Charles Stanley - Is Your Conscience Your Protector?
Can you trust your conscience? Think about it for a moment. Can you trust your conscience? When you're confronted with situations or circumstances or opportunities that appear to be questionable, either morally, ethically, socially; can you trust your conscience to guide you to make the right decision? You hear people say, "Well, let your conscience be your guide". Well, it depends upon what kind of shape your conscience is in. Because there are many people whose conscience, to some degree, and others more degree, dead. You can sin against God to the point that your conscience doesn't say anything else to you. It doesn't mean you have no conscience; but it means that you have rejected the voice of your conscience so long, you can't hear it anymore.
And somebody's sort of defined the conscience like this: the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking. God gave us all a conscience, and He gave us a conscience which is different from the Holy Spirit who's the third person of the Trinity, who lives within every single believer. But people who are not believers have a conscience. So, we all have a conscience. And the question is: can I trust it? If I abide by what I sense my conscience is saying or feeling, is that a wise response or is it not? So, I want you to turn to First Timothy; and Paul is writing to young Timothy who is the pastor of the church now in Ephesus, and they're going through some difficult times. And so, he says to him, beginning in the eighteenth verse of this first chapter, and I'll give you a time to find that.
First chapter of First Timothy, beginning in verse eighteen, he says, "This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that, by them, you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith". And then he mentions two other people who had given him a hard time, and he says about them, "Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme". And so, when I think about what he says, their life ended in shipwreck. The truth is, all of us, if we're honest, we know some people whose life has ended in shipwreck. They wreck their lives. They may still be afloat, but they're a wreck. And you and I know people like that who've decided that God has no place in their life. They have enough money, enough acceptance, enough of everything they want; they don't need God, and so they think somehow they'll make it. They'll make it for a season, but there will be a shipwreck sooner or later in their life. And this is what he's warning him of here.
So, I want us to think about that with that in mind, and then ask yourself the question: wherever you are in your Christian life, can you say yes, I can trust my conscience? When I come to something that's questionable, I can trust my conscience to send me a message. And what is that message? That message is a feeling of conflict, not peace, but conflict, uncertainty, questions, doubt, or maybe even fear. But God gave us a conscience for our protection. Now, whether we use it or respond to it as a protector or not is something we have to decide. It's not the same as the Holy Spirit, though the Holy Spirit is a part of every believer's life. And so, what you have to ask yourself the question is this: do I really trust my conscience? Do I respond to my conscience? Do I lean upon my conscience?
Now, the Holy Spirit works through our conscience. And if you see something, hear something, tempted to do something, or go in a certain direction that's not of God and you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you can't just plow through with no feeling. The Spirit of God is going to convict you and He's going to use your conscience to remind you that doesn't fit who you are. It doesn't fit what you believe, and it doesn't fit your relationship with Almighty God. There's a whole host of people who have no conscience. The reason they don't, they have one, put it this way, it's dead. You can disobey God, rebel against God over and over and over again till the loud voice, watch this, the loud voice of the conscience says "No, no, no, no, no, no, no". And that's the most dangerous place you can be, when you can't hear it; when it stops sounding the alarm, because you have deadened it with disobedience and rebellion toward God. So, Paul is reminding Timothy of how important that is. Now, we say that, and we all agree, that the conscience is a universal gift of God.
Let's define conscience in this way. Conscience is our human faculty by which a person does the following things. Number one, it distinguishes between the morally right and wrong. That's what the conscience does. It distinguishes between the morally right and wrong. Secondly, it urges us to do that which we recognize to be right. That's what the conscience does. Not only shows us what's wrong, but urges us to do the right thing. You can think about times in your life, or something you've seen, heard, or done, or whatever. And when your conscience was really bothering you, that's what you'd say, "My conscience so bothered me that it spoke loudly, I could not do it". A third thing it does, it restrains us from doing what we recognize to be wrong. And so, there's this restraint we feel, "That's not the place you need to go. That's not the right direction". The conscience can not only speak, it can scream. And the more committed you are to Jesus Christ, the louder your conscience is going to be.
When somebody says, "Well, I did thus and so and I didn't feel a thing". And they may be bragging about their capacity when they ought to be scared to death. If your conscience is so numbed; if your conscience is so dead that it does not shout to you when you're heading in the wrong direction to make a wrong decision, then you're in trouble. It's like driving down the streets of a busy city and ignoring the red light. "Oh, I like the green light and yellow light, but the red light I just ignore". You know that you're bound for a disaster sooner or later. And then, of course, our conscience passes judgment on acts and executes that judgment within the soul. That is, it says to us, "That is wrong. It doesn't fit who you are. It doesn't fit who you say you are. It doesn't fit the Word of God.
That is, the conscience is a powerful part of the human life. And everyone has one. It doesn't make any difference what language you have, what your background is, you have a conscience. And what you do with it will either sharpen it to make it more and more sensitive, that you can live a godly life, or you can begin to ignore it very early. So only you know where your conscience is. But it was given to us for our protection. And so, how does it work? And I'll give you several words up here that you can just jot down. First of all, it judges a man's soul; always passing judgment in attitude, conduct, and behavior. In other words, three things are affected: attitude, conduct, and behavior. Secondly, it's like a spiritual radar.
