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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - The Priceless Value Of A Clear Conscience

Robert Jeffress - The Priceless Value Of A Clear Conscience


Robert Jeffress - The Priceless Value Of A Clear Conscience
TOPICS: But God..., Joseph, Life of Joseph, Conscience, Integrity

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. I'm impressed by the wise counsel the apostle Paul gave to Timothy about the two ingredients necessary for a successful Christian life. He said have faith and a clear conscience. That's good counsel. But what happens when a person has neither? And how about the person who's overcome with guilt and shame? My message is titled, "The Priceless Value of a Clear Conscience", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

With all of the discussion about plagiarism in the pulpit these days, I want to be sure that I give proper credit to this quote. I think it was the great theologian J.R. Ewing who once said, "A conscience is a luxury I can't afford to own. If I ever feel the need for one, I'll rent it". Well, the fact, is a conscience isn't a luxury. It's an absolute necessity for all of us. A conscience is like an internal warning system that God places in the each one of us. Just as an airline pilot has instruments to warn him when he's flying too high or flying too low, so God has placed in each of us this warning system to alert us when we are veering off course in our relationship with God and are headed to destruction. Unfortunately, there's an off switch with everyone's conscience. You can refuse to listen to your conscience. And if you do that over and over again, you do irreparable damage to your conscience. In fact, you develop what the Bible calls a seared or a hardened conscience, and that can be devastating.

One writer talks about a leprosy of the soul that comes from a conscience that has been ignored. You know what leprosy is. It's sometimes called Hansen's disease. It's a destruction of your nerve endings so that you no longer are able to feel pain. And you might think that's a great thing not to be able to feel pain. Not at all, it's a terrible thing, because somebody with the disease of leprosy, they can grab hold of a board and not realize there's a nail in the middle of it and it tears their flesh and they're completely unaware of it. They can walk on hot coals and not feel it and not realize they're destroying their feet. No, when you think about it, pain is a gift from God that alerts us to danger. That's not only true of physical pain, it's true of spiritual pain. And when you ignore your conscience often enough and long enough, you're no longer able to feel spiritual pain and you're headed to destruction.

What does God do to somebody who has developed a hardened conscience? Because he loves us, God will go to extraordinary lengths to reinvigorate our hardened, our dead conscience so that we can feel his spirit speaking to us again. How does he do that? Well, the answer to that question is found in the story of Joseph's first encounter with his brothers. If you have your Bibles, turn to Genesis 41 as we talk about the priceless value of a clear conscience. And this is the thing that I want you to see in today's passage. You know, they teach you in preaching class, every sermon ought to have one main idea to it. I'm going to give you the big idea of this sermon today, and here it is, a clear conscience produces peace in the midst of turmoil, but a guilty conscience produces turmoil in the midst of peace. And you see that contrast between the conscience of Joseph and the conscience of his brothers in the passage we're going to look at today.

First of all, let's look at a portrait of a clear conscience, Joseph himself. The story picks up in chapter 41, verse 45. "Then Pharaoh," after Joseph had interpreted the dreams, "Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-Paneah," but not only that, he gave him a woman, "Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, the priest of on as his wife". So he gets a new name, he gets a new wife, and then notice in verses 46 - 59, God blesses Joseph with success in his career, just as he had prophesied through Pharaoh. God did send seven years of bountiful, harvest of grain. In fact, there were so much grain they weren't even able to measure it. And Joseph wisely suggested setting aside some of that grain for the future famine that was sure to come in seven years. And then the zenith of God's blessing to Joseph occurs in verse 50, God blesses Joseph with children. He has two sons verse 51, the first son was named Manasseh. The name Manasseh means forget, to forget. And then his second son was named Ephraim, which means twice fruitful. In other words, the name of his son said, "God has allowed me to forget my hurt and to be twice blessed by him". He chose to see the bigger picture, as we'll see in the weeks ahead.

Now, here's the irony again. While Joseph was in prison, he was living as a free person because he had been freed from bitterness. His brothers had been free for the last 13 years, but they were living in the prison house of guilt. We saw the value of Joseph. He had a clear conscience this whole time, knowing there's nothing he could be accused of that he hadn't attempted to make right. But let's look at the portrait of a guilty conscience, and that's Joseph's brothers. They kept ignoring their conscience.

