lead us into all truth and bring to fulfillment the purposes of God in our lives. Oh that men might know that we are the servants of THE LIVING GOD, and our spirits have been quickened by His Spirit that we might live by His Life. The flesh with all its slavish forms of religion and dead works, profiteth nothing. Fill your mind and life with as many doctrines, rituals, ceremonies and rules as you wish. It profits you nothing. Celebrate Mass every day of the week, if you so desire. It profits you nothing. Be baptized, join the Church, attend meetings every Sunday, take communion, serve on the committees, if you like. It profits you nothing. Give all your goods to feed the poor, or give your body to be burned. It profits you nothing, for you are still dead and chained by the power of inbred sin. Tradition and forms of religion and godliness can nothing for men except to cause them to walk in blindness. Men do not need religion. Men do not need external ordinances, rituals, rules and regulations which merely soothe the human conscience. They are one and all DEAD WORKS. Men need Christ. They need to KNOW HIM. Christ is the light of men and the light of the world, and all who follow Him will not walk in darkness but have the light of life, having their conscience PURGED FROM DEAD WORKS TO SERVE THE LIVING GOD!
I am persuaded that no man can serve his human conscience and at the same time serve THE LIVING GOD. I do not mean by this that the child of God has no conscience, but my earnest prayer to God is that all who read this message may quickly be brought to see that the true conscience of the child of God IS THE CONSCIENCE OF GOD HIMSELF and not the old HUMAN CONSCIENCE which has its existence in the fallen nature of Adam. The Scriptures do, indeed, testify that saints have a conscience, but I exhort you to pay heed to what kind of conscience it is!
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness IN THE HOLY GHOST" (Rom. 9:1). This is a conscience which resides IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, it originates in God, being the conscience of the NEW CREATION, of the SPIRIT, not the old conscience of the soul.
"Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a PURE HEART, and a GOOD CONSCIENCE" (I Tim. 1:5). Here are two items: a pure heart and a good conscience. The pure heart is the NEW HEART, the heart of the NEW SPIRIT. "A NEW HEART also will I give you, and a NEW SPIRIT will I put within you: I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh...and I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes" (Eze. 36:26-27). The good conscience is the NEW CONSCIENCE of the new spirit and the new heart, the voice of CHRIST WITHIN, directing our lives in the righteousness and will of God.
"Holding the mysteries of the faith IN A PURE CONSCIENCE" (I Tim. 3:9). Man has three main parts in his being: spirit, soul and body. Before we were born again our spirit was DEAD - it should be self-evident that the human conscience is not located in the unregenerate man's spirit, rather in his soul, for "the first man was made a LIVING SOUL" (I Cor. 15:45). The unregenerated man is like a car that is not running with all of its cylinders, he does not function in all three areas of being, only in two - soul and body. The regenerated man, born of Him who is made a QUICKENING SPIRIT, function in all three parts of his being - spirit, soul and body. When one has a clear understanding of the duality of the unregenerated man, and the tri-partite nature of the regenerated man, it becomes increasingly obvious that the regenerated man possesses a set of THREE OF ALL HIS FACULTIES, while the unregenerated man possesses only a set of TWO of his faculties.
Every child of God has a three-fold conscience. Within you body is the biological conscience which distinguishes between things which are cold or hot, painful or pleasurable, bitter or sweet, pretty or ugly etc. Within your soul is the psychological conscience which judges whether things are good or bad, legal or illegal, honest or dishonest etc. This is the conscience man got in the fall. Now, within your spirit is the spiritual conscience which determines WHETHER A THING IS OF GOD OR NOT OF GOD, OF LIFE OR NOT OF LIFE. The natural man is guided entirely by his biological and psychological consciences, making all judgments upon the basis of good and evil. The spiritual man, however, judges all things by the MIND OF CHRIST and discerns WHAT IS OF GOD AND OF LIFE.
The problem with the soulish conscience is, first, that it is a product of the fall; second, it is a conscience of condemnation which can never lead you to God; and thirdly, it is totally undependable, being CONDITIONED by the external influences of the world. To understand the truth of what I now say you have only to observe the life of a child. In their first bloom of innocence children can readily develop a sense of what is right. But as they grow older, deprived of original simplicity, imbibing of the voices, concepts, and influences of the world around them - of parents, friends, teachers, television, movies, books etc. - they become affected by the values they learn from these sources and their conscience becomes CONDITIONED TO JUDGE RIGHT AND WRONG BY THE STANDARD OF WHAT THEY ARE TAUGHT. Your conscience is like a computer into which data has been fed from childhood on. Your computer gives out the information that has been fed into it!
