Is Your Conscience Clear?
By Bobby Blakey on February 28, 2022
Is Your Conscience Clear?
By Bobby Blakey on February 28, 2022
I invite you to open the Bible and turn with me to the book of Acts. Acts 22:22 is where we will be picking it up this morning; that should be an easy number to remember 22:22. We just had Tuesday, the 22nd day of the second month of the year of our Lord 2022. We're going to Acts 22, everybody. And we are going along with Paul on an adventure to Jerusalem, and then to Rome. And here at our church, we're going to study what happens with Paul on his journey to Rome. And then we're going to go right into the book of Romans and study the letter that he wrote to the church there. And so, we are along on this adventure, and he just came to Jerusalem, and the Spirit told him to go to Jerusalem, but the Spirit also warned him that he would get arrested there, and he would suffer there. And we saw that happen. If you were here last week, a mob in the temple, they tried to kill him; Roman soldiers come and arrest him. And then he gave a defense there on the streets of Jerusalem. And he shared his testimony of meeting Jesus. And he said that Jesus had sent him to go to the Gentiles. And that is the point where they're not listening to him anymore. And we're picking it up right there. This is Acts 22:22. And out of respect for God's word, I'm going to ask if we would all stand up for the public reading of Scripture. And in fact, I'm going to ask everybody on the front lawn, everybody watching online, if you would stand up with us, and let's give our full and undivided attention to what God has to say. This really happened in Paul's life. These are the words of God. And let me read them for us. Please follow along as I start here, in Acts 22:22, 23:1-11.
“Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.’ And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?’ When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, ‘What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.’ So the tribune came and said to him, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ The tribune answered, ‘I bought this citizenship for a large sum.’ Paul said, ‘But I am a citizen by birth.’ So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him. But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them. And looking intently at the council, Paul said, ‘Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.’ And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?’ Those who stood by said, ‘Would you revile God's high priest?’ And Paul said, ‘I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees' party stood up and contended sharply, ‘We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?’ And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.’”
That's the reading of God's word. Please go ahead and have your seat. And we're going to have to get into the mind of this Roman Tribune, this man who's in charge of the barracks there in Jerusalem. His name is Claudius Lysias. He's going to become a character we're going to become familiar with. He's going to write a letter. In Acta 23:26, he identifies himself as Claudius Lysias. Because this guy, this Roman Tribune, he cannot figure out what is going on in his city right now because these people are like, ready to kill Paul. And as far as he can tell, he doesn't even know what Paul has done, that they want to kill him for. Paul says, I'm going to the Gentiles. And they're like, away with him. He shouldn't even live. That's not making sense to this Roman Tribune. Like, wait a minute, he wants to go to the nations, and they just want to kill him for going to the nations. He doesn't understand what he has really done wrong. And so that's what our passage is about. He's going to try different ways to figure out what has Paul done that these people think is deserving of death. And the first way that he says, well, let's just torture the guy. That's basically what he says. We'll just interrogate him by flogging him. I mean, the whips that they would have with the little pieces of bone in the whip. So, it would just rip the flesh off your back. I mean, this was a brutal form of interrogation. This is where you're going to tell us the truth, because we're going to torture you until you tell us the truth. And so that's his first tactic. Let's just basically beat the truth out of him. What did this guy do? And then Paul says, and you saw there was a whole conversation about it. When he says in verse 25, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who's a Roman citizen?” Hey, I'm actually a Roman, I'm not just a Jew in that moment. And their mindset there, I mean, this dual citizenship that Paul has being a Jew and a Roman, we've seen that really be effective in situations like this, where he can appeal to the Jewish people, he can appeal to the Romans who are over them at this time. And he says, Wait, you guys are going to flog me? You're going to whip me, and I haven't even done anything wrong? And I'm a Roman citizen. And that gets him out of being beaten. We saw this before.
Go back to Acts 16:37. Maybe you remember when Paul and Silas got thrown in jail in Philippi. And maybe you remember how they were praying and singing hymns at midnight, and there was a miraculous earthquake that opened all the doors of the prison, and the jailer of the Philippian prison ended up believing in the Lord Jesus; he and his whole household were saved, and they all got baptized. And we studied that together. And then the next day, they were like, yeah, tell Paul and Silas they can go. And Paul said in Acts 37:16: “But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.’” And do they now throw us out secretly? No, let them come themselves and take us out. Hey, you guys mistreated us. And now you're just going to get rid of us. And you know what? I mean, we're Roman citizens. How can you do this to us? So, he brought it up once before where he was mistreated. This time, in Acts 22, he's able to bring it up, and that prevents him from being beaten and mistreated there in Jerusalem. But the Roman Tribune Claudius Lysias, he still doesn't know why they want to kill Paul. So, if you go back to Acts 22:30, it appears that the Roman Tribune calls together the Jerusalem Council. So, some of this should be sounding very familiar to us at this point. We have a man there where the Jews in Jerusalem want to kill him, but the Roman official can't figure out that he's done anything wrong. Does that sound familiar to anybody? If we got Pilate and we put in the name Jesus, Pilate knew Jesus was innocent, yet the Jews are shouting, crucify him, crucify him. We're now seeing a similar situation here with Claudius Lysias. And he's trying to do the right thing. It seems he doesn't want to put a man to death, when the man hasn't done anything wrong. So, he now gets the Jerusalem council together with the chief priests to see what Paul has done. And we've been before this council in Acts chapter 4. Peter and John were brought to trial in front of the Jewish Council of the religious leaders of the day, the chief priests and scribes, because they were telling them, stop spreading the name of Jesus in the streets of Jerusalem, and Peter and John said, no, we must obey God rather than men. We're going to keep being witnesses. That's what Jesus told us to do.
