Intentional Acts = Clean Conscience
Thoughtless and selfish words and actions may indeed be something that you think you're getting away with. Of course that's doubtful. You never get away with anything do you, in this life?
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again radio friends. How in the world are you? Doin’ all right? Well I trust so. This is your good friend Bob Cook, and we’re back together again, looking at the Word of God.
We’re still meditating on that subject that Paul brought up in 1 Thessalonians 5, where he said, “Brethren, pray for us.” I’m looking today at Hebrews 13:18, where the writer says, “Pray for us, for we trust we have a good conscience in all things, willing to live honestly. But I beseech you the, rather to do this, that is to pray for us, in order that I may be restored to you sooner.”
This whole matter of a good conscience, we trust that we have a good conscience. Well, that brings up a lot of ideas about conscience. The Greek word for conscience is a compound that means “to know with‟. It’s along “with your knowledge‟. It’s something God has built in as a mental and moral referee in your own life.
Now Lord Jesus spoke to the crowd who brought to Him a wretched lady who had been caught in the midst of moral sin. And He said to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” And they, it says, being convicted by their own conscience, went out, beginning with the oldest right down to the youngest. Finally our Lord Jesus stopped writing on the ground, and straightened up, and looked at the lady, and said, “Isn’t any man accusing you?” And she said, “No man.” He said, “You go and sin no more.”
Convicted by their own conscience. The realization of who and what I am is right there. God put it in you to help to guide you. And you’ll find that conscience is a faculty – to use an outdated word, psychologists don’t use that anymore. They used to, but not anymore. Well I’ll use it. A faculty that God has built in to you. Now it’s possible to so abuse your conscience that it becomes as the writer says, “Seared as with a hot iron”, having their conscience seared – verse Timothy 4:2.
A continual sinning inures you to, to the pangs of conscience when you continue to do that which is wrong. We’ve all read the stories of people who were hired killers, who were contract killers. And they would, for a fee, hunt out someone upon whom the contract was let, and they would kill that person. They thought nothing of it. Well in one interview some years ago, the question that was asked was, “Doesn’t it bother you?” “No it doesn’t bother me.” “Well, did it ever?” “Well, at first.”
And there you have the, the story in brief, of what happens to the conscience. The first time he pulled the trigger, it upset him. The second and third time, not quite so much. And now, after who knows how many lives had been snuffed out by this hired killer, it doesn’t bother him at all to take a human life. Conscience can be deadened by continual abuse, yes of course it can.
But Paul said, “I work at this matter of having a, a conscience void of offense.” He said, “I labour to have a conscience void of offense toward…” He said, “I exercise myself hereinto, I exercise myself.” This is Acts 24:16 as I’m quoting it. “Hereinto I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men.”
He worked at it. Now how is that? Well, the Word of God is the catalyst that constantly keeps your conscience burning brightly, shall we say? It, it keeps the flame alive so that it isn’t extinguished. He said, “I exercise myself to have a conscience void of offense toward man, and toward God.”
Now, how do you do that? Well Number 1, you go to the Word. The blood of Christ cleanses your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God – Hebrews 9:14. And so you go to God’s Word, and you allow the blessed Holy Spirit to apply it to you, and you can be sure that God will zero in on areas where your conscience needs to be pricked, needs to be refreshed, needs to be started burning brightly once again – to use the figure of speech.
Your conscience will be appealed to by the Word of God, if you allow it. Always beloved, when you’re reading God’s Word, ask the question, “What does God want me to do about this passage?‟ There is always some step of obedience that you and I can take as a result of our exposure to the Word of God. The, the faithful Holy Spirit will do that for us. Jesus said, “When He has come, He will teach you all things, bring all things to your remembrance. Whatsoever I have said unto you, he shall guide you into all truth.” To be guided means to get in motion.
And so the Holy Spirit guides you, as you read the Word of God, to action in obedience to that word. I was talking to Henry Brehm, my friend of many, many years – of an experienced psychological counselor and speaker to people of professional level, as well as the rest of us. I was talking to him years ago about this whole matter of counseling. And he remarked that the best thing for anyone to do is to allow the other person with whom you may be counseling, to see what God’s Word says about a matter.
