May 9th

Strengthening the Conscience

1Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God. 4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 7But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. 1 Corinthians 8:1-9 NIV 

This is an interesting passage concerning the conscience.  It is taken from Paul’s discussion concerning practice of eating food that was sacrificed to idols.  Apparently, some Christians felt that such food was not to be eaten because of its association with idolatry.  They had been unable to make the shift in their thinking that regarded God as supreme and an idol as nothing.  They still had their minds “accustomed to idols,” and their consciences were weak and defiled.   

This supports the point that idolatry will weaken and defile our conscience.  Sexual addiction is a form of idolatry where people idolize sex with their minds and bodies.   The activities involved with sex addiction (e.g. fantasizing, masturbating, lusting, etc.) sexualize our thought patterns and weaken our conviction of evil.  Just as the idols did in the Corinthians’ minds, sex addiction helps our minds become accustomed to sexual idols.   Some people reach a point where they no longer see sexual sin as sin.   

The damage such “sexualization” has on our conscience is profound.  If we decide to seek freedom from the addiction, we will then discover the extent of the damage done to our conscience.  For example, it has taken years to heal my tendency of responding with sexual thoughts when I hear certain words associated with porn depictions.  Normally such words are harmless, but when combined with porn depictions, they open up a whole new world of sexually explicit thinking.    

Another issue that I dealt with was cherishing certain sexual depictions that were clearly sinful.  Even after God delivered me from sex addiction, I had to make conscious decisions to die to my former fantasies every time I was tempted to think through them.  Gradually, after repeated resistance, my love of those fantasies did die and I recognize them today as the sins that they are.   I suspect that the amount of recovery time from such “conscience damage” will depend on the time spent in our former addiction and the strength of our commitment to walk with Jesus.  Even so, no matter what we may have done, nothing is impossible with God.  God can deliver us and heal us in any amount of time he chooses.  The commitment we must be ready to make is to walk in that freedom, sowing to the Spirit and no longer to the sinful desires of the flesh.   

If you have a weak conscience, you can start restoring it by re-dedicating your life to Jesus Christ.  By making him Lord of your life, you clear the way for him to help you strengthen your conscience.  You can help maximize this process by having daily quiet times.  This recurring effort, like physical exercise, will help rebuild your spiritual stamina.  For more info on building your relationship with God, see our Freedom Journey study. 

Questions for further thought:

Prayer:

“Lord Jesus, Thank you for dying for me on the cross.  Please forgive me for harboring any sin in my life.  Please cleanse my conscience of that sin with the blood of Jesus right now.  I invite the Holy Spirit to start the renewal process in my conscience today. I want my mind to be accustomed to God instead of to the idols in my life. I commit to following you, Lord, each day.   I praise you now and forever.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”