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; HAVING THEIR CONSCIENCE SEARED WITH A HOT IRON" (I Tim. 4:1-2). The more a person yields his mind to the sway and control of the spirit of this world, the more his conscience will become seared, insensitive to the spirit of right, and begin to lose its function. The moralistic sense of the world bends to the desires and lusts of the flesh, justifying itself, excusing itself, though generally quick to accuse others.
The conscience takes the shape of the things we feed the conscience with. If one is born in a Moslem country his conscience takes on the Moslem characteristics. If one is raised under communist indoctrination his conscience takes on communist characteristics, sensing right and wrong according to communist value. If one is raised in an ungodly home where cursing, filthy language, drunkenness, and adultery is the order of the day, then his conscience takes that shape. If one is raised in a Catholic home his conscience takes the Catholic shape. If he bends his knee in front of an image, his conscience will approve it, because that is the way his conscience has been conditioned. If another has been raised in a Baptist home his conscience is conditioned by the Baptist values and if he bows before an image his conscience will not let him sleep!
Suppose all your life had been taught that drinking coffee was wrong. Would something rise up within you if a person offered you a cup of coffee with your meal? Would a mere reminder, "But Jesus says in Mat. 15:11 that it is not that which goes into a man's mouth that defiles him," immediately free you to drink coffee? Probably not!
Can you not now see why the apostle declares that OUR CONSCIENCE MUST BE PURGED FROM DEAD WORKS to serve the living God? The condition of the conscience is a very important thing! In my case, I was born into a Mennonite home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. While I was still a small child my parents received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and were promptly excommunicated from the Mennonite denomination of our forefathers. As a result, I was raised in a Pentecostal home. So, upon arriving at young manhood I had acquired a PENTECOSTAL CONSCIENCE! It was shaped by the doctrines, practices, and traditions of the Pentecostal movement in the area of south Alabama where we lived. In those Churches there were many rules and traditions and practices that have changed through the years. We couldn't go to the beach to swim, it was sin. We didn't attend the County Fair, it was worldly. If you even walked inside a movie theatre, and didn't repent, you were sure to "bush hell wide open!" The women were not allowed to wear facial makeup of any kind, lipstick was a sin. Short hair and curled hair were wicked. Women could not wear slacks and their dresses must be long, with long sleeves and high necks. Bright, splashy colors were vain. And then, no jewelry of any kind was permitted, not even a wedding band!
I remember when as a young man I wanted a tie pin to hold my tie in place. In those days I pinned my tie to my shirt with a safety pin, underneath. I thought about the tie pin for a long time and finally got up enough courage to go buy one. I purchased a rather plain, gold colored one. I will never forget the day when I put it on, stood in front of the mirror, looked at myself, and said, "Preston, you've really done it!" Then, at once my Pentecostal conscience smote me and I took the thing off! You see, my conscience had been formed in the Pentecostal tradition and I thought that was salvation! Ah, my brethren, I testify to you that if I was saved at all it was only because Christ in His great mercy was present there among all the foolishness of man's ideas and concepts.
Shortly afterward, when a fresh and marvelous moving of the Holy Spirit came and swept over my life in quickening, bringing glory and the Spirit of revelation from God, there came a new and wonderful UNVEILING OF CHRIST to my heart, and for the first time in my life I saw the bondage of tradition, the commandments of men taught as the doctrine of Christ, for the pitiful thing it is. The blessed Spirit of God turned the searchlight within and I saw that just as the sinner needs his heart cleansed from fornication, adultery, lying, drunkenness, cursing, and all the ungodly works of the flesh, so did my conscience need to be cleansed from the traditions of religion - PURGED FROM DEAD WORKS TO SERVE THE LIVING GOD!