I think it was John macArthur who said that our conscience is like a sharp box that God places in our heart. And when we begin to go down a path that is wrong for us, may not be wrong for other people, but it's wrong for us, that box starts to turn with its sharp edges in our heart and begins to cut into our heart. But if you ignore the pain that your conscience produces long enough, it wears down the edges of that sharp box until you no longer feel the box turning. That's what happened to Joseph's brothers. They had ignored for 13 years their conscience over what they had done to Joseph and the lie that they had told to their father Jacob. And they got to the point they could no longer feel anything. But God wasn't finished with those brothers. He was determined to reactivate their conscience.

And I want you to notice the extraordinary lengths God went to to reactivate their conscience. Look at chapter 41, verse 57, it ends with, "The people of all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe in all the earth". Those seven years of bountiful harvest were followed by the worst famine the world had ever known, just as God had predicted. Isn't it interesting that God used a worldwide famine to bring these brothers back together to effect a reconciliation? That's what God does. He'll go to extraordinary lengths in your life to reinvigorate, to soften that conscience that has grown hard over time.

I want you to notice the four stages that God used in the life of these brothers and he'll use in your life to reactivate a seared, a hardened conscience. First of all, he uses adversity. Everybody in the world was feeling the effects of the famine, it was like the pandemic that we've gone through, the whole world felt it. Everybody in the world felt the pangs of hunger, including Joseph's brothers back in Canaan and their father Jacob, so what happens? Chapter 42, verse 1. "Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, 'why are you staring at one another'"? Now, he said, why didn't he send all of the remaining brothers, why didn't he send all 11? He wanted to keep one at home, Benjamin.

Now, this is key to the story. Why did he want to keep Benjamin? Benjamin was the youngest of his sons. He and Joseph were Jacob's sons by Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. Rachel he had worked for, remember, for 14 years. And so he loved those sons that Rachel produced, Benjamin and Joseph. He had already lost Joseph. He had been told by the other brothers that Joseph was dead, had been killed by a wild animal. He wasn't about to risk losing Benjamin. So he says, "Okay, I'm going to send you 10 brothers to Egypt to ask for grain and purchase it".

Now look at chapter 42, verse 6. "Now Joseph was the ruler over all the land. He was the one who sold to all the people in the land. And so Joseph's brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers," verse 7, "He recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly". And verse 9 says, "Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them". And the Bible says he spoke harshly to them.

Why, did he have a sudden resurgence of bitterness for his brothers? No, this was all part of an elaborate scheme Joseph had probably spent 13 years working on, a plan not to exact revenge on his brothers, but to affect a reconciliation with his brothers. 10 of the brothers were there. He still had a brother at home, he still had a dad he needed to get to Egypt, not only to reunite the family, but to save what would be the nucleus of the nation of Israel. And so he had to get everybody together and affect a reconciliation, so he had his plan to do that. The plan started with adversity. The brothers experienced adversity, and that didn't work. So Joseph is going to turn up the heat on his brothers to bring them to a point of repentance.

Notice the next step, embarrassment. Sometimes, in fact most times, God exposes hidden sin in our life so that we can be embarrassed by it enough to repent and turn from that sin. Now, I need to stop here and say something that's key that I'm going to repeat several times over the next few weeks about forgiveness. Why was Joseph so anxious to hear his brothers repent of what they did to him? This is key, repentance is not necessary to grant forgiveness, but it's essential to receive forgiveness. Repentance is not necessary to grant forgiveness. You don't have to wait til that person says "I'm sorry" to forgive them. Joseph had forgiven his brothers long ago while he was still in prison. No, it's not necessary to hear the words "I'm sorry" before you can forgive somebody.

Repentance is not necessary to grant forgiveness, but repentance is absolutely necessary to receive forgiveness. Before you can ever receive forgiveness from somebody else or from God himself, you have to be sorry for what you have done. You have to acknowledge your mistake. And what Joseph wanted to do was to get them to repent, not for his benefit, but for theirs, so that they would be open to receive the forgiveness they desperately needed from Joseph and from God himself. So he goes through these steps. He allows them to experience the embarrassment for what they had done years earlier. Notice what verse 12 says. "Yet Joseph said to them, 'no, you've come back here to look at the undefended parts of our land, you're spies'"!