And so now we're back in the same place where Jesus was, the same place where Peter and John were, we're now back there with Paul. And now he's going to be on trial with these men and look at what he says in Acts 23:1, because this is the main idea we want to consider together today. “And looking intently at the council, Paul said, ‘Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.’” He basically says, you guys want to say I've done something wrong, but my conscience is clear. So, this is his defense. We saw him give a defense in Acts 22:1, where he told his whole story of how he met Jesus. Well, now he just says in one, Acts 22:23, my conscience is good before God. And when he says that they strike him in the mouth. He just says, I'm innocent, and bam, they hit him right there in his mouth, and he is not okay, as I would imagine you and I would not feel okay. If we said, hey, my conscience is clear, and somebody punched us in the face and he says, may God strike you whitewashed wall, he says, referring to a statement that Jesus made in Matthew 23:27 really, the idea of being whitewashed goes all the way back to Ezekiel 13:10. And it's this idea that you look good on the outside, but you're not the same on the inside. Jesus said, all you guys are always washing the outside of the tomb, but inside you guys are nothing but dead men's bones. And so, he's like, what hypocrisy here that we're supposed to have a trial about. If I've done anything wrong, and you start the trial off by doing something wrong, and having me punched in the face, and so that gets Paul going and he fires back the hypocrisy of what is happening there. But then they call him out in verse 4. And they say, would you revile God's High Priest? Like, hey, do you realize you just called the High Priest a whitewashed wall? And Paul says something interesting here, he said, “I did not know brothers that he was the high priest.” And people they speculate why Paul would say that. Has he just been gone from Jerusalem for so long that he doesn't know now the High Priest? Some people even speculate that Paul's eyesight is so bad at this time that he can't even see that who is doing that? So, he can't even see it's the High Priest. Other people think perhaps he's being a little tongue in cheek, a little sarcastic. You're acting like why didn't know he's the High Priest. Kind of like he's not acting like the High Priest. But Paul does put himself in submission when he quotes here, Exodus 22:28: “you shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.” So, he does put himself, okay, well, if he's the high priest, I should not be saying something evil about Him. Because He is the ruler of God's people. That goes all the way back to the law of Moses, Exodus 22:28. That's what he quotes right there.
Now, Paul does something shrewd here. He brings up the resurrection of the dead because he knows that will set off a fight between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Because the Sadducees, they don't believe there's any life after death. That's why they're so sad you see, okay. That's like one of the all-time list of bad church humor right there, everybody. That's going to make it to the Hall of Fame, okay. Could be in the goat conversation for like, all time, bad. Church jokes. I want to apologize. Okay. But that's how we remember it is that the Sadducees they don't believe in really the soul still being alive after death. They don't believe in the spiritual realm of angels, and demons. They don't believe that everybody is going to experience a resurrection, the just and the unjust. And it's just about where you're going for eternity. The Sadducees, they don't believe all of that. The Pharisees, they do believe all of it. So, when he says, I'm on trial for the resurrection of the day, the Pharisees are like, we like it. We like it. Yes. And the Sadducees are like, no, we don't believe in that. And they start fighting with each other. And once again, Paul gets kind of brought out of a violent situation. And so, it's very shrewd what Paul does there to bring that up. But it's not just a shrewd move, like the defense that Paul is making is that my conscience is clear. And the reason he's saying he has a good conscience before God is because of his hope in the resurrection.
Go over to Acts 24, and we'll see this again, this is a theme that Paul is going to build on. When he gives a defense here in Caesarea in acts 24. Look at Acts 24:14-16. Look at what he says here, which we're going to get to in the next chapter. He says, “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” I don't believe that death is the end; death doesn't win. After death, everyone will experience a resurrection, and everyone will be judged before God. That's why I'm making sure that my conscience is clear before God and before other people, I can say, I have done nothing wrong. And so, this is Paul's statement. And he's going to say it in our text in Acts 23. One, he says it again here in Acts 24:16. In fact, this is perhaps a concept that Paul himself is responsible for spreading out into the world is this idea of a conscience. Okay, so what Paul is able to say, we are asking the question here in this service today, is your conscience clear? Can you say that, you know, you are right before God and before men? That's what we want to talk about. And I don't know how many sermons you've heard; I don't know where you're at in this whole sermon listening process. I have heard at this point in my life so many sermons, it would be impossible to go back and try to count all of the hundreds, if not thousands of sermons that I have listened to. And if you count the sermons that I have preached, this is a ridiculous number of times I have gone through this experience, and I understand how it works when you start listening to sermons.
