Breaking the Wrongness Barrier
Answering the Call to Faith Beyond Conscience
The hardest faith, the most extreme faith, is exercised at those points in our life where we must cross the threshold of what I will call the wrongness barrier. The wrongness barrier is the wall of “a-personal” principle (ie, principles of life behavior not directed toward others) that has been built up in our minds to prevent us from doing evil. In most cases for those who love God, wrongness barriers have been built as good things to keep our minds from straying into or back into lawlessness of one form or another.
Wrongness barriers have been established throughout our lives and for good cause. Many of those barriers were taught to us from youth by parents and teachers who were looking out for our welfare. They said, “Don’t be foolish, so don’t do this, because if you do this, here is what will happen to you.” So we grew up learning not to do certain things as well as to do certain other things. The biblical version of this type of instruction is epitomized in the book of Proverbs.
For those of us who have grown up in the Lord a long time, many other wrongness barriers have been instituted. We have been informed of these wrongnesses by the scriptures themselves, not to mention the host of teachers the Lord has brought into our lives since our conversion to Christ.
There are things Moses said not to do, Jesus said not to do, and the apostles said not to do as matters of a-personal practice, behavior and deportment. From these sayings have come numerous other principles by our pastors, teachers, prophets and apostles in faith over the generations since. And the truth remains that much of these foundational teachings and their derivatives are full of the wisdom of God.
In their most refined degree, wrongness barriers are instituted in our lives directly from the Holy Spirit’s conviction---or as we might say, the leading and Voice of the Spirit. Over the course of our growing in Christ, the Holy Spirit Himself teaches us not to do certain things. He knows the temptations to which we are most subject at various times and so He tells us “Taste not, handle not, don’t do this” as to how we conduct our daily lives. Some of these leadings may be long term for us, and others more seasonal.
Wrongness barriers are disciplinary and have been so instituted for our good at whatever level.
But what we must come to see as people of real faith in a Living Indwelling Lord, is that the righteousness of faith exceeds the principles of wrongness barriers. Faith in Christ by the Spirit exceeds in authority the a-personal principles of righteousness first taught us in youth. Faith also exceeds the wrongness barriers established in scripture, and those taught by our spiritual teachers in the centuries since. Faith even exceeds the wrongness barriers that the Spirit Himself may have spoken to us at a given earlier time in our lives, whether for the long or short term.
How do we know all this is true? We know this is true objectively by watching the life of Christ Himself, and we know it is true subjectively by the prevailing witness of the Holy Spirit at those critical times of challenge to break through wrongness barriers.
Let’s start with the objective demonstration of this in the life of Christ.
Christ’s Challenge to Wrongness Barriers
When you read the story of Jesus across the gospels, perhaps the most outstanding “hidden in plain sight” truth about His ministry is that, as the express image of the Indwelling Father, Jesus was constantly breaking the wrongness barriers established in the hearts and minds of those among whom He dwelt. He was constantly accused of “breaking the Law of Moses” (though in reality He was actually fulfilling the Law). In our parlance, we would say He was guilty of living an “unscriptural life.”
- Challenging Scriptural Wrongness Barriers
In Jesus’ day, there were actually two prevailing forms of wrongness barriers. The first set of barriers were those established by the Law itself. These are the things Moses directly said not to do. They included injunctions against working on the Sabbath, the eating of unclean foods, the drinking of blood and the absenting of oneself from the feasts of Israel (Dt. 16:16).
It’s at this point we receive our most vital understanding of what it means when Jesus said “I came to fulfil the Law, not destroy it,” because in fact, on the four points of Lawful wrongness I just listed, Jesus could naturally have been said to (and was in fact directly charged with) “breaking the Law” or “destroying the Law.” You must see this, and especially from the point of view of the first witnesses:
Jesus did truly “work” on the Sabbath. In defending one Sabbath healing, He said so Himself, “Hitherto My Father works, and I work also” (Jn. 5:16-17). Jesus declared in effect that all foods are clean, contrary to the Law (Mk. 7:19 > Acts 10:13). Jesus exhorted people to “eat His flesh and drink His blood” contrary to the Law (Jn. 6:54). And Jesus did absent Himself at times from certain feasts. At one point He specifically told His family, “I am not going up to this feast,” though afterward the Father directed His mind otherwise about going (Jn. 7:8-10).