Now, he knew they weren't spies, but he's putting pressure on them. Verse 13, "But they said, 'your servants are 12 brothers in all, and the sons of one man in the land of Canaan'". That's Jacob. "And behold, the youngest of our brothers is with our father today," that was Benjamin. "And one is no longer with us". This is the first time in years they'd acknowledged they had a 12th brother, Joseph. They hadn't spoken of him in years. But see, Joseph is putting the pressure on them, accusing them of being a spy, and so they have to blurt out the fact that they do have another brother, but they can't bring themself to say, "We sold him into slavery". They say he's just not alive any longer. So Joseph, listening to that, said, "They're not quite there yet".

We need to go to step number three, and that is the realization of their guilt. Realization of their guilt. Look at verse 14, "Joseph said to them, 'it is as I said, you are spies'". He was putting the pressure on him. He said, "And this is what we're going to do. I'm going to put you all in prison and you send word for your brother who's still in Canaan to come here. And if he comes, then I'll know you're telling the truth". So he puts these 10 brothers in prison for three days. At the end of three days, Joseph changes the plan. He said, "Okay, I've changed my mind. I'm going to let you all go back to Canaan, but I'm going to hold one of your brothers as hostage, Simeon". So what do they do? Now remember, they speak Hebrew, but prime minister Joseph speaks Egyptian, but he understands Hebrew. So they start to talk with one another in Hebrew, not thinking Joseph understands what they're saying, but he's listening to every word.

Verse 21 of chapter 42, "Then they said to one another, 'truly we are guilty concerning our brother because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen. Therefore, this distress has come upon us'". For the first time in more than 20 years, they had a realization and acknowledgment of their guilt. They said, "The reason this Pharaoh's prime minister is holding us hostage, the reason we're going through all of this is because we are guilty of what we did to Joseph more than 20 years ago". For the first time ever, they connected the dots between their sin and their circumstances. That's what a realization of guilt is. They said, "We are guilty". But understand this, realization of your guilt still isn't enough to receive forgiveness. You can be aware of your sin, you can be sorry for your sin, you can be heartbroken over the consequences of your sin without ever truly repenting of your sin and receiving forgiveness.

And so there's one more step, and that is unexpected grace. When Joseph heard his brothers acknowledge their guilt for what they had done to him, verse 24 said he was moved to tears. He wanted right there to reveal himself to his brothers, but he couldn't do so because he still needed to get his father and his other brother back. And he knew they weren't quite ready to truly receive his forgiveness. So notice the scheme he develops to get them to that point. Verse 25, "Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man's money in his sack and to give them provisions for the journey. And thus it was done for them". He loads up nine of the 10 brothers with the grain they had purchased, he's holding Simeon hostage, and then he tells his servants, "Now, secretly, at the bottom of their bag, put the money they used to purchase the grain with".

And look at verse 28. They set out on their journey back to Canaan. After a day's journey, they stop off in the local motel 6 and spend the night, they said a lodge, I don't know what it was, but they spent the night there. And one of them were going through their bag, verse 28, and he notices the money. He says in verse 28, "'my money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack'. And their hearts sank and they turned trembling to one another saying, 'what is this that God has done to us'"?

The fact is, Joseph was extending grace. He wasn't giving them what they deserved. He was giving them what they didn't deserve. And that's what grace is in your life. God gives you not judgment, but grace, showing you that your forgiveness has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with God. The brothers received grace, but they weren't quite ready to receive it yet. And in the weeks ahead, we'll see the final step that God used to bring them to repentance. You may be thinking, well, this is a fascinating, if not complicated, story, what does it have to do with us today? There's some of you here today, some of you watching, you're not a Christian yet, but recently you've become aware of your guilt before God, of your sin, of your imperfection. And you've come to the point you realize there's nothing you can ever do to forgive yourself or to earn God's forgiveness. The ability to recognize your sin and need for salvation is a gift from God.

And I urge you today, don't say no to that gift any longer. There are others of you here today, in fact, most of you here who are already Christians, but perhaps you have moved away from God step by step and you're in a place you never thought you would be. You're so far from God you no longer feel anything. You rarely hear him speak to you. Nothing moves you much. But perhaps in recent days you've been going through adversity in your life and you're beginning to realize, perhaps God is trying to get my attention. He is, but not because he hates you, it's because he loves you and he wants you to experience the abundance of blessing that he wants to pour out upon you. And starting to feel that pain of your sin and your distance from God is the first step back home to the father who loves you.
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