Probing The Consciences Of Men

Human brain glowing lateral viewI praise God for the preaching at my church, Midway Baptist in Gulf Breeze, Florida. In fact, the preaching at my church is an answer to prayer. I have been praying for years that God would raise up Holy Ghost fired-up preachers across America to quicken the souls of men and women. The Lord has blessed our church with the example of what I have been desiring for our nation; men who will preach the gospel unapologetically and unashamedly.

So while I am thankful for our ministry staff, my heart is broken over the multitudes of namby-pamby preachers bringing feel good messages from the NTFV (New Touchy-Feely Version) Bibles to the itching ears of consumer “Christians.” However, I also know that there is a remnant of preachers adhering to the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy:

    “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

A line from Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Dancing With the Dinosaur” says that “Conscience has gone the way of the dinosaur.” Whatever we do in America today had best not offend anyone’s conscience. Little Johnny and Suzie need to have their self-esteem in tact so they can feel good about themselves. These are the same little ones that grow up to be foul-mouthed no-talent, non-singing contestants on American Idol. Or worse yet, sue their college professor for not getting a good grade.

Now I am not saying we should go out of our way to be offensive towards people, but we who call ourselves Christians belong to the Family of God which is grounded in the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Word. While giving his defense before Felix, Paul explained his actions thusly:

    “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” (Acts 24:14-16)

One thing the Lord has re-emphasized to me is that if I am to have my prayer for godly preaching answered, then I must continually pray for those preachers to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally protected because it can be a lonely place preaching from a power-filled pulpit. Understand this; when consciences are probed, few will be left standing:

    “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” (John 8:7-9)

To have a Biblical worldview means to find yourself surrounded by evil and laughed at and mocked for your beliefs. Let it be so; you are in good company as we read where David had found himself in the same predicament:

    “Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me.” (Psalm 40:11-12)

Notice that David not only sees the evil around him, but he also acknowledges his own sinfulness. If we are to have our consciences rightly probed, then let it be so with each of us. I hope you had the chance to read Charles Finney’s “The Decay of Conscience,” but if not (you should!) I would like to share his opening lines; it is a little long but hopefully it will whet your appetite for more:

    “I believe it is a fact generally admitted that there is much less conscience manifested, by men and women, in nearly all the walks of life, than there was forty years ago. There is justly much complaint of this, and there seems to be but little prospect of reformation. The rings and frauds and villainies in high and low places, among all ranks of men, are most alarming, and one is almost compelled to ask: ‘Can nobody be safely trusted?’ Now, what is the cause of this degeneracy? Doubtless there are many causes that contribute more or less directly to it; but I am persuaded that the fault is more in the ministry and public press than in any and all things else. It has been fashionable now for many years to ridicule and decry Puritanism. Ministers have ceased, in a great measure, to probe the consciences of men with the spiritual law of God. So far as my knowledge extends, there has been a great letting down and ignoring the searching claims of God’s law, as revealed in his Word. This law is the only standard of true morality. ‘By the law is the knowledge of sin.’ The law is the quickener of the human conscience. Just in proportion as the spirituality of the law of God is kept out of view will there be manifest a decay of conscience. This must be the inevitable result. Let ministers ridicule Puritanism, attempt to preach the Gospel without thoroughly probing the conscience with the divine law, and this must result in, at least, a partial paralysis of the moral sense. The error that lies at the foundation of this decay of individual and public conscience originates, no doubt, in the pulpit. The proper guardians of the public conscience have, I fear, very much neglected to expound and insist upon obedience to the moral law.”

If your pastor is not preaching solid Biblical messages that clearly outline what a Christian’s worldview should be, then encourage him to do so. (Notice I didn’t say him or her.) If he seems to come just to the edge but fails to bring the message home, thank him for the message and encourage him to go even further. If he does preach in such a manner, not only encourage him, but also let him know that you are praying for him. Remember that our preachers not only need to put on the whole armor of God, but they also need it more than most. And as Paul finished that part of his letter to the Ephesian church, let us do as he asked:

    “…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20)

Remember that our pastors are not Sunday morning piñatas there for us to take a swing at as we leave church on our way to Sunday brunch. They are the shepherds of the flock who need our encouragement, love, prayers, and support.

Maybe we all need bumper stickers that say, “Have you thanked your pastor today?”

Who knows, that might actually make a difference in America? It can’t hurt…

In Christ
Dave
Ps. 37:4

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    Copyright © 2013 David Jeffers

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