If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God. (I Peter 3:18)
I am gonna meddle a bit this morning, so get ready. I have to ask you how your 'conscience' is fairing these days - is it clear some of the time, most of the time, or very infrequently? Truth be told, hardly anyone can say their conscience doesn't get a little 'muddied' from time to time. We all entertain doubts, get wrapped up in ways of thinking that are not very edifying for us or the other person we are thinking about, or just get a little too close to entertaining things in our minds that we would be best to never have explored. How do we keep a clear conscience before God? It really isn't all that difficult, but it does require some concerted effort on our part. This whole business of 'taking every thought captive' is harder than it sounds. Get one thought reined in and the next unruly one begins to brew. That's why our passage today reminds us we need to 'keep' our hearts 'at attention' - in full adoration.
I served in the military after high school and remember being called to attention for the first time as we all piled off the bus onto the grounds of our training base. We were a rough looking bunch, all mismatched in our civilian clothing, and a bit 'unruly'. Let me assure you of one thing - those Drill Sergeants were not going to allow any 'mismatched' or 'unruly behavior'. Why? They were charged with getting us into sync with each other, creating a group of individuals that no longer thought only about themselves. We don't keep our hearts at attention all alone - it is hard to do that alone. We need each other and the 'company' of positive influences. I oftentimes keep Alexa tuned into one of my favorite Christian artists or music stations for this very reason. The 'background' of the music reminds me whose I am, how much I am forgiven, and how greatly I am loved and cared for each and every moment of the day.
Too frequently we give the opposing forces in our lives way too much of our attention. As pointed out in this passage, we aren't even to give that opposition any 'mind space' in our lives. That means we don't entertain those thoughts that the enemy of our souls wants us to ponder - even for the smallest amount of time. Do you want to be an unstoppable force on this earth? Then keep your conscience clear! How? By 'filtering out' the stuff you don't need to ponder and allowing a continual renewal of your mind by 'bringing in' the stuff you do need to ponder. A steady 'diet' of the Word of God. The pleasant reminders of worship songs that center our attention on the one who loves us so much. Solid and honest conversation with God on a regular basis. These are the things we can do to 'bolster' our thought life. In time, our conscience is 'filtered' because we are allowing the 'evil' or 'vile' to be washed out by the 'holy' and 'pure'. Just sayin!