What this tells us---if we are graced enough in the Holy Spirit to receive it---is that Jesus’ fulfilling of the Law was not about fulfilling the LETTER of the Law, but fulfilling the righteousness of the Law behind the LETTER and to which the LETTER pointed. And this He said Himself,
Mt. 12:3 …“Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? 5 Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? 6 But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.
- Fulfilling the Law vs. Keeping the Law
What is Jesus saying? He is saying that “fulfilling” the Law is not about “keeping” the Law. It is about something far greater.
Fulfilling the Law is in fact about coming to the Life of which the Law speaks and to which it points, which otherwise might cause the occasion of a natural breaking of the law. The fulfillment of the Law is through entrance into the Life behind the Law, not keeping the Law itself. And I hope you got that, because again, this is critical. Let’s say it one more time:
The fulfillment of the Law is not through the keeping of the Law but through entrance into the Life behind the Law.
The Law is not Life, but leads to Life. And Jesus was and is the Life behind the Law. As He said,
Jn. 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
By perfectly—not keeping the Law, but--- fulfilling the Will of the Father, Jesus perfectly fulfilled all that the Law required. And that by the way is how we fulfill the Law to this very day,
Rom. 8:4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Living by the Spirit’s authority oneness and leading into the Father---not by “keeping the Law” of the scriptures in any age---is how we fulfill the Law. Yet most people today who come to the scriptures never come to the Lord, and most believers who initially do come to the Lord through the scriptures, fail to keep coming into the Lord past the scriptures to find their life. We are stopped at the wrongness barriers.
o “His” Law or “Our” Law?
To accent this point about Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law by doing only His Father’s Will, we want to note that Jesus almost never referred to the Law as “God’s Law.” He never called it “my Father’s law.” He never called it “my law.” He never took ownership or claimed authorship of it. He always referred to it as “the Law, “your Law,” or “their Law,” that is, Israel’s Law. Jesus critically distinguished between what the Law was and Who God IS. For it was a distinction that Israel could not make for itself.
Today, in the Second Age of Unbelief, we too fail to discern between what the Scriptures are and Who God IS. If Jesus walked among us now, and we objected to a point at which He appeared to break a command of Paul, He would say, “Is it not written in your scriptures….?”
But now we want to get back on point about wrongness barriers and how Jesus demonstrated their breaking. To reiterate one more time, breaking perceptional scriptural wrongness barriers and actually fulfilling the scriptures according to the Life behind them are of one and the same heart and Mind in Christ. They are not contrary. Conversely, “keeping” the scriptures under the conscience of wrongness barriers and “fulfilling” the scriptures are not the same. You can keep the whole law and yet never fulfil it.
So this is the first way Jesus demonstrated the transcension of wrongness barriers, namely, relative to scripture. And in conformity to His image, so also it must be by the Holy Spirit with us.
The hardest of the tests of extreme faith come at those points where the Holy Spirit leads us on a path that squeezes us into having to break scriptural wrongness barriers by failing to “keep” the scriptures with respect to a-personal commands, injunctions and principles. This involves a process that requires both the informing of the conscience by the Spirit and the mediating of this out with our brethren, which we will get into further down.
- Challenging Traditional Wrongness Barriers
But there is a second way in which Jesus constantly broke wrongness barriers. This is with respect to the innumerable ordinances that the scribes, Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had added as “safeguards” to the Law for about 500 years since the time of Ezra. These ordinances Jesus referred to as the “doctrines and commandments of men” (Mt. 15:9).
The initial perspective on these ordinances is important. The rabbinic ordinances given to safeguard the Law were originally instituted for a very well intentioned reason. At the time Ezra and the people came back from Babylon, the psyche of the Hebrew nation was reeling under the wounding of their 70 year captivity and the awareness that it was because of their numerous sins in deliberate indifference to the Mosaic Law that their captivity had befallen them.
So these people had a fresh godly zeal to see to it that this would never happen again and that they would never forsake the Law. To “insure” that this would be the case, the new rabbinic class added “principles” that would spell out “exactly” just what it did mean in specific situations to “keep the Law.”
And so over the generations these rules were added to all the more until Christ appeared. The adding of all these regulations naturally added a tremendous burden on the conscience of the people, and it also bred hypocrisy, since not even those who proposed all these ordinances could keep them.
Importantly, a whole nation had been inculcated with a heavy guilt conscience in regard to all these ordinances over those five centuries, erecting hundreds of non-divine wrongness barriers in the hearts and minds of the people. It was from these barriers that the Lord came to set His people free, and is the primary context for the meaning of freedom as Jesus used it in His preaching to the people at that time.