Okay, turn to 2 Corinthians 1:12, you're like, okay, am I going to the right or the left? Which way am I going here? Okay, let's go right. Let's go right. No, I'm in Revelation. Okay. I've gone too far. I overcooked it. Okay. Where? Where is it? 2 Corinthians. Oh, is anybody looking at me? Does anybody notice how long this is taking me? Oh, boy, this is really embarrassing. Oh, look, here it is. Oh, here it is. Great. Oh, I found it. I found it. Oh, now turn to where what? We're going somewhere else I just got right here. What's going on? I'm going to the table of contents. This is ridiculous. I can't keep up with this. Right? Anybody in that part of their sermon listening experience, right? I've been there. I remember, well, where we are going. And then I've also had the sermon listening experience where it's like, hey, what am I going to eat after this? Have you had that part of the sermon listening experience? Like, what am I going to do the rest of the day? What's he said? Okay, okay. Yeah, what do I want to do this week? Yeah. You know, that kind of checking in checking out like somebody's up there talking, but you're kind of lost in your own thoughts, thinking about different things. I'm just going to be honest, some people it's like nail trimming time. It's like, oh, we got a great time to work on the cuticles here. Yeah. All right, we're just kind of hanging out and see, then there's this thing that happens, where the fire gets into your bones. And you're just hanging on every word. And you're listening to what really gets said, and you start to want to pull out that handout and write down some notes. And you really want to pay attention to the verses that are used, because not only do you have an idea of where they are, but you're going to go back through them later. And you're going to think about them and you're going to pray about it. And you're going to go to your fellowship group later on, and you're going to have something to say, something stirring up within you something rising up because you didn't just hear a sermon, and you didn't just listen to a preacher, but you studied the very words of God, and you heard something that you feel like it's changed your life, and God's doing a work in you. And you just want more of his words. And I remember one day I heard a sermon that somebody preached about a conscience, and it changed the way I thought for the rest of my life. I was in college, I was a young man. And I can remember where I was sitting in the bleachers. And I can remember the man up there preaching and he said, turn with me to 2 Corinthians 1:12. So I really am asking everybody to turn there and I'll wait for you. It's to the right, everybody. All right. So, 2 Corinthians 1:12.
See Paul's really going to bring out this idea that he lived his life with a clear conscience, and it's going to be an example to all of us, for us to consider for ourselves here in this service. And you might not be familiar with the concept of a conscience, you might not think about that very much: is my conscience clear? Do I have a good conscience before God? Well, I just want to say to you today that you will care about your conscience, there is coming a day where it may not be today, you may not feel like it walking in here right now, but there will come a day in your life where whether you are right with God, whether your conscience is clear before God will be the biggest issue in your life; it will dominate your thoughts. Something bad is going to happen to you, something wicked this way is going to come, you are going to experience a trial. And it may not be when you have to defend yourself like Paul in front of the Jerusalem Council. But there will be a trial that will test your faith. And when something bad happens to you, or someone you love, you're going to ask yourself, I talked to a lot of people who are having bad things happen to them. And the question comes up in their hearts and minds Did I do something bad to bring this on? There will come a day where you will check your own conscience, there will come a day maybe in your life where you find yourself lying in a bed, that's not your own, being waited on by people that you don't even know. And you're not sure if you're getting out of that bed, and you're starting to think about your life, you're starting to wonder how many days you've got left. And at that moment, whether you are right with God or not is all that will matter. And so, if you don't think it's important to have a clear conscience before God and people, like it's only a matter of time till Jesus comes back. And if Jesus doesn't come back in enough time, all of us are going to die, and every single one of us will meet our maker. We will stand before God. It is appointed for every man. And after that comes judgment. And whether you're right or not with God, that's all that matters. And so, if you heard what I heard that day when I heard this idea that if you keep your conscience clear, it will prevent so many other problems from coming in your life. Like life is not as complicated as we make it out to be. There is a simple way to live where you just live for God, you keep things right between you and God, and that prevents so many other problems from happening in your life. And it was from this verse where Paul says here in 2 Corinthians 1:12: “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience.” See here in the Corinthian church, there was a controversy about Paul, some were of Apollo's, some more of Paul, some were slandering, or not sure they could trust Paul, even though he was the guy who planted the church and preached to them the gospel. There were questions about his authority as an apostle, and who he was. And so now he's having to defend himself here to this church that he started. And he's defending himself, and he's saying, hey, my conscience is bearing witness. And here's what it is “that we have behaved in the world with simplicity, and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom, but by the grace of God and supremely so toward you.” If it sounds like a proud thing for someone to say that their conscience is clear, Paul wants to make it very clear that he does have a clear conscience, but it's not based on him. It's by the grace of God. And he can say honestly that he's lived his life simply with one purpose, with a singular focus to live for God. And he also can say that he's done what is right by the Corinthians. His conscience before God and before them is clear, and his conscience comes and bears witness.
Now, the conscience is really a fascinating thing. Once you start to think about it, it can really get you thinking, because your conscience is a way that you check your own self, it's a way that you become self-aware, you start to perceive yourself accurately. And you can actually now kind of take an evaluation like, am I doing something that I know is wrong? Or am I doing what is right? So that's what the conscience is. It's you being aware of yourself and, specifically, the idea that Paul is bringing with the conscience is you're aware of where you are before God? Are you right with God? Or do you know that something is wrong between you and God?
So, let's get this down for point number one as we study the conscience together, as we asked the question: Is your conscience clear? Well, you need to be aware of yourself before God. That's our working definition of your conscience. Be aware of yourself before God. Okay, the conscience is your ability to see yourself and be like, am I doing what is right or am I doing what is wrong? What kind of witness does my own conscience bear about me now? Having a defense where your conscience defends you and says you're doing what is right, having a good defense. We need to understand everybody here today, there's a big difference between being defensive and having a good defense. Okay. Many of us at least I know for myself, I'll just speak for myself right now. I have this natural inclination to want to defend myself when accused. I don't know if I'm speaking to anybody else, but that's how I am, okay? Somebody wants to say something wrong about me. My natural inclination is not to actually consider what they're saying, and check my conscience and see what my conscience has to say, Am I doing something wrong? No, my natural inclination, when somebody wants to say there's something wrong about me, is I want to put up a wall; maybe put some whitewash on the front of it. And I want to defend myself. And one way you can know you're being defensive, rather than having a good defense is if you turn that accusation back around to the other person. That's a sure sign you're not taking it seriously. Blame shifting is what many of us go to. Somebody comes after me, I throw it right back at them. I blame it on somebody else. The conscience is when you actually take a look at yourself. And you actually consider, am I doing what is right, or what is wrong? And Paul is now surrounded in a room full of people who want him dead and hate him. And he's now put in a very difficult situation. And he can go in that room, and he can say, hey, my conscience is good before God.