How desperately we still need much of this purging, for in many of us our conscience yet labors under the hangover of multiplied man-made-standards, and duty-bound rituals and observances. Many who hear the call to come out of Babylon find it difficult to obey because their religion-conditioned conscience will demand that they "go to Church somewhere" on Sunday morning even if they aren't fed spiritually and the place they go reeks of the mustiness of time-honored tradition and the stench of flesh. The fact it is a chore, a struggle not to be critical because of the dryness and emptiness they experience once they get there, doesn't help matters - but until every area of their conscience is purged from DEAD WORKS, these LIFELESS OBSERVANCES, many feel condemned if they don't go someplace, and we surely don't condemn them for going. It is not a question of whether we fellowship someplace or don't fellowship - it is a matter of BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT as to where to go, and how to live out every aspect of our lives, daily. If our fellowship is in some Babylonian Church System because our religion-oriented conscience dictates that we must, that is one thing; but how much better to BE WHERE THE FATHER WANTS US, DOING WHAT THE SPIRIT DICTATES. The defiled human conscience is being replaced by THE LIVING SPIRIT OF CHRIST WITHIN, HE is becoming LORD, blessed be His name!
Within the defiled human conscience are ingrained certain concepts of right and wrong, of what is acceptable to God and what is not acceptable to Him. When ever we are challenged to change one of these concepts we feel threatened. Then, when God puts His finger on some area of our lives, and we do change, quickened by His Spirit, it is hard for us to see that not everyone has to make the same changes! Our attitude is, "If the Lord deals with me about this, He had better deal with you about it!" Not so! God alone knows each one of our hearts, our motives, our needs, our plane of growth and development in Him, and He works one way with one individual, and another way with the next. HE ALONE knows the what, when, how and why of dealing with each one to accomplish His overall purpose and to conform each of the apprehended ones into THE IMAGE OF CHRIST. All who receive the call to Sonship will be dealt with to abandon all confidence in the human conscience that they may put on THE MIND OF CHRIST.
GOD ALL IN ALL
The apostle Paul wrote of great and glorious day that is coming, "then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, THAT GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL" (I Cor. 15:24,28). The Amplified Bible expresses this so beautifully, "...so that God may be all in all - that is, be everything to everyone, supreme, the INDWELLING AND CONTROLLING FACTOR OF LIFE." Truly that is realm beyond human rule and the self-rule of the conscience - GOD the INDWELLING AND CONTROLLING FACTORS OF LIFE, GOD ALL IN ALL!
This will be the grand conclusion of the great drama of the world's history and of Christ's redemption. There will come a day - the glory is such we can form no conception of it, the mystery is so deep we cannot realize it - when the Son shall deliver up the kingdom that the Father gave Him and which He won with His precious blood and established and perfected from the throne of His glory, the Son shall deliver the kingdom up to the Father, the Son Himself shall be subjected also unto the Father, "that God may be all in all." It is this that Christ died and rose again for; it is this that His Spirit is working for today in us; it is this that His heart is longing for in each of us, "that God may be all in all." And now, joined unto His as one spirit, the passion of our lives has become: Everything made subject and swallowed up in Him "that God may be all in all." What a life is ours when this becomes the vision! I am praying, and the Holy Spirit is wrestling in me with unutterable longing, "that God may be all in all - in me!"
Yes, the day shall come when throughout all the unbounded heavens, and unto the lowest hell, God shall be all in all, but now there is a company of firstfruits being called and selected to experientially know this "all in all" realm in the here and now, that it may be revealed to the rest of creation. Let us take this home to our hearts that it may rule our lives - this one thought, this one desire, this one aim, this one joy, this one faith: From henceforth I live fully, wholly, only, for this one thing, that in my life, GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL!
A little seed is the beginning of a great tree. A mustard seed becomes a tree in which the birds of the air can nestle. That great day of which the apostle speaks, when Christ Himself shall be all in all - that is the great tree of the Kingdom of God reaching its perfect consummation and glory, when there shall not be a creature anywhere in God's great universe to whom He has not become EVERYTHING. What a song! the Celestial Song of Creation, when every voice intones the words, and every heart bursts with the message, "HE IS EVERYTHING TO ME!" Oh, let us take the seed of that glory into our hearts and let us bow in lowly surrender and submission, saying, "Amen, Lord; this be my one life - that the Spirit of Sonship within me here and now bow in submission to the Father, delivering up the kingdom in my life, surrendering all to Him, that today, and for ever, GOD MAY BE ALL IN ALL."
God help everyone of us who cherish the hope of Sonship. God help us all to yield ourselves to HIM, and to make it our everyday life, for His name's sake. Amen!
J. PRESTON EBY
J. PRESTON EBY
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