It was because of this manmade burden that Jesus openly, repeatedly and flauntingly broke the wrongness barriers related to all these ordinances. Unlike the Law, whose principles were at least given to point to Life, the minute doctrines and commandments of the rabbis competed with and directly blocked access to the Life to be found in the Father through Messiah.
So this is what we see at the core of Jesus’ confrontational ministry with the religious leadership and the people. We find a continual clashing with and smashing of wrongness barriers, both scriptural and non-scriptural, in order to bring the people into the transcendent Life available only through Christ Jesus as the way, the truth and the Life, the express image of the Living Father among us, and One who is intent on reproducing that same barrier breaking Life in all of those to become reborn into the Father’s family.
The Spirit’s Subjective Witness to Challenging Wrongness Barriers
This brings us now to consider our own subjective witness from the Holy Spirit over the breaking of wrongness barriers. Remember that we are answering the question, How do we know that the righteousness of faith exceeds the wrongness barriers of the a-personal principles first taught us in youth, those established in scripture, those by our spiritual teachers since and those previously spoken to us by the Spirit Himself?
When we talk about having a subjective witness from the Spirit, we are making a statement to the effect that when all is said and done, it is our spirit knowing of the Holy Spirit---the Spirit of Truth---that forms our ultimate reference point for all truth, faith and action. John Himself teaches us this in the scripture:
I Jn. 2:27 As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him….3:24… We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us…5:10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself;…11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son…. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
This is the “epistemology of John,” that is, John’s testimony to “how we ultimately know what we know” about eternal life and all reality relative to it. It is how we finally know truth from error at every level. It is by Spirit revelation and impartation. And what John outlines here is merely an elaboration on what Jesus had told His disciples that final night together before the cross:
Jn. 14:16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth….you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you….20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. … 26 …The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you….16:13 …When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
There is a knowing that transcends knowledge. It is an internal knowing beyond the mind. It is the knowing of spirit touching Spirit. It is known by internal revelation, not by study. The truth is not finally known by hermeneutical principles behind interpretations of scripture taught in rabbinic colleges and seminaries, however initially helpful to general understanding of author meanings and intents. In the end, such principles do, as the early rabbinics encountered, create their own wrongness barriers to entry into faith.
So then. Where this spirit to Spirit intersect takes place imparting ultimate knowing beyond the wrongness barrier, the promised Life is encountered toward which all scripture points, and liberty is released in our lives.
But there is a problem to getting through that barrier. That problem is Conscience!
The Holy Spirit and Conscience
Conscience is the moral sentry of the soul. It is planted there by God, given to all men and intended by God to be obeyed. Conscience is the bulwark against outright lawlessness in the human heart, and stands as the final arbiter of the knowledge of moral good and evil at the human level.
Conscience is the divinely ordained protector, police presence, judge and the jury in the heart over moral issues. As such, and most importantly here, Conscience is the establisher and guardian of the very wrongness barriers that must be overcome in our hearts to enter the Life of true faith.
Conscience, as the law of the soul is sensitive to every and any transgression of what it perceives to be wrong and evil. “To him that knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin.” That is the knowledge of Conscience and its purpose as a convictor of morality.
- The Human Limitation of Conscience
However, and this is critical, the conscience is not divinely revelatory of ultimate truth. Though appointed by God as the guardian of the heart, yet because Conscience is only informed at a level of human revelation, Conscience is not completely or even necessarily accurately informed on what God approves or what constitutes His Will and Righteousness. As a minister of human moral revelation only, Conscience is an agent of unbelief, not of divine faith.
Because Conscience is subject to human training, it may also be misinformed through false training. People of difference cultures can in fact have opposite moral sensitivity regarding the same practices. Additionally, the conscience is
- subject to ignorance,
- can be “bought off” by the self-deceitful heart that ultimately does not want to hear what Conscience has to say (leading to a “seared conscience”), and
- can be demonically manipulated and oppressed by religious spirits.
For all these reasons, Conscience cannot be taken as the final arbiter of moral truth or the will of God in a situation. It is definitely limited.
What does this mean for the relationship between Conscience and the Holy Spirit?
