Summary: See the resources God has given us for managing our consciences.
Introduction: Do you ever have trouble keeping your conscience under control? Managing your conscience is somewhat like keeping kudzu under control. I once served a church in a small rural community in Mississippi. Behind the church building there was a large patch of kudzu. We were continually struggling to control its spread. We had to cut it three or four times a summer. Our consciences are also a struggle to manage.
Illustration: Consider this example. A man said his daddy used to read the comics to him on Sundays. “One of the main characters in the comic strip was a guy named Willie. In one strip, he’s slumped in front of the television set with a coffee cup resting on his pot belly as he flicks his cigar ashes into his cup. He says to his wife, ‘you’re awful quiet this morning, Mamie.’ And she says in return, ‘Willie, I’ve decided to let your conscience be your guide on your day off.’
Next scene, Willie is surrounded by a lawnmower and an edger and a hoe and a shovel and he’s frantically washing the windows and muttering, ‘Every time I listen to that dumb thing I end up ruinin’ my relaxin’.’”
(Charles R. Swindoll, quoting Jerry White, Honesty, Morality, and Conscience, Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 117.)
We can all relate. Each of us have experienced struggles with our conscience. Our conscience can be both good and bad. Let me give you a few examples. First, let’s see how our conscience can be good.
Example: Our conscience can uphold us when we struggle spiritually. Paul encouraged Timothy to “wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, seek a good conscience” (I Tim. 1:19 NKJV). As Timothy faced these struggles Paul encouraged him to keep a clear conscience.
Example: Our conscience can be a source of encouragement when others attack us. At one time in his ministry Paul was being severely attacked by his enemies. He said “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.’’ (Acts 23:1 NKJV)
Example: Our conscience can protect us from temptation. In Gen. 39:7-12 we find Joseph was sexually tempted by his bosses wife. Joseph followed his conscience and resisted the temptation. Because of his resolve he developed a stronger testimony for God. Someone has said “It is a beautiful idea that every man has within a Guardian Angel: and that it is true, too, for conscience is ever on the watch, ever ready to warn us of danger.” Anonynous
Our conscience can also display a bad side.
Example: Our conscience can fuel paranoia. “The wicked flee when no one pursues” (Prov. 28:1 NKJV)
Example: Our conscience can be hardened. Paul says there are some people “having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” (I Tim. 4:2 NKJV)
Example: Our conscience can drive us to self destruct. “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’’ Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Mt. 27:3-5 NKJV)
So, our consciences are not altogether good or bad. Billy Graham said “Most of us follow our conscience as we follow a wheelbarrow. We push it in front of us in the direction we want to go.” The issue is managing it properly.
God has given us the resources for managing our consciences. What are those resources? In I John 3:18-21 those resources are described. 18My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. 19This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. 20It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. 21And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! 22We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. 23Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. (TMSG) In this passage we find four resources for managing our conscience.
1. Resource one: Whatever you do let your actions be motivated out of Love. " My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth."(3:18 NKJV)