Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Your Conscience as a Tool for Growth

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Your Conscience as a Tool for Growth

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Your Conscience as a Tool for Growth

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Your conscience is an important part of what makes you a human. It is part of being self-aware. It causes you to judge yourself from a set of standards beyond yourself, creating a sense of guilt or approval. Your conscience can be trained for better or for worse. It can be trained to judge rightly by God’s word. It can also be trained to deceive that sin is not sin, trading good for evil.  It can be trained to let you feel good about a lot of things that are not good.  

Sermon Notes

Listening to NPR – military training for soldiers after the incidents in the Abu Gahrib prison “ if it feels wrong, or if you think it might be wrong it probably is wrong so don’t so it…”  Asking them to use their conscience? Is that reliable?

What is the conscience?

Elwell's Evangelical Dictionary: Conscience

The word is derived from the Latin conscientia, which is a compound of the preposition con and scio, meaning "to know together," "joint knowledge with others," "the knowledge we share with another." The Greek equivalent in the NT is syneidesis, a compound of syn, "together," and eidenai, "to know," that is, to know together with, to have common knowledge together with someone. It stems from the same root as consciousness, which means "awareness of." Conscience is an awareness restricted to the moral sphere. It is a moral awareness.

Rom. 2:14-16…informed by general revelation

2 Corinthians 1:12-14 2 Corinthians 1:12-14 [12] For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. [13] For we write none other things to you, than what you read or acknowledge; and I trust you shall acknowledge even to the end; [14] As also you have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as you also are our's in the day of the Lord Jesus.
American King James Version×
…informed by revelation from the word of God and the Holy Spirit (a witness or record of your life).

Romans 13:5 Romans 13:5Why you must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
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… acting in a certain way because "conscience" requires it

Elwell's Evangelical Dictionary: Conscience

The word "conscience" does not appear in the OT. However, the idea is well known and is often expressed by the term "heart". When Pharoah’s heart was hardened his conscience was steeled against the will of God. We read of David that his heart smote him. Jobs says: "My heart shall not reproach me". A tender heart is a sensitive conscience—an upright heart is a pure conscience—when David prayed “create in me a clean heart he was seeking to have his life and his conscience cleansed.

Who/what are we knowing together with?

Who’s voice is the conscience?

  1. The voice of God—NO, because the conscience can be weak or misinformed
  2. Function of the human mind—NO, because then it would be subject to the mind rather than joint knowing with others (something outside) as defined.
  3. Internalized voice or recognized authority—We all have a conscience yet we all experience it in different ways…weak/strong…and with different standards…pure/defiled… our conscience is the result of a variety of influences vying for dominance, Friends, Family, Tradition, Culture, God, Satan, Genes, Hormones (ie the flesh). Your unique experience is determined by the degree to which you accept each of these influences as authoritative. A mixture of good and evil.

Can the conscience be trained?

Our conscience is shaped by the company we keep and the things we dwell upon. For Christians, the development of your conscience is a lifelong process of being shaped by the word of God, the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of believers.

Searing the conscience—suicide bomber? having abortion?

The conscience is your spiritual warning system. Repeatedly overriding it will deaden it Romans 1:32 Romans 1:32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
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Ephesians 4:17-19 Ephesians 4:17-19 [17] This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you from now on walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, [18] Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: [19] Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
American King James Version×

In the past 20 years, we have heard a lot about repressed feelings being unhealthy and overcoming guilt. Sometimes this is true. Remember the conscience is built by a variety of sources, cultural, traditional, biological, scriptural… it’s a mixture of good and evil. But some of it is coming from God. Over-riding this is dangerous.

Our society does this by redefining the sin and classify it as something else… a biological disposition… an outmoded construct of patriarchal society… a normal healthy appetite… a necessary evil etc. The undermining of the conscience in our society has turned into a full frontal attack and is hardening people to the truth of the God.

Think of the conscience like a fingertip with its sensitive nerve endings and sense of touch and feel. Its sensitivity can be damaged by calluses that build up 1 Timothy 4:1-2 1 Timothy 4:1-2 [1] Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; [2] Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
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Describe searing—cuts of all the blood, nerves etc. No Feeling!