Turn with me to Romans chapter 2, it's to the left just a few pages. Romans chapter 2, starting in verse 14, the reason Paul is the one who really popularizes this idea of the conscience is because he's speaking to the Gentiles. Now, if you look at the Hebrew Bible, what we call the Old Testament, if you go and look at the law of Moses and the prophets, you don't really hear about this concept of the conscious conscience very much at all, because they have the law of the Lord. And the whole idea is that you meditate on the law of the Lord day and night. And the law of God teaches you if you're doing what is right or wrong. Scripture is even better than our conscience. Scripture can inform us about whether we are right with God, or it can convict us of the sin we have done. That is wrong how we've missed the mark, how we fallen short of the glory of God. And so, the Hebrew Bible doesn't really emphasize the conscience because it wants you to have God's Word on your heart, to set God's word in front of your eyes to make God's word a lamp to your feet, and a light to your path. And if you're always meditating day and night and speaking to other people, like your kids, about the Bible, then you're always talking about what's right or wrong before God. But then Paul now is going to the Gentiles. So, he's going to people who don't have this rich history of going to the synagogue and hearing the Bible, of talking about it in their homes. They don't know all of the scriptures. And so, he begins to appeal, not to the written law of Moses, but the law written on their hearts, to an internal witness of right or wrong that people have within them. That's why really Paul, he pushes this idea of the conscience because he's using it when he's preaching to the Gentiles. And look what he writes here in the book of Romans that we're hoping to get to here. Look at how he uses this when he talks about the Gentile people who don't know God This is Romans 2:14-16. He says, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” So, he's saying, hey, even the Gentiles who don't know the law, know the law is actually on their heart. And they can kind of have a witness and awareness of themselves, whether they should be accused, whether they're guilty of doing wrong things, or whether they can be excused, whether their conscience actually defends them that they have done nothing wrong.
So, we've got a few dashes here under point number one, and let's get this one down: Is your conscience accusing or defending? Those are the options. Is your conscience clear? Well, specifically, your conscience is either reminding you that you know you did do something wrong and you're feeling accused of that, you're guilty, you have a burden now knowing you've done something that you shouldn't have done, and your conscience bears witness against you. Or your conscience could actually defend you. And it could be a witness, affirming that you are right before God, you are ready for the day of judgment, and you are not wrong, you haven't done something that you know is wrong. So, does your conscience accuse or defend? I don't know what you've thought about the conscience before. I grew up hearing about the conscience. One way I saw the conscience depicted in my life was when they would put an angel on one shoulder and the devil or a demon on another shoulder. Anybody see those cartoons before? That picture? That's often a depiction of the conscience where the angel is trying to tell you to do the right thing and the Devil or the demons trying to tell you to do the wrong thing. And you're kind of going back and forth because you're kind of thinking it through. And which one are you going to decide? That's kind of a picture that people have used of the conscience. Perhaps the most famous image of the conscience in our culture is Jiminy Cricket. Anybody know Jiminy Cricket? Right? From Pinocchio? anybody? Anybody know the story of Pinocchio, right? Movie made by Walt Disney in 1940. They made this movie about a puppet who wanted to be a real boy. And it was a moral tale. They used to think that movies should have a moral point. If you can imagine a concept like that. I don't know if you can even comprehend such a thing. That every time this puppet, wanting to be a real boy, would tell a lie. What would happen to him, everybody? His nose grows every time he tells a lie. And so, he's got Jiminy Cricket, who is there to be his conscience, and he actually sings a song in the movie. Now I'm not recommending everybody go watch Pinocchio, okay? Because it gets scary. There's a big whale that's involved. And kids turn into donkeys, which I think is just disturbing. So, I'm not recommending it. But I do have this memory of Jiminy Cricket. And I went and I watched just to make sure I remembered it correctly, because he sings a song in the movie. And the title of the song is “Always Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide.” And do you know how he got the name Jiminy Cricket? Because at that time, this is the late 1930s, early 1940s, people did not feel okay saying the name Jesus Christ in vain. So, they would use Jiminy Cricket for the name Jesus Christ. Can you imagine America where people didn't think it was okay to say Jesus Christ in vain? And so that's what Jiminy Cricket was about. And he sings this song. He accurately describes temptation, when you want to do something wrong, that you know you shouldn't do, because your conscience is bearing witness against you. He says, when you have temptation, give a whistle. That's a song that Jiminy Cricket sings to a puppet who wants to be a real boy. I wholeheartedly recommend if you're experiencing temptation, I recommend that wholeheartedly. Reach out to a brother and sister; give them a 1 Corinthians 10:13. There is always a way of escape for every temptation. Can I get an Amen from the congregation here? We should all be given a whistle if we're being tempted, can you believe that used to be in a movie that used to be what how it went? So that is the idea of conscience that sticks with me but, see, we're not living in that America anymore, are we my friends? See this whole thing of conscience? It doesn't always work. People's consciences can be broken. In fact, when you just repeatedly do the same thing you know you shouldn't do, and you just repeatedly keep doing that you can damage or destroy your own conscience
Turn with me to 1 Timothy chapter 4. And here's an example of this being described in 1 Timothy chapter 4, and with how accepted sin is all around us in our culture right now. Well, I mean, a lot of people today are telling lies all the time and their nose is still the same shape on their face. And people are starting to think you can do this sin stuff, and it's okay. It's not even wrong. In fact, let's make it the law of the land. Let's say that it's okay to do this. And so, people are starting to get this idea that hey, I don't even think it's wrong. I don't even think it's evil. I don't even feel bad in my own conscience. When I do something that is wrong, well, look what it says here. We were told this was going to happen. This is 1 Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times,” like the times we're living in the year of our Lord 2022 and later times. “Some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.” Like you've burned your conscience so many times, it’s lost its sense of feeling. It's like it's been cauterized, and it can't, it's like it has calluses now, like you kept going back to that same repeated behavior so many times that your internal witness that that is wrong is long gone, like you've gotten so caught up in the lies. And it says that there's going to be insincere people, like people who are going to say one thing and do another, and their hypocrisy is going to be so ingrained in who they are, they're going to just go and say one thing and then go do the opposite. And they're not even going to feel the tension or the difference, or the guilt of it anymore. Because their conscience has been seared.
