May 28, 2012 by
Our time of singing opened with reflecting on and praising Jesus, the friend of sinners.
His Forever (from Worship God Live)
Jesus, friend of sinners
Loved me ere I knew Him
Drew me with His cords of love
And tightly bound me to Him
Not death, nor life, nor anything
Can ever separate me
Oh, love that will not let me go
Yes, I am His forever
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (from Together for the Gospel Live)
We read the third article from Luther’s Smaller Catechism:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Nail My Glory (from Looked Upon)
All of the works of my own hands
I dare not bring before Your throne
My faith responds to Your demands
By pleading what my Lord has done
Shine into Our Night (from The Gathering)
Bob shared: "Earlier in the conference we sang 'My redeemer’s love will lead me through the deepest valley here' And I had the sense that some of you here today are in that deepest valley and need Jesus to shine into this valley, this night. Now, nothing will ever affect us more than the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God living a perfect life in our place and dying as our substitute on Calvary, but God also has a myriad of ways He gives us comfort. One of those ways is through the gift of prophecy, so I’m going to sing a prophetic song. I believe God wants to specifically speak to those who are going through the hardest time in their lives."
This is not the darkest time
This is not the lowest place
Though you feel that you’re lost
And you can’t find My grace
This is not your darkest hour
This is not your lowest point
At one time, you were without hope
At one time, you were without life
At one time, you were without Me
My son went through the darkest hour
When he hung upon the cross
Endured the agony, suffered your loss
When He was cut off from me
Hanging in your place to set you free
That was the darkest hour that you will never know
Because My Son hung there in your place
And there is no place that’s without my reach
There is no darkness that’s darker than my light
There is no valley that’s deeper than my love for you
There is no pathway that you are walking on
That my hand is not leading you each and every step
And though you can’t see the future, I’m holding it in my hands
And it leads you straight to me
So, trust Me in your darkest hour
For there has been a darker hour still
When you were lost and without Me
But I brought you to myself
Your sins are all forgiven
And you know My will is to trust me
I am with you in the darkness
And I will bring you to the light
And you’ll know that I’m a God
Who always does what is right
And though you can’t see Me now
Though you can’t find your place
One day you will see My face
One day you will see My face
Before the Throne of God Above (from Songs for the Cross Centered Life)
Be Thou My Vision
C.J. took time to recognize Memorial Day by asking those who have served in the military, are serving in the military, or are parents of someone serving in the military to stand so we could thank them with applause.
Nathan recommended two books:
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp: “Written by Paul Tripp, edited by his mustache. We’ve talked a lot about the hard work of studying theology. I think the only thing harder than studying theology is in applying it to our lives. This book is not just for helping other people; it’s really for you. It’s a primer on the Lord’s sanctification in your own life.”
What Is the Mission of the Church: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert: “Here’s the thing about Kevin DeYoung. If Kevin puts out a book on an issue, it’s a good indication that a lot of people in our age group are really screwing it up. So, you want to read these books to make sure you’re not a part of the crowd he’s talking to. If you have questions about social justice, shalom, or the Great Commission you should read this book.”
MESSAGE | KEVIN DEYOUNG | “CONSCIENCE”
I want to take this time to express my deep appreciation and love for the pastors and students here from Sovereign Grace Churches. I see your deep love for the gospel and the cross. You need to know that that love spread over so many and with such enthusiasm and doctrinal understanding and affection of the heart is not common. I also want to thank my faithful friend, C.J. I can tell you many ways in which my life is different and remarkably blessed because he took it upon himself to reach out to me, email me, call me, invite me into his life, and I am grateful and count it a privilege to be your friend.
In the Nicene Creed there is this confession:
We confess that we believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church.
We confess that we believe in a holy church – not as holy as she ought to be or will be, but nonetheless holy, set apart for God and consecrated to Him.
I want to focus this morning on holiness, and more specifically, the biblical concept of a conscience.
