THE WATCHMAN OVER OUR HEART
When we watch small children grow up, we notice that they begin to fight and tell lies even if nobody has modelled it for them. It is an innate part of the sinful nature they are born with. But the other side of the matter is that, if we watch their face as they do these things for the first time, we can also notice a sense of guilt in their eyes. They know what they have done is wrong, even if they do not understand it in their mind. This is the conscience we are all born with—all people in every part of the world.
Over time people get used to doing many things even when their conscience tells them not to. This is how our conscience becomes dull, and many things that used to cause us guilt in the past do not trouble us anymore.
When we are born again through the work of the Holy Spirit in our heart, what God does is to give us a new nature (a new man). Even though we do not fully understand what the roles of our spirit, our conscience and the Holy Spirit become, we do see that we begin to get new, godly desires in place of the old, sinful ones. Our sensitivity to what is right and wrong increases to the extent that we begin to see in detail how many things we used to do earlier with ease were actually wrong, and we also begin to see more clearly what we ought to do in different situations. Old things are giving way to new things.
In some ways we may think it is a good thing and in other ways we may think it is a bad thing that we still have the freedom to choose what we do with the newly energised conscience. Each of us chooses different things at different times. The perfect thing is to follow the conscience anointed by the Holy Spirit (or to be led by the Holy Spirit, depending on the semantics we use), at all times. But we all fail, in different areas and at different times. Our challenge is to press on towards perfection in listening to the Holy Spirit and choosing to submit to His leading at every point in time.
What happens is that at different times of life we have a sense of what is right, but we allow other factors to override it. Probably we think that it is expedient under those specific circumstances to do things differently. Perhaps we think we ought to make a temporary exception to the rule in everybody’s interest. We may quickly decide that the end justifies the means in this particular case.
As children of God who have the Holy Spirit living in us, it is likely that we do not make these compromises defiantly. We think that the next time, when we hope to find the circumstances to be more favourable towards us, we will do things differently. But if we look back we will find that every compromise has made it easier for us to make the next one. If we have allowed this to go on for some time, what we will see is that our desire to do the right has become compromised as well, and we are not any more averse to making such compromises. Sometime later we will find that we think there is nothing wrong with what we are doing, and we do not feel we are compromising anymore. After some more time we deride those who fear to compromise by saying that, if we are to live in this world, we cannot afford to be so impractical.
We may be attracted by some pleasure or advantage that we may get, or we may fear the adverse consequences of doing what we think is right. We may look for personal gain, or we may think that we are compromising for the sake of others.
When we make compromising choices in our personal lives, we affect ourselves primarily. But we cannot fail to affect also those who are near us, as in our family, and we cannot avoid contaminating the church or groups we are part of. But if we compromise when we are in positions of responsibility, we affect a whole lot of people who are in the chain of contact. The sad thing is that we may think we are doing it for their good. A penchant for political correctness drives us many times to compromise, but we think we are being pragmatic and shrewd! We keep silent where we should speak up, we flatter people in order to curry favour (or not to offend them!), we avoid correcting people thinking we are showing Christian love, we misuse our position for personal gain, we take liberties with rules because no one dares to question us, we groom the wrong people because they will favour us and penalise others who might question us, we make ourselves indispensable by neglecting to delegate responsibilities or share our expertise, we make organisational choices based on how they will personally affect us, etc.
The problem is that we forget we have Someone to whom we have to give an account one day. “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom.14:12). And this One knows every single thing we think, say or do, and why we do it (Heb.4:13). There is no way we can fool Him with our suave arguments or justifications.
The other thing is that even though we know that this life is really very short and that there is an eternity that is coming where such compromises are out of question, we live here as if our pleasures, gain, recognition, fame, influence, comfort, etc., are what we should live for.
God has given us the Holy Spirit in order to guide us through this difficult world and to mould us for the life to come. He watches over our heart. If we grieve Him by ignoring and going against His promptings in our heart, will not that make us ashamed in that day when we stand seeing Him face to face? In that day when we see clearly that the things that we gained through compromise were like dung—not just worthless but something that stinks in God’s nostrils—how much loss would we feel for the opportunities we wasted for gaining eternal treasures?
Jesus tells us not to work so much for the things that will perish but to gain treasures that will last through eternity (Jn.6:27). The things that really matter in eternity concern our heart, and it is good for us to pay great attention to the One who is the watchman of our heart. Only then can we wisely manage the issues of life (Prov.4:23).