Let's get this down for another dash under point number one: It is possible to desensitize your conscience. It is possible to desensitize your conscience. It is possible to be deceived by false teaching. Or perhaps you've just done that so many times yourself that you have lost your own moral compass, your own internal witness that this is wrong, and I shouldn't be doing this. Your conscience doesn't even accuse you anymore because it has been seared. You can't even feel right and wrong anymore, and that could be true for some here in this service right now. There has become a hardness in your heart. And so yeah, you used to know is wrong, you used to feel bad about it. But you have become so calloused, so jaded now, over time, and with the way the world is right now, your conscience isn't even working anymore to accuse you of what you're doing.
So, we might have people, even as I bring up this concept of the conscience, some might be feeling guilty here right now. And the reason you feel guilty is because you are guilty, because you've done something wrong, something that has not been made right. And as you now check yourself, your conscience now bears witness, you're feeling accused. Maybe some aren't feeling accused when you should be. Because you've been doing that same thing so many times that you're just used to it. Now you've just accepted it as the status quo. This is the way that it is, how it needs to be so I can survive, so I can cope, so I can just be in existence. And so, you've stopped realizing that it's wrong. So how could someone who is being accused by their conscience, or someone whose conscience has been seared, how could that someone get their conscience cleaned and have a clear conscience before God and before other people?
Turn with me to 1 Peter chapter 3, and we'll see that other writers talk about the conscience as well. Here's Peter, bringing it up in 1 Peter 3:21. Just jumping right into this verse, he talks about how you could get a good conscience like Paul had when he was on defense. And it says here in 1 Peter 3:21: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” So, he's talking about baptism, praise the Lord. We're going to have some baptisms next weekend, here at the church. I got a friend of mine, getting baptized at this service one week from today, can't wait for it, it's going to be a great day, and people are going to share their testimony, and then we're going to dunk them in water. And that will be a symbol of the cleansing of their life from sin, and that they have risen to a new life. And so, he's talking about baptism saving you, but then he makes it clear, I'm not talking about the removal of dirt from the body. I'm not talking about the part where you get wet. I'm talking about the part where you get placed into Jesus, where you die with Jesus to your old life, where you rise with Jesus to a new life. I'm talking about when you appeal to God for a good conscience, and you believe that you could have a new life because you're putting your faith in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. So, he's saying your conscience could be washed, it could be cleaned, and you've got to appeal to God. How is your conscience going to get clear? You’ve got to go to God and make an appeal. And the reason you're going to God as you believe Jesus rose from the dead, and that's both like the motivation to make sure you do have a clear conscience, because there is life after death, and it's also the possibility of having a clear conscience. Because there is a new life for everyone who believes in Jesus Christ, because he died, and because he rose. He is now the trailblazer. He is now the first of the resurrected life and everyone who believes in him will receive eternal life. And through the resurrection power of Jesus, a sinner like you and me could stand in the holy presence of God. And we could be received as those who have eternal life in Jesus Christ. And so there's an appeal that can be made to God, that all of that filthiness on your conscience, all of that sin that we sing about, like a crimson stain, all of that could be washed; not whitewashed on the front, but really washed in your soul. It could be washed away for good today if you make that appeal to God for a good conscience. And notice the picture here, go back to verse 20. Right before that, he was talking about Noah and the ark. And this is how he got onto the water theme here. He says, “because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.” If you don't believe that, there's going to be a judgment that is yet to come. Well, one of the reasons you should believe that judgment is coming is there was already a judgment that happened.
In the book of Genesis, there was a flood, where the world was judged through water, and there was one man who was chosen, him and his family, and a representation of the animals to get on that ark. And that ark is like a picture of salvation through the judgment of God. And why was that one man chosen? Why was he the man that God picked? Because Noah was what kind of a man? He was a man who was right with God. See, there's judgment coming, and you have to be right with God. And the thing that you can do is make an appeal to God for a clean conscience. And the thing that you can trust in is Jesus already paid for my sin. Jesus already rose again; Jesus has proven there is life after death. And when I believe in Jesus, I receive that life. And so, I'm going to appeal to God to forgive me for my sins. And the reason I think he actually will forgive me, and my conscience could really be clear is because I'm putting my faith in the name of Jesus. And so, you could make that appeal today.
Let's get that down for one of our dashes: Your conscience can be cleared through the resurrection of Jesus. Your conscience can be cleared through the resurrection of Jesus. Now, that might sound like not what some people were expecting us to say here in church today. You would expect at church for us to say, well, if you have your conscience, and it's an evil conscience right now, or a bad conscience, because it's accusing you, and you know you've done something wrong, then you should stop doing something wrong, and you should go and try to do something good. That's what a lot of people are trying to do. That's not what we're saying here today.