In April of 1521 there was an assembly called the Diet of Worms. Martin Luther was summoned to defend his beliefs, but at this moment he did not come confidently. On the first day, he was so intimidated that his statements could not be understood. His life could be over if he did not recant his books. The counsel went on for days, but at the conclusion, Martin Luther said: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God, thus I cannot and will not recant. For going against my conscience is neither safe nor salutary. I can do no other. Here I stand. God help me. Amen.”
Luther was willing to risk his life for the sake of conscience. And the history of the Reformation changed because this German monk refused to do and say what he knew in his head and in his heart was wrong.
How important is your conscience?
"For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you." 2 Corinthians 1:12
Paul is under accusations for being a liar, fickle, and fake for not coming to the Corinthian church when he had said he would. Paul does not over-apologize just to get them off his back. He, instead, responds with the defense that he was simple (no ulterior motives), acting in godly sincerity, and was acting for the sake of his conscience.
When we are accused, we should hear our accusers out and be quicker to judge ourselves than our neighbor, but, at times, it is ok to say like Paul, “As far as I can tell you my conscience is completely clear.”
More than a dozen times in the New Testament we see a testimony of conscience:
"And looking intently at the council, Paul said, 'Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.'” Acts 23:1
"I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit." Romans 9:1
"I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day." 2 Timothy 1:3
"Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things." Hebrews 13:18
Note, the conscience is not the final judge and jury (that is God), but it is a witness to bring to the stand when you are accused.
Definition of “conscience”: The faculty within human beings that assesses what is good and what is bad in us.
"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." Romans 2:15
Every single one of us still retains a conscience to accuse us or excuse us.
I’ve never met someone who thinks they’re perfect. If you press a little bit, everyone has something for which they feel bad. The conscience is both your prosecuting attorney and defense attorney.
I have a blog. I get blog comments. You could write a blog post that says, “I love dogs and chocolate and my mom.” And I’d get a comment like, “Why do you hate women?” This is where my clear conscience comes into play and that comment doesn’t affect me.
Having a conscience is a mark of being an adult. The conscience is what separates us from animals. There is more in Pinocchio than meets the eye. Gepetto makes a puppet, the blue fairy comes and makes the puppet a real boy. Jiminy Cricket is assigned to be Pinocchio’s conscience. Pinocchio eventually starts dismissing Jiminy Cricket, and as he dismisses him, Pinocchio turns into an animal.
How the Conscience Goes Wrong
1) You start with an evil conscience.
"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." Hebrews 10:22
An evil conscience is one that accuses you of wrong and the wrong is not dealt with. You sin and you don’t deal with it.
The more you ignore your evil conscience, the more you’re endangered of it becoming:
2) A seared conscience
"Through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared." 1 Timothy 4:2
A seared conscience cannot feel. It’s like frostbite. You go out into the cold and your nerves start sensing pain, but as you stay out in the cold, the nerves die and stop sensing the pain and you think that now you are out of danger, but don’t you know that your limbs will fall off?
A seared conscience is like scar tissue. There’s no feeling. It no longer operates as it should.
3) A defiled conscience
"To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled." Titus 1:15
This is when right and wrong are completely scrambled. It tells you to celebrate what is wicked and pure and to denigrate what is good and righteous.
You will come to say, “Yeah, I know that’s wrong, but I don’t really care.” What is going on? You know what is right, but you don’t feel bad about it. It is very hard, almost impossible to pastor those whose consciences are defiled.
4) A weak conscience
"However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." 1 Corinthians 8:7-13
A weak conscience is one that accuses you of things that are not inherently blame-worthy.
A stumbling block is not putting something before others that they don’t like. That’s life.
Telling someone with a weak conscience to “loosen up” is training him to suppress his conscience. We are never to do anything to encourage a brother to violate his conscience.
A weak conscience is found in many Christians. Here are some signs of a weak conscience:
You get married and you feel very dirty with sex.
You have a vague nagging sense of guilt all the time and you don’t know why.
You’ve grown up with certain things being taboo.
You’ve grown up with well-meaning Christians holding up an example as a rule for everyone else.
Your weak conscience needs to be trained by the Word of God.
5) A good (or clean) conscience
"So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man." Acts 24:16
"The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." 1 Timothy 1:5
"But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless." Titus 3:9
"Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." 1 Peter 3:16
Over and over we see the importance of God’s people pursuing and fighting for a conscience that defends them and does not accuse them.