Story: Benny Goodman – cut all his calluses off -- start over

Cleansing the conscience

1 Peter 3:21 1 Peter 3:21The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
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Hebrews 9:14 Hebrews 9:14How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
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Hebrews 10:22 Hebrews 10:22Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
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… blood as a cleansing agent

Hebrews 10:16 Hebrews 10:16This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, said the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
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Hebrews 10:17 Hebrews 10:17And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
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… the record is wiped clean

Does that mean your conscience s totally reliable after being redeemed and cleansed? No, but you do get a fresh start, a new sensitivity to the truth of God and His righteous requirements through the help of the Holy Spirit. Romans 2:29 Romans 2:29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
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The passages on the weak conscience show us that it is a process but also warn us that hardening or searing the conscience can happen in the Christian context as well. Weak believers are not to get in the habit of overruling their conscience because then they will/may lose out on all the promptings of the conscience which are a necessary part of sanctification. We are to defer to those of weaker conscience. To encourage them to wound (do damage) their conscience is to lead them into sin 1 Corinthians 8:7 1 Corinthians 8:7However, there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol to this hour eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.
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, 10, 12
. The goal is to educate the conscience

Christian conversion involves a reorientation of which authority(s) we acknowledge as legitimate. We look to God and nowhere else 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 [3] But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yes, I judge not my own self. [4] For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judges me is the Lord. [5] Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
American King James Version×
. Also, there is a change of sensitivity in our conscience. What was once dull or calloused becomes awakened and painfully aware of the contrast or conflict between our existing “work in progress” conscience and the standards of Christ Romans 3:20 Romans 3:20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
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also the failings of our own personal performance as discussed in Romans 7:19 Romans 7:19For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
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What about the purpose of the conscience?

Is it only there to make you feel bad? Or can you use it as a tool for building holy righteous character?... YES

Using the conscience to put hidden sin to death

Sin is not put to death when it is merely covered up -- New to the faith – you start dealing with the outwardly visible sins fornication, foul language, Sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, and you get control over many of them – but sin still remains…

Sometimes this means we simple do it when no one is looking. But a properly instructed, sensitive conscience is always there. Make sure you listen to it. Yes, God is there too but He’s not forcing you to do anything. He gives you the tools but He wants you to do make the decisions and do the work. Philippians 2:12 Philippians 2:12Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
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, Proverbs 28:13 Proverbs 28:13He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.
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Sin is not put to death when it is only internalized – Pick up a rock or discarded board in the yard – bugs and mice scurry away into hiding places. Where does sin go? – Into the MIND. Matthew 5:27-28 Matthew 5:27-28 [27] You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: [28] But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
American King James Version×
. Sin is not put to death when it is exchanged for a different sin. Example exchanging adultery for covetousness (lust).

Sin is not put to death when it is merely repressed

You can drown out the voice of your conscience with alcohol or forget about your guilt with TV, music, excessive work, or other distractions. But sin is still waiting for you when come up for air. It doesn’t go away… it will keep coming back (crouching at the door)

At some point, you will have to address sin head-on (God lead Israel into situations where they would have to make some decisions Deut 8:2-3). Sin starts with twinges of temptation. When you first start thinking about it is the time to stop. Flirting with temptation is nothing but trouble. While the temptation is still just a thought (not yet an act) your conscience is at work, use it, listen to it, answer temptation with God’s word – Matthew 4:4-10 Matthew 4:4-10 [4] But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, [6] And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God. [8] Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; [9] And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. [10] Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
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Use your informed conscience to expose sin for what is “This is evil, this is vile, this is against God Himself”. Pull it out and denounce it for what it is – deal with it. Expose it analyze it, and hate it.

A conscience that has been sensitized by thoughtful reflection on God’s word with the help of God’s Holy Spirit is essential for the battle we have with sin that happens up there between our ears.

Many grievous sins occur where no one is watching. The only defense, the only watchdog is your conscience and the Godly Sorrow and repentance it produces. 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 [10] For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death. [11] For behold this selfsame thing, that you sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it worked in you, yes, what clearing of yourselves, yes, what indignation, yes, what fear, yes, what vehement desire, yes, what zeal, yes, what revenge! In all things you have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
American King James Version×

Conclusion:

Your conscience is an important part of what makes you a human. It is part of being self-aware. It causes you to judge yourself from a set of standards beyond yourself, creating a sense of guilt or approval.

Your conscience can be trained… for better or for worse. It can be trained to judge rightly by God’s word. It can also be trained to deceive that sin is not sin, trading good for evil.  It can be trained to let you feel good about a lot of things that are not good.

Guilt feels bad…everyone agrees on that. Because it feels so bad we are tempted to ignore it, hope it goes away, forget it, push it deep down or to talk ourselves into believing that our guilty conscience is WRONG.

But, to do away with the conscience is to do away with what makes us human and not animals… for Christians, it would be to ignore the very tool God has given us to build the mind of Christ in us so that we might be born into His family as sons and daughters.

Your conscience is there to warn you and help you deal with sin. You can ignore it or you can use your sense of guilt as a motivation to get right with God through confession, repentance, forgiveness, and restitution… and that’s the way to remove guilt – forever.

And that is the only way to truly feel good and enjoy a clear conscience.