The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways. If we open our hearts and minds to the Lord, we will find that He does indeed communicate with us. Subtle nudges from the Spirit push us to do the right thing and resist wrongdoing. If we choose to ignore those gentle cues, we often recognize that the Spirit was encouraging us to do God’s will. How do we know if it is the Spirit that is directing us? Since we are, by nature selfish and sinful, it is fairly obvious when the Spirit is leading. Placing others before ourselves, volunteering for charitable causes, living out our lives as the Lord directs us, engaging ourselves in His Word, and speaking out for our Lord. These are just a few of the tasks that God places before us. We need only to open our hearts and minds and listen to God.
We must also realize when we substitute our own judgment in the place of the Lord’s will. When we fail to listen to Him, we can end up dismissing God’s word as antiquated or not appropriate for this day and age. Exercising one's "bound conscience" places our own selfish wants and desires over God’s plan for us, leading us away from Him. Romans 8:5 “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires: but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Those that place self above the Lord and believe that the Scriptures are just a set of values no longer pertinent to our more "enlightened" society are leading others to a false gospel. Our Lord has set before us a guide to lead us toward a godly life. If we pick and choose what part of Scripture is valid for today, we are falling toward agnosticism. Proverbs 10:17 “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” God speaks to us through the Holy Scripture and gently nudges us through the Holy Spirit to correct us and lead us on the right path.
If we follow this new concept of bound conscience and place our opinion above God’s Word, we will continue to minimize sin and eventually, learn to ignore sin as irrelevant. Social justice and good works are all part of doing God’s will and should always be an important duty of any religious organization. Good works do not alone make the case for salvation. Martin Luther said, “The first and chief article is this: Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, died for our sins and was raised for our justification. He alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and God has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. All have sinned and are justified freely, without their own good works and merits, by His grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, in His blood. This is necessary to believe. This cannot be otherwise acquired or grasped by any work, law or merit. Therefore it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us.”
We must continue to do the good works as God directs us. But, first and foremost is our faith in our resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ that is our salvation. We must also work to bring others to Christ as we continue to do His work. This is where the ELCA fails the members of its denomination. By overemphasizing the importance of good works, the ELCA broadens the gap between the Lord and His people. By minimizing sin and disregarding “unpopular” portions of Scripture, they are promoting a false gospel and putting their members at risk of losing their salvation. We must continue to pray that all Christians keep strong in their faith and rebuke this false gospel of the bound conscience. As for the leaders of the ELCA, perhaps they should open their hearts and minds and just listen to what God is telling them, rather than trying to satisfy their earthly desires.