I have been told that the topic you have been looking at all this month is “conscience” [P]. I remember growing up, that as a young boy I was adamant: “I don’t have a conscience!” I was quite serious. The trouble is that I take people literally, think they mean what they say. I went to Sunday School and was taught at home, and I was told: “your conscience is that little voice inside you that tells you whether something is right or wrong.” [P] Well I listened real hard, but I never heard no voice! I had a conscience alright; the problem was with the definition that people gave me. This is how the Oxford dictionary defines it ■ noun a person’s moral sense of right and wrong. It then gives it’s origin Middle English: via Old French from Latin conscientia from con- ‘with’ scire ‘know’. Well, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English or Latin; the New Testament was written in Greek. And do you know that Greek word is made up of two parts: one meaning “with” the other meaning “know” – exactly the same derivation. So conscience means “with knowledge”. [P] And we are all “with knowledge” – a knowledge of what is right and wrong – that is our conscience. Strange as it may seem, it wasn’t always that way!
If you have a good memory you will recall that last time we were out here John spoke about temptation and he spoke about the temptation in the garden of Eden. [Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife, both of them, were naked, and they were not ashamed.] They didn’t know that they were naked; they didn’t know that it was wrong. They were without knowledge – they had no knowledge of good or evil. Then they were tempted (John spoke about that last time) – what was the temptation? To eat from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil”. Let’s read about it: [Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” ] So that was the command from God, what did satan do? [Genesis 3:1-7 He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden (the tree of knowledge), and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked;] [P] The temptation was to be with knowledge – it will make you wise, know good and evil; you will be like God. And knowledge is what they got! Before then they had no conscience, they were without knowledge, didn’t know they were naked. Now there was another tree in that garden – the tree of life. Man chose knowledge over life – that is our tragedy. Still we choose knowledge rather than life. People talk about a knowledge economy, of increasing knowledge. That is what we seek. But what good is it? The price tag was DEATH! “The day you eat it, you will die!” So Adam and Eve ate and they got knowledge, they knew that they were naked, they had a conscience, they were with knowledge. They were naked before they ate and they were naked after – that hadn’t changed. What had changed was that now they knew it! – nakedness wasn’t their problem – conscience was! But let us be very clear here – that conscience did them no good. Their conscience didn’t bring them to God! [P] It did exactly the opposite! Let’s read on: [Genesis 3:7-10 They knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”] What did they do with their knowledge? They knew that they had done wrong so they tried to cover up, sewed coverings of leaves. What do you do when you have done something wrong? Look we have been doing it since we were 2 years old – we try to cover up so that no one knows or finds out what we’ve done. Don’t tell me you haven’t done it! It is our instinctive reaction. If something goes wrong at work we try to cover it up; or, the other thing we do, which Adam and Eve also did, is try to put the blame on to someone else – Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. We cannot bear to be wrong – our conscience tortures us – it tells us that we are GUILTY. And guilt separates us from God. What did Adam do? He hid! Up until that time he had walked with God in the garden. Now he tried to hide from God! It is ridiculous even to try – but that is what we do. Are you trying to hide from God? Trying to avoid facing up to the consequence of what you have done? You see? Conscience didn’t bring them to God – it did exactly the opposite! It separated them from God. It told them that they were guilty. Many people have the wrong idea, they think conscience will bring us to God. It never will – how can consciousness of what I am ever bring me to God?! It will produce shame, self-reproach, remorse, anguish. It will just show me how unfit I am to be in God’s presence. It may also make us try to remedy the condition – like Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together – it doesn’t work! All that is; is evidence that we know that we are naked, that we are sinners! People talk about a “God given conscience” but it was not given, it was stolen by man when he ate from the tree that he was told not to eat. Have you ever heard people say that we should do what our conscience tells us? Obey the good voice and reject the bad one? This is trying to be good ourselves – and that is impossible! We can’t do it! Only God is good. No, conscience cannot bring us to God! All religion is about trying to clothe ourselves; Christianity is the opposite – it is coming to God naked and He clothes us with His righteousness. Conscience makes us try to hide. It reveals that we are unfit to come before God – it separates us from God, the only One who can clothe us. What can we do? – we all have a conscience, we can’t undo that, we are with knowledge – and knowledge makes us proud. We are proud of what we know. Conscience tells me what I am – what we need is not knowledge, but revelation; revelation of who God is. Conscience brings knowledge and condemns; revelation reveals the truth and convicts. I remember as a young man, I knew that I was wrong, knew I wasn’t right with God, that