Go to the book of Hebrews chapter 9. And they talk about the conscience here in Hebrews. They develop it as a theme. How do you get your conscience clear? How do you get your conscience so you can say you're right with God? That's the big idea. And a lot of people would think we'll all just, you know, because some people in the room just being hundred percent honest. Some people in this room have secrets. And if those secrets came out right now, those secrets are weighing heavy on some people's consciences. Here in this room, some of you have had the secrets for so long, you've become so numb to them, maybe it's not even weighing heavy. But there are things that if they came out, you would be ashamed of them, you would feel guilty for them. There are things right now that one person knows about you, and you sometimes are filled with a frightful anxiety, wondering if that person will ever share your secret with somebody else. So, I'm talking about a real thing here today, that people have skeletons buried in the closet, and they don't want them to ever come up. And they have repressed them so deeply. And they think that if I could just go and do a bunch of good things, the good things will be such a pile on the bad things that then I'll feel better, and my conscience will be clear. That will not work for you. That will not work for any one of us. And that is not what the Bible tells anybody to do to get their conscience clear. This is what it says here in Hebrews chapter 9. And in Hebrews, it's comparing, it's written to the Jews, and it's comparing the old covenant and Moses where they did animal sacrifices, and they brought the animal to the priest and the priest took the blood to the altar. And it's comparing that to the New Covenant. Now, the greater way in Jesus, where Jesus is our sacrifice. It's his blood that is paying for our sins. And he's the priest who ushers us into the presence of God. And so, this is what it says in Hebrews 9:13-14: “ For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our[b] conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Would anybody like to have a purified conscience here today? Only one way to get it, his name is Jesus. You cannot do enough good to make yourself feel good enough before God. That's not how this thing works. There is only one that the father was pleased with, there is only one who was completely pure, there is only one that we can truly call righteous, and it is only him who could stand before God, blameless, innocent, without sin. You will never get there, so you need to stop trying. And you need to put your trust in Jesus here today. And your conscience could be clear. I know what some people are going to do after this sermon, because they're going to feel convicted, because their conscience is going to accuse them. And some people are going to say, they're going to tell themselves the same old story, this will be the week I'll stop doing it. This week, I'll try harder. This week, I'll do better. This week, this will be the week where it really goes away. This will be the week where I don't have to tell anybody about it because I'll stop it by myself this week. That's not what it's saying here in the Bible. You're telling yourself something that God's not telling you. It's saying here in the Bible that if you want your conscience to be pure, you have to repent from dead works, you have to stop trying to do it yourself. Did everybody see that? What it said there is that you will have this blemish, this blood of Christ that's pure, it will purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. I don't know if everybody fully realizes what is taught in the book of Hebrews, that you have to repent from dead work. See, repentance is when you turn from the way that you're living and thinking, and you change your mind to the way that God is telling you to live and think. That's what repentance is. And maybe you've heard about people repenting of their sins. And I, I stopped doing this, and I started obeying the commands of Jesus. Or maybe you've heard of people repenting from their idols, where I put this first in my heart, and this was the number one thing in my life, and I had to repent of that. And God needed to be first in my heart and set apart in my life. But one of the things the Bible says that you need to repent of is repentance from dead works, from you trying to be a good person in and of yourself. Stop that. You have to change your mind. You have to realize dead works don't work. They don't get me right with God. I can try to repress those bad things I've done with as many good things as possible, but those things you can read the Bible as much as possible, go to church as much as possible, be kind to other people as much as possible, that will never make you right before God. The scripture makes it clear that even our good deeds that we would call good deeds are filthy rags before a holy God. Your personal improvement project to clean yourself up is destined to fail. You need your conscience purified from all the things that you're trying to do. Have you changed your mind about that? Like, the reason our conscience is clear is not because of anything that we're going to do. It's because of what Jesus has already done when he shed his blood there on that cross. That's what purifies your conscience. So, I'm talking to some do-gooders here among us. And I'm saying, hey, are you trying to do it yourself, or are you trusting in what Jesus has done? Because when you get a clear conscience, when you are purified through the blood of Jesus, when you have this hope of the resurrection, and you've made your appeal to God, I mean, when that guilt is removed from you, oh, that's the greatest thing.
When you know that your sin is forgiven, what's going to happen? You watch when people get baptized over the next few weeks here at the church, you're going to hear somebody get baptized, and they're going to stand here with a microphone under the lights in water, and they're going to tell you the worst possible things about themselves. We don't tell people to do it, but they do it all the time. They start bringing up their sin. This is who I was, this is how I live. This is what I did in secret. This is what I really thought about. Then I met Jesus. And let me tell you how I heard that gospel. Let me tell you how I understood what it meant to repent and believe in the gospel. Let me show you how he's changed my life. Let me tell you how I'm living now. And now I'm here to tell you that I'm one of the people of Jesus. And they just openly shared their deepest, darkest secrets with the entire church. You know why they did that? Because their conscience is clear. Because they got nothing to hide anymore. Because they know they're right before God, and before men. See, that's life right there. That's going to help you on your worst day, that's going to help you on your dying day. That is the thing that matters. I know that I have been made right with God. And yes, even a sinner like me will be there in his holy presence, because I've been washed by the blood of Jesus, and Jesus is my priest, ushering me straight to heaven. See, that's what it's talking about here in Hebrews. And there's this thing that happens when you know that you have the resurrected life of Jesus, when you know that you've been purified. And now your internal witness is telling you that it's defending you that you are right, you have a defense. Jesus is the one who stands in your defense, you have a legitimate defense, and you know, you are right with God. See, there is a confidence that comes into an individual who knows that they can go now into the holy presence of God, without fear of judgment, that that perfect love of the Father through the Son has cast out that fear, and they can boldly go into the presence of God. Look at how it says it in Hebrews 10:19, look at what it says here about the confidence that comes when your conscience is clean. Paul's going right up, and he's saying I've got a good conscience in front of people who want to kill him and hate him. This is the kind of confidence we can all have here in Hebrews 10:19-23: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
Has your heart been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience? You want to talk about God's power working in you. You want to talk about this boldness that can take over somebody's life, when you actually know with a true heart, with full assurance of faith, that I am right with God because of Jesus, and my conscience is clear. You're not afraid to die. you're ready to walk right into the presence of the Almighty. And because you know, you're right in your soul. Does anybody here know what I'm talking about? This true heart? Yeah, I see. Some people they go to heaven all the time. They go there when they pray, and they boldly go sinners daring to go into the holy presence of God and ask him for grace in our time of need. And I actually expect that God hears me when I pray. I expect that he's going to answer me when I pray. I already thank him for what he's going to do before he does it. Because I know in my conscience, I am right with God through Jesus Christ, and that all that sin has been washed away. And so, I can go before God.
