|A good conscience is a good thing. But a conscience that isn't |
influenced by God’s reasoning’s and thinking’s can still fall short.
The following is the transcript from the July 31, 2016 service at the Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
This week we’re finishing our series "Do you really Believe that?" looking at an old piece of advice: “Let your conscience be your guide.”
Have you ever heard that said? Of course, we all have. At the core of this proverb is the idea that our consciences will never be wrong. The problem is – that’s not always so.
In our scripture reading this morning, we are looking at the climax of the Passion Week events. When Jesus entered the city, the crowds went wild. And to honor Him, the people spread Palm branches before Him. The people believed that Jesus was sent by God to be their deliverer and for a few days they thanked God and sang His praises. Because they truly believed this man was their deliverance.
But by the end of the week, things had changed. The same crowd that shouted Hosanna on Sunday, by Friday was calling for His death. They gathered and watched as the Sanhedrin had arrested Him and delivered Him to the Romans to be crucified.
How could these people praise Him on one day, and curse Him just few days later? How could they do something so evil as to call for the death of a man who’d done no wrong? Why hadn't their conscience convicted them of the wickedness of what they were doing? Why hadn't their conscience GUIDED them?
Well the problem was that it had. Their conscience WAS guiding them.
Their conscience was telling them that;
A REAL king of Israel would never allow Himself to be arrested by the Romans.
A REAL King of Israel would never be condemned by the Sanhedrin.
That’s what their “conscience” was telling them. And if the Sanhedrin and the Priests believed He was to be crucified well, so be it. And their conscience was wrong.
You see, our conscience is not a mystical force. It’s just a part of the soul that God created within us to help us make decisions and everybody has one.
Romans 2:14-15 tells us
“when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while THEIR CONSCIENCE ALSO BEARS WITNESS...” (ESV)
God created the conscience to be our inner voice; even those who don’t believe in God, have a conscience. Everybody is guided by a force within them that helps decide right and wrong. Everybody has that voice inside them that convicts them of guilt and shame when they've done things they shouldn't.
It’s like an inner GPS. It helps you know where you are AND where you should be going. But like GPS units, your conscience can be fed the wrong information and you can end up going places you really don’t want to go.
You do realize that GPS can give you the wrong information don’t you? It happens! GPS units are dependent on the source of information they get.
And it also happens with our conscience.
Your conscience feeds on what you give to it. It’s possible to program your conscience to accept things that you shouldn't. It’s possible to program your conscience to steal and cheat and hurt and kill. The Bible talks about this as “searing your conscience”.
The point is: The world is doing everything in its power to sear, warp and bend out of shape your conscience.
It all depends on who you listen to.
That’s why the very first Psalm in the book of Psalms says this:
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” Psalm 1:1That verse is saying that we shouldn't hang around the wicked, the sinners, and the mockers. Why; because those kind of people can warp you. They’ll bend your conscience out of shape.
You’ll begin to think like they do, talk like they do, act like they do. And you’ll end up just as lost as they are.
All you have to do is watch those people long enough and you’ll see they’re off course. You just have to pay attention to how these people live their lives and how their choices affect their lives. If you pay attention long enough, you’ll see the results of their thinking.
Now, you’d think religious people would be the best folks to hang around.
You’d think church folks would help me shape my conscience. I mean, that’s why we come to church isn't it? So, you’d think religious people would be the best influences?
But, it was the religious folk who whipped the crowd into calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. It was the Pharisees and the priests and the Sanhedrin who were the ruling religious leaders of the day.
And Jesus never had much good to say about those people. At one point, Jesus addressed them and said;
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! ...” Matthew 23:13These men were self-righteous, arrogant and proud and generally had no love for people. But they did love money, and power, and prestige.
Jesus warned His disciples not to be like them. Those were not the kind of people a Christian would find much wisdom around.
When Paul wrote Timothy, he warned him about “religious people.” He said some of those “religious people” had consciences that were seared.
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose CONSCIENCES HAVE BEEN SEARED as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” I Timothy 4:1-3In other words, there are religious teachers out there whose consciences are seared. ONE of the ways you could tell who they are was that they taught things that aren't in Scripture.
So where do you go to fine tune your conscience if you can’t depend upon certain friends and acquaintances or relatives, or even religious people – to help mold your conscience?
Paul said it this way:
“I have lived my life BEFORE GOD in all good conscience up to this day.” Acts 23:1What was Paul saying? He was saying that He spent most of His time with God, in prayer and Bible study.
Now, think about this: if you want to shape and mold your conscience so you can trust it then doesn't it make sense to let the One who made your conscience… influence it? Of course it does.
David said it this way:
“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for YOU YOURSELF HAVE TAUGHT ME.” Psalm 119:97-102What’s David saying? He’s was saying, that studying God’s word made him wiser than his enemies. It gave him more understanding than his elders.
And it kept him from every evil path.
In other words: it molded his conscience. It made it so that he could trust his “instincts” on what was right and wrong. It made it so that he would become a man after God’s own heart.
David was basically saying… it’s all in who you listen to.
And you can’t get ANYBODY who’s as good to listen to as God Himself.
Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn't go to church, and listen to the sermon, and take communion, sing songs of praise, etc. etc. What it is saying is this: if you’re not listening to God… all that’s worthless.
If you’re not listening to God, paying attention to God, focusing on God, looking for God… then church can become an empty exercise.
I've been in churches where people just put in their time. They go through religious exercises. They pray, they sing, they listen, they work… and they go home no different than when they came.
Or you’ll encounter people who come to church and say they “weren't being fed.” Or imply that their needs weren't met. Or it’s obvious they weren't entertained. But church is meant to be a place where WE feed each other, and where WE meet each other’s needs.
God forbid we show up just to be entertained.
But you see, until you listen to God’s leading, you’ll fall prey to those kinds of traps.
You start with God, or you’re not going to understand what God’s will is.
You have to listen, pay attention, and focus on His message to you.
And what is that message? Cleanse your conscience.
And how do you do that?
Hebrews says you do it this way:
“the BLOOD OF CHRIST, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, (will) Cleanse Our Consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:14And just how do we have the blood of Christ cleanse our consciences?
It’s when we believe that Jesus was the Son of God and that He came to die for our sins. And when we decide to repent of our sins and confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And when we allow ourselves to be buried in the waters of Christian baptism… it’s then that our appeal for a good conscience is answered by God. It’s then that our sins are buried and we come before Him with our consciences cleansed of the acts that led to death.
A good conscience is a good thing. But a conscience that isn't influenced by God’s reasoning’s and thinking’s can still fall short. Unless you and I are Christians, and unless we allow God’s thinking to affect our consciences, there will always be something missing.
God’s thinking at the cross was different than what decent moral men would have thought because Jesus had been sent by God to die in our place. But if there had been good, moral men there with a good conscience, and they succeeded in stopping the crucifixion of Christ – you and I would be condemned to an eternity in hell.