I was a rebel; but then one day I read in the Bible that a rebellious son was to be stoned to death. It suddenly hit me! It was revelation from the Holy Spirit, convicting me of sin, righteousness and judgement. Not knowledge that condemned, but revelation of the truth that made me realize the hopelessness of my state and my need of God. Conscience makes us hide and cover up – revelation is bringing us to the light, out into the open. We have a conscience and we have knowledge and we can’t undo that. Some people think conscience is a good thing but it may not be. You see it is not an absolute standard. It varies and is relative. Some people have a conscience about something that is not wrong at all – the Bible calls this a “weak conscience” [P]. Most of us know that we have done wrong but we just live with it – we accept evil – resign ourself to evil – that is what the Bible calls an “evil conscience” [P]. The Bible also talks about a “defiled conscience” [P] [Titus 1:15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure, but both their mind and conscience are defiled.] it gets perverted, so that we call what is evil, “good”. For example many people today consider homosexuality to be nothing wrong. Our country has enshrined same-sex marriage in law, it is good, lawful behaviour. But the Bible calls it an abomination! So you see that conscience may not be telling us what is good after all. It is relative, changed by society and what people are accustomed to do; whereas God and the Bible’s standard don’t change. What happens when you continually go contrary to your conscience? It no longer troubles you – it becomes, what the Bible calls, “seared” [P]. People listen to lies instead of the truth: [1 Timothy 4:1-2 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of liars, who are seared in their own conscience,] For example when I was a child it was considered wrong and shameful for a man and woman to live together if they weren’t married. But now people do so without a pang of conscience, they have ignored the conscience so long that it no longer responds and reacts. Their ears have become shut to it, their conscience has become seared. So the conscience may not be good, it may be evil and defiled. It is not an accurate indicator of what is right. It fools us and we can ignore its voice. But still we are with knowledge – we know that we have sinned. What can be done about it?! Well the Bible also talks about a “clear conscience” [P]. How can our conscience become clear? It needs to be cleansed. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves but God covered them with skins. To get skins an animal had to be killed. An animal had to die to cover sin. Before Jesus came, in the OT, there was a system of sacrifices that killed animals, but the Bible says: [Hebrews 9:9 the gifts and sacrifices which were offered were not able to perfect the worshiper with respect to the conscience,] These blood sacrifices were pointing to a sacrifice that would be effective; a few verses down it goes on to say: [Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God? ] There is a perfect sacrifice that perfects – it cleanses our conscience! Hallelujah! It is the blood of Jesus alone that can cleanse our conscience so that it is clear. When Jesus died on the cross, He bore our sin in His body. That sinless One became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He has been made unto us righteousness, the righteousness of God. We are no longer naked, but clothed in the righteousness of God – not our own righteousness, our efforts to be good and obey our conscience; but the righteousness of God that is given to us. Our sin is removed as far as the east is from the west. It is remembered no more! Hallelujah! It is a covenant in the blood of Jesus: [Hebrews 10:16-23 “This is the covenant that I will decree for them after those days, says the Lord: I am putting my laws on their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” He also says, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will never remember again.” Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence for the entrance into the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, (no longer hiding, not shame but confidence! Coming near!) by the new and living way which he inaugurated for us through the curtain, that is, his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in the full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the one who promised is faithful.] The evil conscience has been made clean! There was a separation, a separation caused by our knowledge of our sinful state. There is another type of conscience the Bible talks about: a “good conscience” [P]. Now we can come near with a “good conscience” Conscience separated us from God, but now that is dealt with. We were with knowledge a conscience that was evil but now it is sprinkled clean by the blood of Jesus. [1 John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we do not have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, so that he will forgive us our sins and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ] Conscience separated us from God but now we can now draw near to God [P] with a cleansed conscience, a clear conscience, a good conscience because Jesus has removed our sin, become the sacrifice that takes away our sin. Now we can come near to God through the blood of Jesus. Instead of grasping knowledge we come to Him who is Life. Tonight you can choose life; life found through faith in Jesus blood, His death in your place and His resurrection to the place of highest honour at God’s right hand: “let us draw near with a true heart in the full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” If you want your conscience cleansed and to draw near to God, end that age-old separation, talk to one of us after the meeting closes.