Sunday, May 5, 2013

Serving God With A Pure Conscience

Temple Baptist Church - 5-5-2013

2 Timothy 1:1-3a

A.  1 Timothy was written (1 Timothy is a Pastoral Epistle) to teach a young pastor how to lead and oversee the local church. 
1 Timothy 3:14-15  These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly:  (15)  But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
B.  Any time you find a 2nd or 3rd epistle, the general interpretation concerns the end time along with warnings concerning apathy and apostasy.  2 Timothy was written as an admonition concerning the advancement of doctrinal apostasy and the encroachment of worldliness among the professing church members.
C.  Today’s churches, as a general rule, no longer operate within the parameters of 1 Timothy.  Good churches are like “hen’s teeth,” hard to find.  I hear the “not so glowing reports’ of missionaries who have been on the foreign fields for 4+ years and come back to find the decline of their supporting churches.  We have gotten “used to the dark” and, though we know that change and decay are everywhere, we are no longer shocked and accept many things that we should shun.
D.  Andrew Bonar (May 29, 1810 – December 30, 1892) was a minister of the Free Church of Scotland. 
1.  Over a century ago he said, “I looked for the church and found it in the world. I looked for the world and found it in the church.”  I have quoted him often but the amazing thing about his statement was that it was close to a century and a half ago!  England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales were once the “flag ship” of the gospel and their missions outreach went around the world.  All of these nations are in both spiritual and moral shambles today as the light that once shone brightly within them has virtually gone out. 
2.  The light is growing dim here in America as we see the advancement of both spiritual and moral decline.  As goes the church, so goes the nation and America is in trouble with God.  Why?:  because the local church is failing to maintain the Old Paths that our forefathers once trod.  Churches today bear little or no resemblance to the same churches that operated less than 100 years ago.  I often say, “The Bible Belt is unbuckled.”
E.  Paul mentions this in verse 3 as he says, “Whom I serve from my forefathers.” 
1.  I believe, as we see the changing of the times and the coming of our Lord, we need to continue to serve the Lord in the way of our forefathers.  The independent Baptist movement evolved out of the ashes of the rising liberalism in the 30’s and 40’s.  Baptist churches had already begun to have laxity of holiness, worldliness of worship, and apostasy concerning both doctrine and Scripture.  These churches once fought the fight of faith but the things that they once fought have now permeated their churches.  Women preachers, apostate “bibles,” contemporary services, lack of mission’s emphasis, ear tickling preaching, and general apathy. 
2.  Independent Baptist churches, though we are independent—autonomous churches, are gaining quickly in all of these areas.  Bible colleges and Christian universities have deteriorated in many areas beginning with their lack of Bible stand.  Most of the churches that I know of have changed.  We are not responsible for these schools or churches.  We are responsible for our church!  I know that I preach on this subject often but I cannot open the Book of 2 Timothy without reading the “preamble.”
F.  Though I will address this verse later in the series on 2 Timothy, I do want to mention 2 Timothy 3:14, which says, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.”  What causes a good church to become apathetic and or apostate?
1.  Sitting back on our “lees.”  Laodicea is here and, over the past 25+ years, I have seen people slack off on their service for the Lord.  Pastors, missionaries, evangelists, and good church members are now taking a “back seat.”  I remember well the good old days when Bob and Mike became good drivers and I would sit in the back seat and sleep on long trips.  That was great!  I could turn an 8 hour drive into a good series of naps and wake up refreshed when we got to Kentucky.  I made no decisions, no effort, and was totally relaxed.  So many people have quit as, I guess, they have “done their part” and now have turned the work over to “nobody.”
2.  Losing heart or becoming discouraged in days of little visible results.  There are some areas where soul winning is more fruitful than others and it has to do with the spiritual history of the area.  Were we live, religion has been in full swing for over 250 years.  Laurens County is tough soul winning territory.  People have been inoculated with the gospel for many years now.  They have been given just enough of the dead stuff to make them resistant to the real thing.  Our responsibility is to witness and leave the results to God.
3.  Becoming discouraged when the majority goes a different way.  “Though none go with me, still I will follow.”  It is the straight and narrow way that few care to follow.  In the spiritual realm, if you follow the Lord and His Word, you will be in the minority but remember, God and you always make a majority.
4.  No longer preaching the Word of God as it is to men as they are.  We will deal with this in detail when we get to the end of chapter 3 and the first part of chapter 4.  Pastors and evangelists need to keep the whole counsel of God’s Word before the people and not let the changing times change the pulpit!
5.  No longer allowing the Word of God to have “free course” by  a)  not hearing it [this is an inner hearing] or  b)  not allowing or “suffering” its preaching.  Many of God’s men have quit preaching because the congregations no longer want it.  Therefore, the philosophy of God’s men is “which way did they go, I am their leader!”
G.  Paul mentions a “pure conscience” in verse 3.  I want to take a biblical look at the conscience and the importance of its affect upon the believer.
1.  The definitions of the word “conscience:”
a. Merriam-Webster defines “conscience” as:  1.  the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one’s own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good  2.  A faculty, power, or principle enjoining good acts  3.  The part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego   4.  Conformity to what one considers to be correct, right, or morally good.