Conscience is present in all moral instruction out of which it creates protective wrongness barriers to govern behavior. It erects these barriers regardless of whether or not the Holy Spirit is involved in the instruction. In other words, the presence of the Holy Spirit to give us instructions does not displace or preempt the operation of Conscience.
Where the Holy Spirit is involved in the instruction, Conscience is yet always present to assimilate and codify the morality associated with the Spirit’s instruction, to then stand as a “human-prophetic voice” against any lawless thought and impulse that would seek to challenge that instruction. The sounding of that human prophetic “voice” is the definition of a wrongness barrier.
Nevertheless, as we have already seen, Conscience may be misinformed from God’s point of view regarding what it believes to be wrong. Moreover, where the Holy Spirit is involved, His leading and guidance over a-personal behaviors is not “set in stone” as written by Conscience, but is dynamic, surpassing all human conception of righteousness held to by Conscience.
This means that the Spirit may give instruction against some behavior or practice in one season of life to be codified by Conscience, but in another season, the Spirit may reverse Himself and approve of it, and in the process, the Voice of the Spirit crosses the voice of Conscience that remains in force from the former instruction.
- “How Can it Be Right When It ‘Feels’ So Wrong?”
It is here with Conscience’s inherited moral misinformations from men and its inability to easily adapt to the changing approvals of the Holy Spirit that the deepest crisis of faith is engendered in the heart.
Some things that faith calls us to do are circumstantially or even relationally hard. But nothing is harder than when the Holy Spirit calls us or leads us to break wrongness barriers established by Conscience, and especially those from scripture! The two are at loggerheads, and we don’t know how to cope with what seems somehow internally right to our hearts yet feels so internally wrong to our souls at the same time.
It is at this point of crisis between Conscience and the Spirit, that faith either will or will not overcome the wrongness barriers previously erected by Conscience. It is here that determines how we answer the question, “Will ye also go away?”
---whether we remain in the camp of the Pharisees to retain the burden of the protective wrongness barriers,
or whether we can overcome to follow the Lamb “whithersoever He goes”
--- following Him into the transcending righteousness marked by inner peace beyond conscientious turmoil---the peace that comes with liberation from one more internal barrier that has outlived its time.
Do you see this?
People, this is how deep the challenge of ever increasing faith goes. Faith goes to the core of challenging humanly apprehended maxims of Conscience. And all our lives as believers, the Spirit has to confront us with His “more perfect” ways and truth in the matters of Life that require us to let go of and that “violate” what Conscience has previously held to as the divine standard.
So how does this happen? What does this struggle between Conscience and the Spirit look like? The perennial question always arises,
“But this thing I’m being led to do or believe feels so wrong! It’s against scripture as far as I can see it. It’s even against what the Holy Spirit told me how not to live before. How do I know that this is really a leading and command of the Spirit to let go of my conscientious objection past its time, and not rather that I am being deceived by some lawless spirit to give up this righteous standard of belief and practice?”
Isn’t that the question? Yes, it’s always the question of advanced faith. It is the question every Pharisee and commoner must answer. You know it is. You’ve been there yourself. I’m not telling you something you don’t already know (most of you out there!).
A Courtroom Drama
In the crosshairs between the Holy Spirit and Conscience, my answer always comes back to the ultimate reference point above. The Holy Spirit Himself is the final declarer and prover of the Truth before the court of our hearts, not Conscience.
Some translations use the word “Advocate” and “Counselor” instead of “Helper” to describe the Holy Spirit. What is an advocate? What is a counselor, such as a counselor-at-law? What do they do?
An advocate-counselor argues a case before a court. It is the job of our “Counselor at Divine Law” to make His superior case before our hearts against the case of previous Conscience. The Advocate brings witnesses and evidence before the court of the heart. And it is by the superior argumentation of Spirit to our spirit that we become convinced that the Spirit is indeed leading us beyond Conscience in our walk of faith, requiring a submission of Conscience to a new higher conformity.
We become equally convinced by the Spirit that we are not being deceived by a false spirit seeking to illegally overthrow Conscience in the justification of some pet sin. In fact, in this same courtroom of the heart, the Spirit also prosecutes demonic spirits hiding behind the “convictions” of Conscience.
Yet again in the courtroom, the devil is also present to prosecute us, shouting out accusations and condemnation upon us from the gallery in the midst of this entire drama. Indeed, in the heat of the crisis, there is cacophony between the Advocacy of the Spirit, the objections of Conscience resting on previous knowledge, and the cat-calling of the Accuser.
