You’ve probably noticed that Christians have wildly different standards when it comes to matters of personal holiness. Sometimes these differences stem from nothing more than the generation gap. Other times they are created by the varying diversities of local cultures. Other times they arise from honest disagreements in regards to how certain bible passages should be interpreted and applied.
It’s not my purpose here to identify every single difference in Christian standards of holiness and give you my take on it. I could write on that subject for the rest of my life and still not get to the bottom of that well. Instead, what I want to do is offer a simple test that any Christian can use when he or she is trying to come down on the right side of God-approved personal holiness. The test is one question and goes like this: If I was picking up Jesus in my car and taking Him somewhere, would I feel comfortable wearing what I’m wearing, looking like I’m looking, listening to what I’m listening to, talking like I’m talking, and taking Him to where I’m going?
Now, I realize that this question isn’t 100% foolproof. The problem with it is that it is based upon each individual’s conscience and, unfortunately, a person’s conscience can be misinformed. You should think of your conscience as being like a computer. It only works as well as the information that is fed into it. For example, if you’ve been wrongly told that you are supposed to keep off a patch of grass, your conscience will cause you to feel bad if you step on that grass even though the yard owner doesn’t actually care that you’ve stepped on his grass. Or, let’s say that you’ve been raised by parents who taught you that having the internet is a sin. Well, if that’s the case, then I guess your conscience is eating you alive right now as you sit there reading this blog post. Do you see my point about the problem with your conscience?
This problem really kicks in with some Christians in regards to a wrong interpretation, understanding, or application of a certain bible passage. If these Christians fail to live up to that wrong interpretation, understanding, or application, their consciences will rack them with guilt and they will wrongly take that guilt to be conviction from the indwelling Holy Spirit. So, admittedly, how effectively our test question works for you depends upon how accurate the information is from which your conscience works.
Still, with this understood, the question is a good one. Let me explain why. In Romans 14:14, we learn that anything that you consider unclean for yourself is, in actuality, unclean for you even if it might not be unclean for someone else. Likewise, in Romans 14:23, we learn that if you can’t do something in complete faith that it isn’t sin, then it becomes sin to you even if isn’t sin for someone else. You see, these two verses apply even if your conscience is working from faulty information. The verses teach that God doesn’t want you to ever sense even a tinge of guilt or conviction, arising from whatever source, and then plow on ahead and do what you don’t feel right about doing.
And do you know why God hates that particular kind of behavior so much? It’s because that’s exactly what Adam and Eve did when they committed the original sin by eating Eden’s forbidden fruit. They didn’t feel right about what they doing but went right ahead and did it anyway. Of course, we know that in their case their consciences were working from accurate information and, thus, were creating accurate guilt.
So, in closing, let me encourage each of you to use our simple test question whenever you find yourself conflicted about some issue of personal holiness. Let me also throw in that if you are going to err concerning the question, err on the side of caution. And please, please, please, if you just can’t make yourself feel right about something, don’t ignore what’s going on inside you and do it anyway. After all, that’s the kind of behavior that got us all into this mess from the start, isn’t it?