Summary: Paul was able to live with a clear conscience...not DEFILED, SEARED, or EVIL, as are dangers for us. Link included to formatted text version, handout, and PowerPoint Template.
A Good Conscience
Have you ever been persecuted for your stand for Christ? If we’re living right, we’re to expect it:
2 Tim. 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
But don’t confuse persecution with punishment. Persecution is when bad people persecute us for doing good…but punishment is when good people punish us for doing bad. Even believers make foolish decisions and use poor judgment and mess things up…and then when the consequences come we try to be holy saying we’re being persecuted.
But today, we can expect to be persecuted for doing what’s right, if we will. And the Apostle Paul was no stranger to this. He was warned ahead of time that this would happen upon his return to Jerusalem, and when he arrived, a mob attacked him. Chapters 21 and 22 read like an Indiana Jones movie. The Roman authorities arrived and rescued Paul from this mob…they were in such a frenzy, the authorities had to actually lift Paul over their heads to get him out of there. So now Paul stands before the Roman authorities, and they decide to interrogate him by torture. They prepare to scourge him, and then the info. comes out that he was a Roman citizen. That scared them, and they backed off. They turned him over to the Jewish council to decide. The Sanhedrin was their Supreme Court, made up of 70 leading Bible teachers, and their council had the power to execute him.
Paul knows their power of life and death, but he stands before them at peace.
23:1 “earnestly” = He’s looking them straight in the eyes, not ashamed, not afraid, and not about to back down. Paul used to be a member of their number…and now they consider him to be a turncoat…a traitor. There’s nothing this group would like more than to execute him. Yet he stands before them cool, calm, and collected.
There is no way to live the Christian life in our modern society today and not be criticized. But we can have confidence in criticism. How?
We have to be morally clean.
v. 1 “good conscience”
Conscience is that inner voice which accuses us when we do wrong. It’s an alarm that sounds within warning us ahead of time, too. First, we need a word of warning about our conscience.
The world says, “let your conscience be your guide.” But that’s not always a good idea. You can’t always do that…because conscience doesn’t set the standard of right and wrong, it only applies the standards that you’ve been taught. Conscience is like a thermostat…it can be set to operate at many different levels.
Ill.—criminals cop plea deals to get reduced sentences [Enron exec./Lobbyist Abramoff, etc.] Surely their conscience says not to rat on others they know about. Their conscience bothers them to turn others in…not because it’s wrong to do so, because it’s right. So, conscience can lead us astray unless it’s based on a proper standard [The Word of God!]
And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.
Then we can be confident in criticism, and have peace in persecution.
When you know you’re doing right in God’s eyes, in accordance w/ His Word, then unfounded criticism will roll off you like water off a duck’s back. “If God be for us, who can be against us!”
We need to be careful w/ our conscience. It is important, but…
1. It can be defiled
Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
Conscience is like a sundial…you can shine a flashlight on a sundial and make it say anything you want, if you hold it from the right angle. I’ve actually confronted Christians with sin issues--only to hear back from them that they don’t feel it’s wrong. “I’m ok with it…I don’t believe it’s sin,” they are saying. Well, truth isn’t based on feeling it’s based on fact. Their conscience is still there, it’s just been defiled!
Conscience is like a window, and the light coming thru the window is the Word of God. The dirtier the window, the less light gets thru…it isn’t as pure…it browns the light.
Some Christians so repeatedly sin that they defile their conscience. The first time they “did that” it really bothered them…they confessed it, and tried to do better, but fell again, and felt guilty, and eventually didn’t want to confess anymore [negative feeling] so they just went on and swept it under the rug, and the glass darkened, and now they can do it freely anytime…they’ve come to accept something they shouldn’t!