God's greatest gift to all men in their own beings and personalities is something that we don't think often about. And because we ignore it, it brings a lot of suffering in our lives.
All of us have been born from that first couple, Adam and Eve. And the sinful nature that poisoned, that entered into their system when they disobeyed God, is something that Adam and Eve have passed on to all their descendants. Today, we are all born with this tendency towards evil. We see that in children. We don't have to teach children to be evil. We don't have to teach children to tell lies. We don't have to teach children to do anything wrong. You know as parents what we have to teach children, is to do good. They are born with a tendency towards evil. That is because of that nature which they have inherited from the parents and ultimately from Adam and Eve who sinned.
We see, for example, children basically wanting their own way. Sin is not just external actions. It is far more deep rooted than that. It is an attitude of rebellion against God where I want my own way in life. I want to please myself, and it doesn't matter if other people get hurt in the process. It doesn't really matter what God thinks about it, so long as I please myself. We see that attitude very clearly in little children. Little children will grab and fight, and take things from one another. They are not bothered about other children. They just want to be happy themselves. This wanting one's own way, this stubbornness, is something that is in a child's nature from birth. And as he grows up, he doesn't get rid of that. In fact, as we grow to manhood, we don't really change. We are still the same except that we seek our own in more refined and cultured ways. We just become cleverer and change our methods by which we seek to grab for ourselves.
So the fifty year-old man and the one year-old child, are basically the same in wanting to seek their own except they seek it in different methods. The barbarian in the jungle, and the cultured, civilized man in the city are both basically the same. The selfishness of the cultured person, his covetousness, and his lust may be covered up with culture and civilization, but he hasn't changed within. And very often, religious people too are the same; selfish within, with an external veneer of graciousness and goodness, but basically, wanting to have their own way. The Bible teaches us that this is the cause of all of our problems - wanting to have our own way.
What is that which God has placed within us which we could say is God's greatest gift to man? It is our conscience. Conscience points out to us where we come short of God's standards. It is not a perfect guide, but it is an initial guide that shows us where we come short. When we are seeking to please ourselves, when we are harming another, our conscience warns us. Particularly the conscience of little children is very tender. It is not easy for a child to tell a lie with a straight face. When a little child tells a lie, we can see it on its face that he is telling a lie. But as we grow older, we kill that voice of conscience so much, that a time can come in our life, where we can tell a lie with a straight face. And then we can say that our conscience has become almost dead.
Now that is a serious thing, because conscience is like a warning signal. It is like pain. Some of us don't realise what a great blessing pain is in our body. It is pain that tells us that something is wrong. If you get a nail stuck in your foot, for example, you feel the pain. That is what tells you something is wrong. And you sit down and pull off that nail; otherwise, your foot would get infected. If something is wrong with your stomach, or in your kidneys, or somewhere, the indication is always pain. Pain is one of the greatest blessings in our physical body. It is because of that we are saved from death many times, or from infections. We are immediately aware that something is wrong.
Now the equivalent of pain in our spirit is our conscience, that troubles us when we do something wrong. Think of those who have the disease of leprosy, what happens to them? Leprosy kills the nerves and destroys sensation in the skin. A person with leprosy can have a nail pierce through his foot, and he won't even know it, because he doesn't have the blessing of pain. His foot would get infected, and he still wouldn't know it, because he doesn't feel the pain. In fact, I have heard stories of lepers whose toes were bitten off by rats in the middle of the night, when they were asleep, and they didn't feel a thing. When they got up in the morning, they found that their toes were missing and there is blood all around. Is that a good state to be in, where you don't feel pain? I hope you realise what a tremendous blessing it is to have pain. Pain is what saves us from losing our toes, or our foot, or our fingers or anything. It is through pain that we know something is wrong.
Conscience is like pain. It warns us when we have violated God's laws. What happens if you ignore its warnings, like many people do? You tell a lie, and your conscience tells you it is wrong, and you just suppress that voice? It doesn't die immediately. But over a period of time, if you keep doing that, finally, your conscience won't trouble you anymore when you tell a lie. And it could go on with other sins as well. What happens then is that we get spiritual leprosy, and a day will come when you won't feel any sensitivity to sin anymore. That is not a good state to be in. It means you are spiritually dead. We would then become like animals, which have no conscience. A person, who has killed his conscience, descends to the level of an animal, which has no conscience. That is the reason why some human beings, sometimes, behave much worse than animals.
So I hope you realise now, that one of the greatest blessings or greatest gifts that God has given to man in His spirit is the gift of conscience. It tells us that we are spiritually sick, just like pain in our body will tell that we are physically sick or something is wrong inside and we should do something about it to get rid of it. We don't try to ignore the pain. We do something to heal that sickness. In the same way, when the conscience tells us something is wrong, it is God's voice, within us, telling us, 'You are responsible for what you did; what you did was wrong; you need to set it right.'
Jesus once used an illustration. He said that we should keep our conscience like we keep our eyes. You know how carefully we keep our eyes. It is the one part of our body that is bathed many times without even our realising it. Every time our eyelids close, our eyes are being cleaned with tears, and that happens thousands of times in a day. All the dust is being wiped out. Now we can afford to have dust on our body, all over our body, and live for many days. It won't destroy us or our bodies. But if you get even one speck of dust in your eyes, it can damage your eyes very soon, if you don't do anything about it. A small speck of dust is enough to destroy the eyes. That is why God has made the human body in such a way that the eyes are washed all the time.
Jesus said keep your conscience like you keep your eyes. In the Gospel of Luke 11:34-36, He likened the conscience to the eye. He said if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. In other words, if you keep your conscience clear - what does that mean? That means that when we have done something wrong, we acknowledge it, we set the matter right. If you have hurt somebody you go and ask his forgiveness. If you have sinned against God you confess your sin to God. It is the first step to spiritual heath, just like setting our body right whenever we discover pain. It is the first step to physical health. In the same way, conscience is the indication of sin in your body. It is only those who recognise that they are sick who go to a doctor. Jesus once said to certain religious people of His time that He couldn't help them; He didn't really come for them because they were not aware that they were sick. They were so convinced that because they were religious, they were accepted by God. But they were sick as anything.
How was it they were not aware of it? Because they had killed their conscience for so many years, they were not even aware of how distant they were from God. A lot of religious people try to appease God or please Him by going to places of worship, by giving money to the poor, and various other means. But none of these things can cleanse our conscience from sin. The most important thing for us to recognise is that it is sin that has separated us from God. And any amount of good works or money given to the poor, or any types of activity like that can never bring us back to God. If we recognise that we are sick and that we need to be cleansed, and that sin is destroying our soul, we will come to God; we will come to Jesus Christ who came to earth to forgive us our sins. The Bible says that if we confess our sins - that means you acknowledge you are a sinner - and tell the Lord what you have done, He will forgive you, because He came to earth to die for our sins.