Your session will end in  seconds due to inactivity. Click here to continue using this web page.
The Study Bible - A Bible that gives you instant access to all of John’s teaching on the passage you’re reading.
Monday, July 23, 2012 | Comments (8)

by John MacArthur

It can be easy to forget how destructive sin is—not just in terms of eternity, but in our everyday lives. We’ve seen plenty of examples of how unaddressed sin routinely destroys families, friendships, and careers. But it also has devastating internal results, like robbing you of your joy and assurance, stifling your spiritual growth, and distancing you from the fellowship of God’s people.

It also pollutes and ruins your conscience.

It is possible to virtually nullify the conscience through repeated abuse. Paul spoke of people whose consciences were so convoluted and corrupted that their “glory is in their shame” (Philippians 3:19; cf. Romans 1:32). Both the mind and the conscience can become so defiled that they cease making distinctions between what is pure and what is impure (cf. Titus 1:15).

After so much violation, the conscience finally falls silent. Morally, those with defiled consciences are left flying blind. The warning signals may be gone, but the danger certainly is not; in fact, the danger is greater than ever.

Furthermore, even the most defiled conscience will not remain silent forever. When we stand in judgment, every person’s conscience will side with God, the righteous Judge. The worst sin‑hardened evildoer will discover before the throne of God that he has a conscience which testifies against him.

It is the Christian’s high and holy duty to guard the purity of his regenerated conscience. Paul had much to say about this. Note how he spoke of the conscience in the following verses (emphasis added):

“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day’” (Acts 23:1).

“In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16).

“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).

“Fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18-19).

“I serve [God] with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did” (2 Timothy 1:3).

One of the basic qualifications for deacons, Paul told Timothy, is “holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9).

A pure conscience is essential not only for what it does for oneself, but for what it says to others. A sound conscience is the heart of a strong testimony for Christ. Paul frequently pointed to his conscience as a witness: “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12). “We have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

Peter also wrote about the value of a pure conscience. “Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:16).

A clear, potent conscience is a vital part of your spiritual growth and your witness to others. To work properly, it cannot be hindered or corrupted by unchecked sin and unaddressed guilt.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how to clear your conscience—and how to keep it clear.

(Adapted from The Vanishing Conscience.)


You have 3000 characters remaining for your comment. Note: All comments must be approved before being posted.


#1  Posted by Randall Brookhiser  |  Monday, July 23, 2012 at 8:37 AM

With grandkids ages 5, 7, and 10 often they are caught lying or committing some other offense but they are not quick to confess it and my wife and I and the parents in fact have to work hard to get the truth finally out of them through a lengthy verbal condemnation and crying kind of ordeal. They "confess" after being threatened by dire consequences such as having swimming priviledges or Nitendo taken away. As family spiritual leader I am thinking that we are not getting true confessions just a forced "apology" with no real change in the heart. What advise to you have to parents and grandparents for fostering true confession in kids? Are we simply too quick to judicate the events?

#2  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Monday, July 23, 2012 at 11:44 AM


As a parent of 5 children, all under 10, I can understand your struggle. My wife and I have experienced (still do experience at times) similar reaction to confrontation.

It seems from your comment you are attempting to do what is right. I wouldn't be discouraged about a long, verbal conversation with the child because any genuine parental discipline may take some time.

Additionally, and speaking from what my wife and I do as parents, we make sure we address heart attitudes. For instance, lying is more than just "lying." Lying is an expression of a deeper heart issue of personal selfishness. They intentionally deceive in order to have an advantage over their siblings, or what ever it may be.

We also want to draw them to scripture and explain why what they did is not only disobedience toward the parents, but disobedience against God. Take lying again. Lying is a sin because God is a God of truth. God doesn't lie, so we as His creations don't lie. He is our standard of morality. We then try to remind our kids of the significance of God's character in light of their sin.

Plus, in any instance of them "sinning" we do want to remind them that we are all sinners. Daddy, for example, has lied about things. But God is gracious in that He can forgive that sin because of Christ. So take the opportunity to direct them to understanding their ultimate need for salvation.

