Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Highest Court on Earth

... but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God (II Cor 4:2).

For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you (II Cor 1:12).

Yesterday, my pastor spoke at my work about endurance in ministry from II Corinthians 4. Apart from the conviction and edification that always comes from his faithful expositions, he was right on target in applying v. 2 to our work:
The highest court on earth is your own conscience, it will either slaughter you or pat you on the back. Paul’s conscience was clear. Take some time to follow Paul’s use of “conscience” throughout his epistles, and you will see that the only defense against public criticism is the testimony of your conscience. Long-term ministry faithfulness is a result of winning the battle on the inside.
What a true and terrifying reminder for anyone, let alone a para-church organization. How do you measure success? Donor dollars? Expansion of staff and programs? Glad-handing from public officials? No... the testimony of your conscience.

Only John Murray-like "heroic honesty" will validate success (read, "faithfulness"). This is terrifying because "honesty" requires a heroism unheard of in today's squishy, evanjellybean world. Success, regardless of popular conceptions, is not a matter of accumulated numbers and programs. It is a matter of conscience and its verdicts should bring pause. Lord, help us to listen.

(For more about enduring in ministry from II Corinthians 4-5, see Certainties that Drive an Enduring Ministry, Part 1 and Part 2).

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