See, we'll get this down for our fourth dash under point number one: Clear conscience equals confidence. It equals confidence. It's not from this world, it's not a confidence because things are working out. It's not a confidence because you're healthy, or you don't think something bad is going to happen. Oh, it's not. No, it's not. It's a confidence because inside of you, the internal witness, the awareness that you have about yourself is that God is pleased with you through his Son, Jesus, that you are right with God and you have all the resources of heaven. All the power of the Almighty is working in your life here on planet Earth. And it's this otherworldly confidence; we call it faith. And it's what we used to be known for back in the day. Back in the day, they didn't call us Christians, or evangelicals, or some other term where they want to dismiss us to the sidelines of life. Back in the day, we were called God fearers. And men of God and women of faith, because we were known that we believed in God and we had a confidence that didn't come from the United States of America. It came from being citizens of heaven. Where are those people today? Are you one of those people? Oh, how the world there is a moment right now that is happening in our country in March of 2022, where what people need to see after two years of fear is just a few men and women who really have confidence, who really have faith, people who know that they're right with God, people who don't care what happens to them in this life. Put me in the storm, put me in the sickness, send me wherever you want, Lord, I don't care what happens to me in this life, because my conscience is clear. And I know I'm right with you for all of eternity. So, whatever is going to happen right now, I've got faith. Bring it on. I'm ready to walk on the water. I'm ready to go into the fire. Whatever storm is coming my way, here we go. Where are those people today? Are you one of them? That's what people need to see. People need to see real faith still here on planet Earth. Could they find it in your life? Could they find it in your house? See, we found it here in a man called Paul.
Go back to Acts 23:11 because we do have a second point, I am aware of that. I am aware that there is a second point coming. And we have a man here. There's a man here who is so confident in the Lord, that he is past the place of self-preservation. He's all in. And Jesus says something to him here, and I want us all to take note. I mean, this guy, he's gone through such a scene of violence here in Jerusalem, and he was told it was coming. And it happened just like the spirit let him know. I mean, they tried to kill him. He got arrested, they almost whipped him. They put him into a trial where there was violence. He had to be rescued out of that. And now Jesus comes and look what Jesus says to him. And this is Acts 23:11: “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” He says, hey, what a statement of affirmation from Jesus to Paul, hey, you did the witness in Jerusalem. Now you're going to witness in Rome. See, and he says, Take courage. He says don't lose heart. Now, something happened last Saturday night after the service when we were doing our Super Bowl dinner. I found somebody's Acts journal. It wasn't this journal. But it was somebody else's journal that I found. And I was trying to figure out whose it was because they had left it where they were sitting, eating their dinner, and I started looking through it. And I saw on every page there, they had written down all their sermon notes from all the sermons we've been doing on the book of Acts. They were meticulously kept. And then I read some of their notes. I mean, they were getting what the Word of God was saying. They were writing it down. And it inspired me.
This is our forty-ninth sermon from the book of Acts. So, I have now gotten my own brand new Acts journal, and I reviewed all forty-eight sermons, including this one. And I wrote down all the notes of things that I really learned from the book of Acts. Took me a while to go through forty-eight different passages. And see, one thing that I remember is when Jesus shows up and speaks to Paul here, I remember, wait a minute, didn't Jesus do this before?
Go to Acts 18:9 because we already had a moment where Jesus showed up when Paul was in a city, when he was having a hard time. Jesus already showed up once and said something to him. This is now the second time we've seen this happen. And in Acts 18:9, he was in the city of Corinth, and the Jews were coming after him. And there was a sense of division there, because the Jews were turning against him here in Corinth. And they'd been chasing him around Asia. He ended up in Athens by himself. He was experiencing persecution. And he was having a hard time and Jesus came and said, this in Acts 18:9: “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’” Does anybody remember when we studied that? We did a sermon, Do Not Fear. And the reason that you don't need to fear is because God is with us; Jesus is here. That's what we learned. We heard a word from the Lord, that he said to Paul, and we study that throughout the Scripture that nobody here needs to be afraid. And especially you don't need to be afraid of speaking about Jesus because Jesus is with you. He's with you even to the end of the age, even to 2022 in Huntington Beach or Long Beach, even through all that's going on in the world right now. Even if you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you don't need to fear any evil because he is with you. So, there was a word, do not fear. Who really heard that word? Who here is just as afraid as you were when we talked about that passage? And who here is like, okay, I'm ready. Put me in and send me. I'm going to stop being afraid of what happens to me. And I'm all in for Jesus Christ. Because see, I don't think everybody realizes that Paul was afraid when Jesus said that in Corinth. He really was. We studied that in 1 Corinthians 2:3, he said, “I was in that city with much trembling.” And now we're in Acts 23. And now he got told to go to a city where he was told it wasn't like there was some promise, hey, no harm will happen. No attack will happen. Hey, many people are still going to believe in this city. That's not what he was told when he went to Jerusalem. The attack is coming. You will be harmed, you will suffer, you will go to prison. This on this planet. This is not going to work out for you, Paul. And he walked right into it. And now Jesus is like, yes. Be strong. Take courage. You did it here. Now we're going to go do it there. See, Paul, maybe you always thought Paul was not afraid. But Paul was afraid. And then he heard what Jesus said. And then he wasn't afraid anymore. Where are the people at this church that are walking right into it with no fear? Because your conscience is clear. And you've got a true heart. You've got full assurance of faith. And you're saying, here am I, send me. What city do you want me to go to? What storm do you want me to walk into? What sickness am I going to get diagnosed with? What do you want me to do before I die, because I'm ready to die? Because my conscience is clear. So, wherever you're sending me, I'm going to go with no fear, because I know that Jesus is here.