One final suggestion I would do is not just threaten the removal of those privileges, but remove them in spite of their "apology." Our children are getting to where they are too old to "swat" as it were, and consequences of taking away things they enjoy is a motivator for them dealing with the seriousness of their disobedience and sin. If all I did was "threaten" and never actually follow through with it, they'd catch on quickly that I'm not necessarily serious about confronting them on these issues.

I can't guarantee that will get them to make a true confession, but I hope it is helpful food for thought.


#3  Posted by Randall Brookhiser  |  Monday, July 23, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Fred Butler had a good reply showing wisdom. As grandparents we let mom and dad do most of the discipline and they do a good job actually taking action and they do talk to the kids about how they are sinning, etc. (Papa and grandma have to do more threatening and the kids know that.) The kids have get very good AWANA and church teaching and from parents and grandparents talking about how bad sin is and what God says about it in scripture. Maybe that is what is frustrating - despite all the correction instruction they get - our grandkids and most kids these days do not seem to feel as guilty as kids did when I was a kid in the 60s. It could be my perception though - we were probably were the same way back then. I guess young and old people have a hard time admitting to sin or not realizing the just how bad our sins are. I think we tend to minimize the severity of our sin - Is our consciences being dulled by the world we live in? Is it because we are not separated enough by the world even if we truly are born again? Something to think about.

#4  Posted by Eric Paneto  |  Monday, July 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM

I was so encouraged and blessed to hear these two replys to Pastor John MacArthur's sermons. I found both replys refreshing to prepare me concerning marriage & kids and dealing with children in babysitting.

Concerning Pastor MacArthur's blog, I pray that I truly make my career, home, and church life all be in harmony with cutting out sin because I know God is a God who judges and lovingly, though drastically sometimes, will always correct those who are the elect/His children. What a great blog, I thank God for the Grace to You Ministry and even the bloggers/supporters as well. Amen.

#5  Posted by Benjamin Mcmillan  |  Monday, July 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Wow! As Martin Luther put it... "my conscience is held captive to the Word of God". Our Adult Sunday School class is working through 1 John a verse at a time and have become amazed at the correlation between sincere confession and genuine christian love. I am convinced until believers live authentic/transparent lives of dependence upon God we lack any real sense of fellowship. Thank you for your encouragment and personal commitment to holiness.

#6  Posted by Jean Selden  |  Monday, July 23, 2012 at 1:07 PM

What an accurate description of the blessings of a clear conscience. Thank God who gives us the grace to have a clear conscience.

To Fred on his parenting advice. Excellent. Teach and admonish and correct with love the Word of God with your kids. And most of all live it. We speak what we know, but we reproduce who we are.

Blessings to all,

Jean Selden

#7  Posted by Rudi Jensen  |  Monday, July 23, 2012 at 2:28 PM

#2 Fred, you are gold.

I sometimes tell my children how I stumbled and fell, and paints the shame of it, but also the full joy of forgiveness. They must know love never comes easy. Pride is a mighty foe to fight.

#8  Posted by Don Gudeman  |  Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 8:18 AM

Fred, you hit such key points! Having two adult children now, I have learned how true it is that our two greatest allies are the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Our children asked me so many times why I would confront their actions with Scripture, and they would tell me how much they hated it. Years later, the older of our children is surrendering to God and thanking us for continually confronting their actions with the Word of God. The key is to lovingly confront the sin and let the Holy Spirit use the Word to convict and change. The greatest encouragement to me as a parent came when I finally realized that it wasn't up to me to change our children - only to lovingly and firmly direct them to God. The repentance that I produced in our children's lives was temporary and superficial at best, and it produced bitterness, guilt, and resentment. Conversely, the repentance that God is producing in their lives is genuine and lasting. That repentance is giving them lasting peace, joy, and a clear conscience. Thank you to everyone for sharing, and especially to Pastor for sharing God's wisdom with us.