Watch this, it sends out signals to us that something close by is not right. And there have been times when I think all of us could say we had feelings we didn't know why, a sensitivity that, "Be careful today. Watch out today. Watch out of what," well, you didn't know what it was. It was your conscience through the work of the Holy Spirit sending you a signal ahead of time. And I can think of a few times that were dramatic in my own life, when I would pray in the morning and I'd feel this uncertainty about something, didn't know what it was, and it's like the Lord said, "Be careful today". And sure enough, something would come along and it would be like the Lord said, "See, I told you. Watch this".
And so, you have a conscience for your protection if you listen to it. It'll act like a grid system God has. And so, when something hits that system and stops there, it means that your conscience is saying, "Don't go there. For example, if you were tempted to really let somebody have it and just use profanity, you would know that's not right. Somebody offers you a drink of something, you know it does not fit who you are as a follower of Jesus. Or somebody invites you to go somewhere that you know is not right, or to look at something you know is not right, or listen to something that's not right. Your conscience is going to send you a signal, watch this, for your protection.
Now, watch this. When Satan tempts you to move in a certain direction, are you listening? Say amen. Don't take the first step. If you take the first step in violation of your conscience, what you're doing is you're ignoring the grid. The grid's there. And when what's wrong hits the grid, it sends a signal. You either abide by the signal or you don't. You cannot violate your conscience and walk in the will of God or even enjoy the blessings of God because it's an act of pure defiance of what God wants for your life. And what it does, it convicts us and it protests. It shouts, "This is not right. This doesn't fit who you are". And I don't know how God could have made it plainer. He gives us the Holy Spirit and seals us as a child of God, and He's the one living within us who speaks to our heart. He's also given us a conscience.
We got, watch this, we got the conscience before we got the Holy Spirit. You just think before you got saved, you had a conscience. You knew that certain things were not right. And then you have the Holy Spirit living within you and shouting to you what, through your conscience, "Don't do that; don't go there; don't say that; don't think that". It isn't that God is keeping you from having a good time in life. It's protecting you from disaster, and protecting you from going where God knows you should not go. The conscience is an awesome thing. And when I think about how God has made us, and He's made us to live our life holy and righteous before God; and yet, we choose not to do so, but it's because we ignore this inner conscience given to us, enabled by the Holy Spirit to identify anything and everything that's wrong.
Now, watch this. Sometimes you'll have a feeling about something and you don't know why. "Well, why should I hesitate about that"? You can't identify. God doesn't promise that you and I will always understand why He's giving us a signal, but remember this: God is omniscient, omnipotent, and He's what? Omnipresent, He's there. And so, when He sends you a signal about something and you ignore it, then what you're saying to Holy God, who is always working in your behalf. He always has your best interests at heart. He's going to send a signal to us to avoid something because He loves us; because He cares. And you know what? I can remember parents, maybe my mother probably said this to me. "Now, you shouldn't. No, Charles, you can't do that". Why? "Because I said so". And I knew better than not to do it. Now, did I always do what she said? No. Did I get punished when I disobeyed? Yes, I did. But I learned early in life, there are some things I may not understand why my mother said no, but later I realized she was right.
Now, watch this. Sooner or later you'll find out why God didn't want you to do or say or go where He forbid you to do, say or go. May not know at the time; but it's protection for us. It's God loving us. Now, think about this. Today, we live in a world that's becoming more and more and more ungodly. And so, it is more and more and more important that we teach our children, our grandchildren. I'm not the final authority. You're not the final authority. God is the final authority. And that final authority is to be found very clearly in the Word of God. And that's why you should train them early in life, that the Bible is the final authority, and the Bible is always right, always correct about every single circumstance of life. Our conscience is the signal to watch out whatever may be going on.
So, the Bible mentions different types of conscience, for example. I'll just mention these to you. When the Bible talks about a good conscience, and for example, in this nineteenth verse, "Keeping faith and a good conscience". So, there's a good conscience. And then the Scripture talks about, in First Corinthians chapter eight, a struggling conscience. And probably all of us have struggled at some time or the other about our conscience, or what we were feeling, or we were facing, or what we were tempted with, struggling conscience. And in Titus, the first chapter and the fifteenth verse, he talks about a soiled conscience. You do something that you know is not right. And when you do that, you soil your conscience. It's like getting it dirty. Does that mean God won't forgive you? No, He will forgive you; but I can tell you this. As long as that soil is there, you're not going to have any peace.
So, there's a soiled conscience. And then, worst of all, in First Timothy chapter four in verse two, he speaks of a seared conscience. The best way to describe that's take a piece of wax paper and take a hot iron and just set it on the wax paper and it disappears. When a conscience becomes seared, it doesn't speak any longer, it's dead. You can do anything you want to. Get by with it? No. This is why we see people who are living such an immoral life and they say, "Well, what's wrong with that"? Let me tell you something. They have seared their conscience by disobeying God over and over and over and over and over again till there's no voice. Conscience is seared, it's dead.
