"I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers day and night." (2 Tim. 1:3)
The apostle is near the end of his life. As one writer put it, "he is writing in the shadow of the gallows." Death is near. And what is Paul's mental state?
He tells us that (a) he thanks God, (b) he serves God, and (c) his conscience is clear.
What a way to face death! The apostle dies as he lived--thanking and serving God and consequently with a clear conscience.
A clear conscience before God is to be sought and treasured by all His children. I've seen some and read of many others who see death approaching and fall to pieces. Even some professing Christians experience grave uncertainty and anxiety. Often it's because they're more aware of periods in their life when they've not served God faithfully. They remember the kindnesses not shown, the forgiveness not extended, the duties left undone, the opportunities missed or ignored, the love withdrawn, not to mention the words rashly spoken, the bitterness coddled, the grudge carried, the prayerlessness, the closed Bibles, the fellowship shunned, and so on. They're filled with regret that they have walked at some distance from Christ, followed along at a safe distance like Peter at the Lord's arrest. And they're afflicted with the thought that though they could have walked by the Savior's side, stood in His defense, proclaimed His name, they have accomodated the world, satisfied their own desires, and wasted so much. Their consciences aren't clear. The mind is plagued. It's agonizing.
Paul's mental state reminds us that each day is a day presented to the Chrsitian as a gift of communion with the Savior, an opportunity to know Him more deeply and serve Him more gladly. Each day and each moment of the day offers that golden gift. Paul seized it. He remembered that his ancestors served God, and he remembers his constant prayers. Is this not the apostle who tells us to pray without ceasing? And was that not his habit? And the result: confidence before God, awareness of "the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus" (v. 1), peace in the face of death.
What testimony does our conscience make?
"By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases Him. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us. Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. and by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (1 John 3:18-24).
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