Sometimes you wonder about people. Why do they do what they do? In a “true confessions” site people explained why they got fired from their jobs. One of the strangest reasons was the guy who got fired because he kept calling in sick. Why did he call in sick so much? He wanted to play a video game. Seriously. He has no regrets about his choice. A video game is more important than becoming a productive member of society? What are people thinking these days?
I’m sure that back in the days of the early church, people may have said the same thing about Paul. As they looked at the persecution that he endured – beatings, stonings, and imprisonments, among other things, they probably said something like, “Paul, what is wrong with you?” What motivated Paul, and other Christians in the early church who were often put to death for their faith? Paul explained his motivation to Felix after being arrested at the Temple. “…and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” (Acts 24:15-16)
As Paul gave his defense before Felix, many Pharisees were present. Paul understood the beliefs of Pharisees, having been a practicing Pharisee for most of his life before following Jesus. He pointed out that Pharisees and Christians had a major belief in common: the final resurrection and last judgment. Actually, many cultures believe in the idea of a final judgment at some time. The disagreements come in how best to prepare for that final judgment. The Pharisees believed that people had to earn their ultimate verdict in God’s Court; Paul believed that by committing one’s life to Jesus sins were forgiven and the final judgment would see vindication for Christians. In preparing for that final judgment, Paul said that he strived to keep a clear conscience before God and men. He kept his conscience clear by declaring the grace of God that is available to all who call on Him.
Even today we have similar questions about what the final judgment will look like and how best to prepare for that judgment. In some religious practices the adherent can assure favor at the last judgment by dying while killing “non-believers.” In some, you are perpetually being recycled until you get things right and become one with the universe. Some believe that your good must outweigh your bad to find favor at the last judgment. Followers of Christ believe that no one is good enough to survive the last judgment. All we can do is plead guilty and throw ourselves on the mercy of the court, pleading for the grace of Jesus. The amazing thing is that for those of us who do that, grace and mercy are there. But just gaining favor at the Last Judgment isn’t really enough for those who follow Christ. We seek a clear conscience in front of God and man as we prepare for that Last Judgment. We can only have that clear conscience when we know that we have done all that we can do to introduce others to the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Paul was willing to undergo physical pain and the humiliation of imprisonment for the sake of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. We have not been called to that in a land that allows us the freedoms our country does, but we are still called to proclaim the good news of the grace of Jesus to those around us. Paul did that to maintain a clear conscience before God and man. The question that must be asked is whether or not your conscience is clear today?
Lord God, often my conscience isn’t clear because I don’t take time to share about the grace of Jesus with others. I miss opportunities to let others know about how much You love them. I’m worried about what they will think of me. Give me the boldness to share Your grace as a natural part of my lifestyle.