Let's get that down. For number two: Be of good cheer, Jesus is here. And maybe you're thinking, well, that would be nice. If Jesus showed up tonight and told me exactly what I'm supposed to do, I would really like Jesus to show up and speak to me tonight. That sounds really encouraging. If Jesus was saying something like that to me, well … Turn with me to John 16:33. Because Jesus is saying something to you. He's saying something to all of us. This is the last thing he said at the Last Supper. This is the conclusion of his teaching of his disciples on the night before he died, for us to purify our conscience so that our conscience could be clear. This is a word that Jesus said to everybody here. And he said this in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you that in me” in Jesus, “you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation.” Can I get an Amen from the congregation? There's going to be wars, there's going to be rumors of wars, there's going to be famines, there's going to be earthquakes, there's going to be many false Christ going out and deceiving many that the consciences of many will be seared. All of that is going to happen. You are going to have trouble in your life. And then he says, but take heart take courage. Same word that he says in Acts 23:11. “Take heart”; be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. Jesus has already won the victory. The battle belongs to the Lord. If you really believe in the resurrection, if you really believe in his blood, purifying your conscience from all evil, washing away all sin you have already overcome through your faith in Jesus, and you have the victory. Do we walk around with people like people who are more than conquerors? People who know that they are loved, people who know that God is pleased with us because of his Son, Jesus. And my conscience is clear. Is that how we walk around? Because that's how Jesus said we could be take courage. Be of good cheer, he has overcome the world. That word there, that Greek word for overcome is victory. I got a new pair of shoes. Anybody ever get a new pair of shoes, right? Isn't it great when you put on a new pair of shoes, isn't walking all of a sudden fun for like the first couple of days when you get those fresh kicks? Anybody know what I'm talking about right now? The extra pep in the step? The extra little bounce you got going for a couple of days there when you get a pair of new shoes, right? My wife got me these shoes. I take them out of the box. I put them on my feet. They've got this little symbol on the side. Maybe you've seen it before a little swoosh, right? We call it Nike. The Greek word is Nike that's what you've got. That's the word there. The victory. It's like you're standing on the victory of Jesus. It's like you're standing on a firm foundation. You're standing on a solid rock, like you're building your life on the victory that Jesus won. You have the power of the resurrection, you have the purity in your conscience through his blood, like you're standing on Jesus. Let's go. Send me. I'm ready to do something with my life. I want God to use me. And it might get very hard; he might send me to Jerusalem. And then he might send me to Rome. Well, here I am, Lord. Send me. Paul, he heard the words of Jesus, and he got to that place. We need to hear this word. And we need to be people who do not fear but take courage, because Jesus is here. Let me pray for us.
Father, we come before you today, and we come on behalf of those who have seared consciences. We come on behalf of those whose consciences right now are accusing them of their guilt, for people who are carrying around heavy burdens of their own sin, the baggage of many secrets that they have tried to bury very deep in their own soul. And if they become self-aware, and if they look at themself, especially if their conscience is informed by the Scripture, Father, I'm sure there are people here today that are convicted about their sin. And I pray that today would be the day that they stopped trying harder, that today would be the day they stopped carrying around that heavy burden, and that there would be people that you would save in this service. Because they would make an appeal for good conscience, not based on anything that they could do, but based on what Jesus has already done, that he already shed his pure blood, so that they could be righteous. He already rose from the dead, so they can have eternal life, abundant life, new life, a life where they really are right with you. Can I pray that people would hear what we're saying today that this would be a sermon that they would hear, that it would change the rest of their life. If their conscience is clear, they will have nothing to fear. And so, I pray that you will clear some consciences, that people will confess some sins, or people will talk to you that they'll talk to somebody else who could help them pray with them, that people will be able to come to you with a true heart, with full assurance of faith, and they would know that all of their sins have been washed away. All the things they have done have been paid for in full. And I pray that you would raise up a church, a group of people who are set apart, group of people who have that true heart, people who have the confidence to come before you, to come before your holy throne right now where you are high and lifted up, and Jesus is seated at your right hand. And we would say Father, thank you for saving us. Father, thank you for clearing our conscience. Father, please give us that faith. Let us be the people who take courage. Let us be of good cheer. Let us be the overcomers, the people who really live with victory because we believe in the name of Jesus Christ, and let his name be lifted high in our hearts, and let his name be lifted high in Huntington Beach and send us wherever you want. You want to keep us here. Use us for Your glory. You want to send us to Long Beach, send us there. You want to send us to Tokyo or Beirut or Bali or wherever you're sending us, we're ready to go because you will go with us. Father, please let us be people of faith. Let others see that we really have a clear conscience because we know you, and we're ready to go wherever you send us. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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