The Conscience as a Guide

Text: Acts 22:22-23:5


I.         Teaching the difference between right and wrong

            A.        Young children have no knowledge of good and evil - Deuteronomy 1:39

                        1.         As a result, they are not very concerned with matters of right and wrong.

                        2.         Mom and Dad handle those issues and let you know.

            B.        But somewhere along the line it does become an issue.

                        1.         It means you are growing up.

                        2.         It is not enough to know this is right or wrong, you want (and need) to know why.

                        3.         And this leaves some parents with a quandary. How do you explain what you basically know in simple, logical terms that a young person can understand.

            C.        Actually it gives adults trouble as well.

                        1.         More often with the passing years I find that people are growing up without basic moral training.

                                    a.         To give an example, I had a mother ask if it was all right to lie to her daughter’s friend about the fact that her daughter was being punished and sent to her room for the afternoon.

                                    b.         I explained that lying is never proper.

                                                (1)       She didn’t owe these children an explanation about her daughter’s punishment.

                                                (2)       Instead of offering a lie, she could have told them that her daughter was unavailable and that they could talk to her daughter the following day.

                                    c.         But, she objected, then her daughter would be forced to lie about what happened and that’s not good.

                                    d.         I responded that no one is forced to lie. People chose to lie.

                                    e.         “You mean a Christian girl has to be honest about being punished? How embarrassing!”

                                    f.         Is a wonder? Most people think lying is fine if you have an excuse.

                        2.         People don’t understand that sex before marriage is wrong.

                        3.         Over half the country now think there is nothing wrong with homosexuality.

            D.        A major problem is that most people have come to rely on their own feelings about matters to determine right and wrong.

II.        “Let your conscience by your guide”

            A.        Or as they tell children in school these days, if something makes you feel uncomfortable, tell people and don’t do it.

            B.        It is a noble thought, but it presupposes that the conscience is well trained.

            C.        The conscience can be wrong

                        1.         Paul lived in all good conscience while he put Christians in prison and consented to their deaths

                                    a.         Acts 23:1; 24:16 - Paul’s declaration.

                                    b.         I Timothy 1:12-13 - His true former state.

                        2.         Some, so long exposed to sin, no longer have a conscience in regard to sin - I Timothy 4:2

                        3.         Our conscience can be defiled - Titus 1:15

                        4.         We need to be cleansed of an evil conscience - Hebrew 10:22

            D.        We need a good conscience

                        1.         The commands bring about a good conscience - I Timothy 1:5

                        2.         Hebrews 13:18 - Confident of having a good conscience

                        3.         Having a good conscience - I Peter 3:15-16

III.       Our conscience reflects our own thoughts

            A.        Proverbs 3:7 - Don’t be wise in your own thoughts

            B.        A man cannot direct his own steps - Jeremiah 10:23

            C.        The conscience cannot lead to unity as there are many involved

                        1.         Unity can only be achieved by a single standard- Ephesians 4:5

                        2.         Thus one may decide to avoid meats and another to eat meats - Romans 14:2

                                    a.         Each comes to their conclusion in good conscience. They are confident that they are right.

                                    b.         But it is not their confidence that makes them right - Romans 14:3-4

                                    c.         For either to teach that their way must be followed would be wrong - Romans 14:10

                                    d.         The only judgment is God’s - Romans 14:11-12

            D.        This is an important point often missed.

                        1.         It doesn’t matter if you feel you are right

                        2.         It doesn’t matter if you think you are right

                        3.         It doesn’t even matter if you are confident you are right

                        4.         The only thing that matters is what God has decided.

IV.      The conscience does serve a purpose

            A.        The conscience should not be ignored

                        1.         Hopefully our conscience does not permit more than what is allowed, but we are not to act against our conscience either - Romans 14:20-23

                        2.         Though wrong, a weak conscience can be defiled - I Corinthians 8:7-13

                        3.         Notice that the concern is not to be just with our own conscience, but also the conscience of those around us - I Corinthians 10:25-33

            B.        Yet, we must always keep in mind that the conscience is trainable and the training it receives can be wrong

                        1.         The conscience may be a guide, but it cannot be a standard

                        2.         While it helps the individual decide what he should and should not do

                                    a.         The individual must always compare it his decision against God’s word for accuracy

                                    b.         The individual must not impose his conscience on others

            C.        When the conscience is trained well, it serves as an early warning system - Psalm 119:11

V.        The existence of the conscience shows that man understands moral decisions - Romans 2:14-16

            A.        No one can ever go before God and say they didn’t know there was a right and wrong.

            B.        Each person carries judgment of himself within him, however imperfectly trained it may be.

            C.        But there is no excuse to leave the conscience untrained or poorly trained.

            D.        God has given us His will - Ephesians 3:1-8

            E.        Now is the time to learn of Christ and become his follower.


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