But in the end, the still steady small Voice of the heavenly Advocate wins His judgment from us in favor of the Father’s case to a higher faith and obedience, overpowering the unbelieving, condemning voices of both Conscience and the Accuser. John describes the Spirit’s courtroom victory this way,
I Jn. 5:19 We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him 20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
- Jesus At Court
Again, Jesus sets the pattern for us. Everything we experience in the court of our hearts over breaking wrongness barriers, He experienced in the courts of open contention on the floor of the temple.
Thinking back to all the barriers He challenged, Jesus did not just expect people to accept His say so about the things He was calling them to radically break past. He produced witnesses and evidence. He had John. He had His Father’s Voice. He had the Father’s miraculous works—including the regular casting out of religious demons (even as He was being attacked by the merciless accusations of demonically possessed men). He had of course His own testimony in consort with these. But He also at times could get direct support from Moses and the prophets.
In Christ’s mind, this total panel of witnesses and evidences left the people and Pharisees without excuse for continuing to hold onto their wrongness barriers about what He was saying and doing (Jn. 15:22,24). He expected that they should have been able to pass judgment in favor of faith in Him. And He held the populace totally accountable for failing to enter into the faith Life beyond the traditions of elders and the Law of Moses (Mt. 11:20-24).
All this drama is true today in the spirit before the bar of the church and of the individual believer’s heart, especially when it comes to matters of obedience over scriptural issues. Continual trial continues in all of us over the call of the Spirit past the naturally misinformed and previously well informed scriptural wrongness barriers of Conscience.
Mercy: The Remaining Challenge of Lawlessness and the Weakness of Men
Because of the nature and intensity of the battle over wrongness barriers, we as a body have to walk with great humility and mercy toward ourselves and others as the call to Living Faith gets worked out.
First, we must remember that we are all still mortal and the battle with world lawlessness still swirls fiercely around us. This means the role of mortal Conscience as a bulwark against lawlessness remains with us and must be absolutely respected. We never want to press into faith or coax others to enter faith beyond Conscience without the Holy Spirit’s thoroughly informed persuasion of advocacy in force. Wrongness barriers exist for a good reason, as we have seen. And the worse the world gets, the more important the initial role of Conscience in enforcing standards of humanly righteous behavior is.
So it is absolutely imperative we make clear here: this article is not advocating for immediate wholesale abandonment of wrongness barriers! Those barriers have to be respected in each of us as long as and until the Holy Spirit has timely made His appeal for their transcension! To advocate otherwise is to indeed promote lawlessness.
Additionally, we have to remember that all men are at different places in their crises over the transcending of wrongness barriers, and we must show the mercy of discernment in our dealings with others.
This is the whole point of Paul’s instructions regarding food offered to idols and similar social taboo issues. We must “have mercy on some who are doubting” as Jude says. If we are being raised in a prophetic way at all to trumpet the call to Conscience-transcending faith, we must have the Holy Spirit’s discernment to know the difference between the sincerely weak and the religiously stubborn.
We must relent for the sake of the weak, not flaunting a liberty we have obtained that others simply are not ready for, while boldly challenging the stubbornness of religious socialism that resists the call to surpass wrongness barriers that have now passed their time, if they ever had a legitimate place in the church to begin with.
Like Jesus therefore, we must discern between the weak but sincere disciples who just couldn’t get out of the boat like Peter, and the rigid Pharisees that continue to weigh people down with all manner of scruples of religious conscience having no place in the living Will of the Father.
We must remember that breaking wrongness barriers are the hardest barriers to entrance into Living Faith that we are called on to break, or rather over which to be broken. This breaking is at the heart of the message of the cross, as we keep making the painful blood transfusion between human moral righteousness and true eternal righteousness.
I have written today for the overcomers of the church—for those who love the Lord and desire to press into His righteousness at all costs, no matter how extreme those moral costs of heart may become. I have not written for anyone who is seeking a pre-mature out from obedience to God-ordained disciplines of the conscience that might offer some solace for retaining cherished pulls of lust and lawlessness. If you are struggling with temptation in any area, you are commanded to stay in the place of Conscience until the Lord finishes His purging work from your sin and releases your soul from His disciplines upon you.
To all the body, be edified as you work through this crucible in the inner man over wrongness barriers unto a more perfect faith, no matter where you are today on the road toward final immortality!
Blessings to all God’s faithful,
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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