b.  Online Free Dictionary says:  1.  the awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one’s conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong:  “Let your conscience by your guide.”  2.  Conformity to one’s own sense of right conduct.
c.  The Bible word “conscience” means:  1.  Moral consciousness  2.  To perceive or know something and to understand 
d.  In conclusion, the conscience:  1.  Varies from individual to individual   2.  Is based upon what our moral compass is and how we perceive something.  3.  Therefore, in the believer it must be tempered with God’s perception of right and wrong.
2.  The origin or basis of the conscience.
a.  The spiritual man.  The first mention (not the actual word) of the precept of the conscience is found in the Seedbed of the Bible, the Book of Genesis.  In the first mention, we find both conscious and conscience.  Consciousness was both before and after the fall but conscience came only after the fall.
Genesis 2:25  And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.  (Conscious or aware of something.  There was no shame in their nakedness because there was no sinfulness associated with it.)
Genesis 3:7  And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.  (Consciousness is now coupled with conscience as they once again knew that they were naked but now saw that nakedness in the light of sinfulness.)
Genesis 3:8-9  And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.  (9)  And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?  (Adam’s conscience, which convicted him, was based upon the Word of God or what directly spoke to him concerning God’s will and sinfulness with its consequences.)
b.  The spiritual man’s conscience.
1)  The conviction of the Holy Ghost.  Romans 9:8  That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
2)  The conviction of the Word of God.  1 Corinthians 8:7-11  Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.  (8)  But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.  (9)  But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.  (10)  For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;  (11)  And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?
c.  The natural man’s conscience. 
1)  The conviction of natural law.  Romans 2:12-15  For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;  (13)  (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.  (14)  For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:  (15)  Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
2)  The conviction of social or religious law.  John 8:9  And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
3.  Biblical conditions of the believer’s conscience mentioned in the Bible.
a.  Conditions of the natural man’s conscience.
1)  An individual conscience.  John 8:9  And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  (No doubt left at different times because of the difference in conscience and conviction.)
2)  A convicted conscience.  John 16:8-11  And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  (9)  Of sin, because they believe not on me;  (10)  Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;  (11)  Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
Romans 2:15  Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
3)  A seared conscience.  1 Timothy 4:1-2  Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  (2)  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
4)  A reprobate conscience.  Romans 1:28-32  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;  (29)  Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,  (30)  Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,  (31)  Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:  (32)  Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
b.  Conditions of the believer’s conscience.
1)  A Defiled Conscience - Titus 1:15  Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.  (Personal defilement and unconfessed sin cause the believer to not see God’s Word through spiritual eyes.)
2)  An evil conscience.  Hebrews 10:22  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  (Dereliction of known duty!  Knowing right and yet not doing right.  Our conscience becomes less sharp and more carnal with abuse of sinfulness.  “Getting used to the dark!” applies to God’s children and sin.)
3)  A Good Conscience - Acts 23:9  And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.  (A conscience devoid of offense before God.  “Nothing between my soul and my Saviour!”)
1 Timothy 1:5  Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
1 Timothy 1:19  Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
4)  A Purged Conscience - Hebrews 9:14  How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  (Having a right perspective of God’s Word and allowing it to “renew” our minds, purging out the spiritual values that we once held and bowing to the authority of the Bible.)
5)  A Weak Conscience - 1 Corinthians 8:7  Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.  (A weak conscience comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding of God’s Word.  Here we find the importance of “study” and “knowledge” of the Bible.  We have too many ignorant believers in our day and their perception of the will and Word of God is wrong.)
6)  A Conscience Void Of Offense - Acts 24:16  And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.  (The believer has both the Spirit of God and the Word of God to guide and aid him or her.  Two things are the “key” to have a conscience void of offense:  1)  being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and  2) being obedient to the Bible!  Then, when conscientious of these two things, the believer becomes dependable, useable, and circumspect in light of the continual weakening influence of the local church in our day.)
7)  A Pure Conscience - 2 Timothy 1:3  I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day;  (A conscience devoid of regret.  I believe that we all regret some things but, looking back, having the peace that we have stayed with the Old Paths of God’s Word in an ever changing society.  A man once called the Book of Romans “An anchor in the shifting sands of human theology.”  Just look at the so-called “Christians” of our day from the presidency down to the local level.  We have not changed in an ever changing world.  The song writer said it all in one verse: “change and decay in all around I see.”  Paul’s conscience was pure.  He had faults and failures but he could face the church with no regrets.) 

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