I recently read a story about a man who went from an abundantly successful life down to the loss of about everything except his own life. He had been a successful war correspondent, husband and father, but there was a dark side to the life of covering stories of tragedy — the suffering and devastation that he saw had become a hard burden to bear. So he would spend his evenings nursing some wine, or some beer, or both to ease the pain. He didn’t realize that he had become addicted to drink, and on one crucial day he ignored the prick of his now-small conscience telling him he’d had enough. One more beer and a short drive later, he caused an accident that took a man’s life. He ended up in prison on a conviction of involuntary manslaughter, he lost his family, his job, and all of the success he had enjoyed for so long — in one moment.
But it didn’t really happen in a moment, that moment had been building over a long period of time through denial. When I studied psychology in college, I learned about the conscience and how it is susceptible to change when we ignore its promptings. Granted, our consciences aren’t always correct (perhaps due to upbringing or some other untruthful influence), but often they are, and if we choose to ignore them, we can anesthetize them so that we no longer believe as we did before.
For followers of Jesus, the Bible builds our consciences based on truth, and the warning is clear — if we choose to ignore those truth promptings in moments of temptation, what we hold to as truth will begin to change. James 1:14-15 says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (ESV). The smallest choices matter because they will lead us to decisions of greater consequence, and before we know it, right and wrong will have new definitions for us, affecting the way we live and ending in the death of what is good and right and true. Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (ESV).
There is good news, though. God is a merciful and forgiving God! Not only is He willing to forgive me and you, but He is a God who restores. What are things that I am choosing (or not choosing) today that seem trite, but can lead me on a downward spiral? Help me, Lord, to take it seriously and repent, receiving your mercy and restoration. Let me embrace Your life-giving truth.