And then instead of saying, “Now I’ll tell you what you ought to do” don’t you tell him what to do. You ask him or her, “Now what do you think God is asking you to do?” See, conscience can be stirred by meditating on the Word of God, and asking the question, “What does God really want me to do about this matter?‟
As a matter of fact, a guilty conscience is a deterrent to effective work or witnessing. Ever personnel manager in the world knows that someone working for or with you, who has a guilty conscience, is going to be inefficient in his or her work over a period of time. And the same thing is true of learning. “A guilty conscience,” says the psychologist, “is a deterrent to learning.”
If you’ve got something on your conscience and you know that you’ve done wrong or said something wrong, or you’re involved in a relationship that’s wrong, it is a deterrent to learning. And you may be able to parrot off the things that you’ve learnt in the textbook. But really you won’t do well over the long pull, as long as your conscience is guilty.
And so Paul says, “My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.” This is Romans, chapter 9. “I say the truth in Christ I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness.” What he had to say came out of a conscience that was cleansed and right with God. You will be ever so much more effective in all of your relationships, beloved. And that goes for how you are at home with your loved ones, how things are at school or at work – the office, or the shop, or on the street, or in the community – you’ll be ever so much more effective in your relationships with other people if you’ll make sure that your conscience is right.
Now we come up against a problem here, and I’ve met it with people again and again. They say, “Well I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed, and asked God to forgive me. But it still bothers me.” Well, you have to take God’s Word on this again. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Someone approached my wife and me many years ago now – about 40 years I suppose it would be – and said, “I just can’t get rid of the feeling of guilt over something that happened.” And there’d been a tragic mistake in that life, I suppose maybe 25 years before that date. And this dear person had been carrying it around on the conscience all this time. Well we pointed out that, that Jesus died to cleanse our consciences from dead works, to serve the living God. And if we confess our sins, He’ll forgive us, and He’ll cleanse us, that means take it away.
And so that was done, as this dear one knelt in the kitchen of our parsonage, there in the place where we were holding down the pastorate. And then the joy and the smile that came through the tears when this remark was heard to be made, “I’ve carried that burden for 25 years, but now thank God it’s gone.” See now this is what, what you have to do. You go to God’s Word, you believe what he says, you turn it by faith – this guilty conscience, this burden – you turn it by faith over to your to your blessed Lord, and let Him handle it. He will because He has promised so to do.
Now Paul says you got to watch out for the other person’s conscience. “Conscience I say, not thine own, but the other’s. Don’t wear a wound.” He says, “When ye wound their weak, conscience, the weak brother or sister. If meat make my brother to offend,” he says, “I’ll eat no meat while the world stands.” This matter of being responsible to other people’s conscience comes in to play, doesn’t it? Yes it does.
Now, is that going to mean that you’re going to be in bondage, and constantly looking around to see if everybody approves what you’re doing? No, not at all. What it does mean is that you’re going to pray your way through the day and ask God to keep you from, from wounding anybody else’s conscience by some thoughtless word or action of your own. There are some things that you might defend and get away with. But you don’t want to do it because you would offend another person’s conscience, you understand me? He said, “When you wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” You‟re hurting your savior when you hurt some other believer.
Thoughtless and selfish words and actions may indeed be something that you think you’re getting away with. Of course that’s doubtful – you never get away with anything do you, in this life? But thoughtless words and deeds may be something that you carry one and you think, “Well it doesn‟t matter.” But the real determinant factor, beloved, is what it does to other people who observe you, and people who respect you, and people who are trying to emulate you and pattern their lives by yours. What does it do to them?
There was this, this farmer who found his whole life changed by something that happened one snowy morning as he was on his way out to the barn. And his little 3-year-old was toddling after him, calling, “I’s following daddy, right in your steps.” Because as the, as the farmer father was stepping through the deep snow, his footsteps made an imprint into which that little boy was placing his own feet. “I’s following daddy, right in your steps.”
And it got to this man, they tell me. And he turned his life around, turned it over to the Lord Jesus Christ, because he realized that there was somebody stepping in his footsteps. You’re responsible beloved, for the effect that your life has on other people’s consciences. And so we need to keep prayed up and right with God, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us so we don’t wound anybody else’s conscience. Quite a truth isn’t it?
Holy Father, in Jesus name I pray that Thou would make us people with clean consciences, whose lives and our effect on others will help their consciences as well, in Jesus name. Amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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