Summary: Today, I want to take this passage and preach a message I am calling Resurrecting a Dead Conscience. I want us to learn what the conscience is, want it does, and how it can be protected. I want to show you, from these verses, How the Conscience Is Seared;
RESURRECTING A DEAD CONSCIENCE
Some 21 years have passed since Joseph was sold into slavery. The passage we have before us today allows us to see many of the events of this man’s life come full circle. Joseph sees his brothers again after 21 years. The last time they met, Joseph was the one at a disadvantage. His brother treated him roughly and cast him into a pit. This time, the shoe is on the other foot! This time, they are treated roughly and they are thrown into prison.
When Joseph’s brothers see him after all that time, they do not recognize him. Joseph, however, recognizes them. God uses this encounter to work in the lives of these ten brothers of Joseph. God uses these events to resurrect the conscience they silenced many years ago.
Today, I want to take this passage and preach a message I am calling Resurrecting a Dead Conscience. I want us to learn what the conscience is, want it does, and how it can be protected. I want to show you, from these verses, How the Conscience Is Seared; How The Conscience Is Stirred and finally, How The Conscience Is Saved. But, before we consider these three thoughts, I want to first talk about just what the conscience is and what it does.
Let’s first talk about what the conscience is. The dictionary defines conscience as “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action.” The Greek word means “to know together”. The conscience is a gift from God to all men. It gives mankind the power of moral judgment. It appears some 31 times in the New Testament.
The conscience acts as a rudder for the soul. It is not a guide, but it is an early warning system, which tells us that danger is ahead. When we go against the warnings of our conscience, it punishes us with feelings of guilt, shame and regret. When we honor the conscience, it rewards us with feelings of peace, happiness and joy.
Regardless of how it may seem at times, everyone has a conscience. If that is true, then why can some people do the things they do and have no shame guilt or remorse for their actions? For instance, how can some Muslims destroy innocent life in the name of their god? How can some women abort a baby with no remorse?
The answer lies in this statement from John MacArthur:
“The conscience, however, is not infallible. Nor is it the source of revelation about right and wrong. Its’ role is not to teach us moral and ethical ideals, but to hold us accountable to the highest standards of right and wrong we know.”
Thus, the conscience can only react to what it knows and what it has been taught. If the conscience is taught that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is the supreme standard for right and wrong, the conscience will react when there is any deviation from the teachings of the Word of God. If the conscience is taught that Islam, Mormonism, Hinduism, etc., is the truth, it will react when those standards are about to be violated. If the conscience is taught that cursing, drinking and wicked living are right, the conscience will have no problem with those things. Do you get the idea?
That is why it can be very dangerous to let your conscience to be your guide. That might be a good practice if the conscience has been trained in the right way. If, however the conscience has been given a false standard of truth, it will guide you in that direction and you will be led even deeper into your error.
That having been said, the conscience is still a great gift from God. Most people are born with some sense of what is right and what is wrong. This is because God has written His Law into the heart of man. Thus, if you filled this room with atheists today, most of them would agree with us that murder, stealing and such like, are wrong. Those things violate our conscience and most people believe they are wrong.
I want to continue to consider the conscience as we move through this passage today. This passage has something to say to us today about the conscience.
Joseph’s brothers had long ago silenced their consciences, but God is about to bring to life what which they longed to kill. Let’s learn a little more about our own conscience as we consider the thoughts in this passage.
I. HOW THE CONSCIENCE IS SEARED
A. If you remember the story of the early years of Joseph’s life, you will remember that his brothers sold him as a slave, killed an animal, put the animal’s blood on their brother’s coat, brought the coat to their father and told him that they had found the coat.