What do we do to have a good, clean conscience?
1) Turn from sin when your conscience tells you that what you’re about to do or what you are in the middle of doing is wrong.
A good gauge for evaluating media: “Can I, after I’m done with this, thank God for it?”
Some of you are so steeped in media that it would do you well to step away from it for a few weeks and then come back to it to evaluate what you intake.
How far is too far? Whatever violates your conscience is too far.
Jokes, Conversation, Gossip:
Whenever you conscience gives you that little prick “This is not pleasing to the Lord” turn away from it.
2) Turn to Christ when your conscience tells you that what you’ve already done is wrong.
The puritans had a high view of conscience:
O man, examine yourself. What does conscience say? Does it begin to accuse? Does it not pierce you as you go? Is this your judgment, and this your choice, and this your way, that we have described? If so, then it is well. But does your heart condemn you, and tell you of a certain sin you are living in against your conscience? Does it not tell you there is such and such a secret way of wickedness that you wish to pursue; such and such a duty that you make no conscience of? …O conscience! Do your duty. In the name of the living God, I command you, discharge your office. Lay hold upon this sinner, fall upon him, arrest him, apprehend him, undeceive him. What! Will you flatter and soothe him while he lives in his sins? Awake, O conscience! - Joseph Alleine, A Sure Guide to Heaven (original title: An Alarm to the Unconverted)
Friends, is your conscience ringing a loud alarm to your unconverted soul? Unless you heed the voice of your conscience you will not be cleansed.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
Here’s the paradox : we are at the same time too easy on ourselves and too hard on ourselves.
Too hard on ourselves: introspection, we think we’re a failure
Too easy on ourselves: we want to tell others “you’re not that bad. I love you! I’ve sinned in the same way.” No, you need to put your arm around their shoulder and tell them, “You’re right. You are that bad, but the Savior is better.”
The regular state of the Christian should be that of a clean conscience. If you go through life with your conscience always telling you that you have sinned, either your conscience is not working as it should or you are not living as you ought.
"For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me." 1 Corinthians 4:4
You are probably aware of 100 things against yourself. So, how can Paul say that? He’s learned to pursue with the utmost vigor a clean conscience. When your conscience accuses you, you are to repent to God and ask for forgiveness – and you’re clean!
Conscience is either your greatest friend or your greatest enemy in the world. - Richard Sibbes
Throughout the life you are turning to God and saying, “Here’s another sin, nail it to the cross. Here’s another sin, nail it to the cross.” –And you’re clean!!
We live in a church culture where everyone thinks they should be feeling a low-grade sense of guilt all the time. You, Christian, are not to feel guilt when you are clean!
Your conscience is meant to be clean because the forgiveness of your sins was an act of supreme justice. Everything in you that says “This sin ought to be paid for. It stinks up to the Heavens.” God says, “You’re absolutely right. And it was paid for.”
You must understand that your sin is forgiven, not because God happened to have a good day, but because His justice against your sin was fulfilled in Jesus’ death on the cross. Because of that you can go to bed with a clean conscience.
Turn from your sin, turn to Christ, be clean, and boast in your conscience.
Following Kevin’s message, C.J. prayed for two groups of people: the unconverted and those who have confessed, but find themselves paralyzed by guilt that they are meant to be free from.
Bob sang a spontaneous song:
You were not made for temporary joys
No idol can ever satisfy you like hearing My voice
You were not created for things that bring you death
You were made to worship Me instead
I alone can give you all that you’re longing for
So, turn away from idols, they’re lies and nothing more
O Great God (from Valley of Vision)
C.J. closed: “May this be a turning point for all of us. A point when we cease presenting a carefully edited version of ourselves, and instead humble ourselves, acknowledge our sin and live in the glorious grace of God.
“To my non-Christian friends, I, sadly, am very familiar with the sins you are participating in. I was a complete fool. But God sent a friend to preach the Gospel to me. And God has brought you here and sent you a friend in the form of Kevin and others to preach the Gospel to you. I pray that you will respond.”