Now, go back to the first chapter of Romans, for example, and this is where he deals with it right up front with the Romans. And in this first chapter, he says, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened". Listen to this, "Professing to be wise, they became fools, exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds, four-footed beasts, crawling things. Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to dishonor and to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored". And on and on and on it goes. And he says again and again, "For God gave them over to it. And what does it mean? He says, "There comes a time if you insist on disobeying God, ignoring your conscience, doing what you want to do and just shutting God out, God will turn you over to it".
And this is why people can live the life that they live and seemingly from our point of view, it looks like they're having and people have said this to me, "Well, look at so-and-so. They seem to be getting along fine, mm-mm-mm". Seem to be. You haven't looked inside their heart. You don't know what they feel when they lie down at night. You don't know how miserable they are deep down inside. And all this is a big faking front they have out there. "Well, everything is fine, and I don't need that and this, God and Jesus and Bible, and we don't need any of that". Totally consumed by disobedience and a conscience that's been seared. Tragic. Well, let's think about it. So, when can you trust your conscience?
So, I'm going to give you several statements. You can trust your conscience when you have accepted the Word of God as the basis for your conduct. That's the basis of that means I'm going to live by the Ten Commandments and I'm going to live by the New Testament also. You can trust your conscience when you have made that decision. Secondly, you have or are programming your conscience with the teaching of Scripture. When you come week after week after week, what's happening? You're being programmed by the Word of God. You say, "Are you programming me"? No, the Spirit of God taking the Word of God into your heart and programming you to understand how God thinks and how He works and how He moves in a person's life.
Thirdly, you can trust your conscience when you have a strong desire to obey God. Lord, I want to trust You. No matter what, God, I'm going to trust You. And number four, when you prayerfully consider the decisions you make. You can trust your conscience when something comes up and you're not too sure of what you should do, you prayerfully ask the Lord to give you direction. Then you have a good conscience. You have a sensitive conscience, a conscience you can trust. And then, when your conscience sounds the alarm, immediately when you're considering a wrong direction in your thoughts or actions.
When you have a conscience that is consistent with God's Word, will, and way for your life, it doesn't take you all day to get a signal because that grid is up. And as soon as the wrong thing hits that grid, it sends off a message, "This is not right". For example, you go to work tomorrow morning and somebody says, "I've got to tell you this joke. Now, it's a little dirty, but you'll understand. Don't let it get you down, anything like that". And so, what do you do? Well, let me ask you a question. What would your conscience tell you to do when somebody tells you they're getting ready to tell the group, whether it's you or three, four, five people, "I'm getting ready to tell you a joke. It's a little, dirty, little mm-mm-mm". What do you do? When your conscience is right, immediately you don't have to question what to do.
Say, "Well, you know what? If it's that kind of joke, that doesn't fit who I am. Thank you very much". Or you could say to them if you're brave enough, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself talking like that". That's what you ought to say. You ought to be ashamed. You want to tell me what you're getting ready to tell me and telling me ahead of time that it's dirty? And I'll tell you, if you get strong about people who want to do that, here's what'll happen. Next time they've got a dirty joke, they're going to somebody else. They're not going to you. Because you know why? Because you've sent them a message. And I'll tell you something else. Before they go to sleep at night, they'll wrestle what you said. The fact that you turned and walked away, they won't forget it.
Now, they may be wicked as the devil, but they won't forget it. Because all of a sudden, there was conflict in them. And their conscience said something to them because your life is a righteous, godly life and you seek to walk in His way and His will. And so, all of a sudden, they've hit the blank wall. And their conscience and your conscience was in conflict immediately. We need to be strong and stop apologizing and stop just bending our convictions to meet somebody else's. We shouldn't. And then, of course, one way you can trust your conscience when you feel guilty immediately upon disobedience. Immediately. In fact, I can't even think about, I can't even think about God creating a conscience that takes time. In other words, a conscience is spiritually sensitive to everything going on around you.
And so, there's no time lapse. You may ignore it at first, but your conscience is there to protect you, protect you from things that will destroy you or hinder you in some fashion, or your loved ones, or whoever it might be. If you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, and it's bothering you, your conscience is still alive. And the Spirit of God will convict you not only of your sin, but of the fact that God loves you and is willing to forgive you and cleanse you and give you a whole new life, which the Bible calls being born again. And so, I would say to you this morning, don't even think about walking away without dealing with your relationship to God this morning. And I trust you'll be wise enough to do that. Amen?
Father, we thank You for the clarity of Your precious Word. We ask You this morning to so sanctify us; that is, let Your holiness so rule and reign in our life that there's no question in our mind whether something is right or wrong, or whether it fits us or does not, or whether it's the right timing for something or not. Followers of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, who always makes everything clear for us. And I pray for that somebody here this morning who's never trusted Jesus as their Savior and they wonder sometimes why they feel so badly. Haven't probably thought about their conscience being from God. I pray that you'll speak to their heart in these few moments. In Jesus's name, amen.