Over the years I have been amazed at times how people become automatic robots controlled by those over them. Out of fear of losing their job or some type of legal action they bow to pressure to lie, steal and other things.
Around 1974 I was personally told by a supervisor of the produce department of a Kroger’s in Pennsylvania that after some time I would cheat the customers. I told him I would not. I went on break and found the union handbook in the break room opened to the page that stated every worker would have to work Sundays when needed. I sure was not going to do that. Later, my supervisor told me they were letting me go since I was “too slow.” I was really let go because God helped me not to cave-in. Forty years later I lost a journalism job because I would not violate my conscience.
I have written the above, not to brag, but to let you know that whatever you are about to read and whatever my listeners will hear when I deliver this message, I, only by the help of God, have followed through on.
For this message that covers Acts 24:15-16, I will start at the very end of verse 16 and work my way up to 15. To me, for this message, those verses divide into three parts.
I. Excel 16b “… to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.”
“Without offense” cannot mean not to make people angry. I know that because many people became angry over Paul, Peter, John, and even Christ Himself. According to James Strong, “without offense” (απροσκοπος [aproskopos]) in this verse can mean the following:
1) having nothing to strike against, not causing to stumble
1a) of a smooth road
1b) metaph. of not leading others to sin by one’s mode of life
2) not striking against or stumbling
2a) metaph. not led into sin, blameless
3) without offense, not troubled by a consciousness of sin
The clause indicates we should be traveling a smooth road with God, looking to Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. When we lose such focus in God, we are more apt to stumble into sin, bringing sad displeasure to the Father.
Also, our walk (manner of living) is to be such that we do not lead others into sin. Please see my article, “Is It A Sin?” Leading others into sin, of course, also displeases the Father.
In a nutshell, we who name the Name of Christ need to be more afraid of displeasing God than man.
II. Exert Yourself 16a “And herein do I exercise myself, …
The New King James uses the word “strive” to express the Greek ασκεω (askeo, as-keh’-o), which, could mean “to form by art, to adorn,” but also means “to exercise (one’s) self, take pains, labor, strive.” Given the context of the verse, the second definition is the one that would apply for verse 16.
Looking back at the time before I came to Christ I can remember violating my own conscience. Perhaps you can to. You and I were tempted to do something we should not have and it took at least a slight effort to disobey our own conscience. At times it was an actual thrill for me. What then happened was I wanted even a bigger thrill. Pride was also there because since no human caught me, or I was able to lie my way out of a situation, I gave myself credit for being so sly.
When we surrender to Christ, He dwells within and His Holy Spirit graciously makes our conscience come alive to the Truth. It is extremely important that each of us learn to say “no” to temptations, to situations that compromise our stance in Christ, and anything else that would bring displeasure to the Father Who loved us so much that He gave us His Son.
Sometimes we fail, but thank God through Christ we always have the recourse of 1 John 1:9. Nonetheless, this, and many other verses point to the fact that we must strive to please God.
There are times we can make things easier on ourselves. For example, when applying for a job, a true Christian should learn to note on his application that he will not work on Sunday.
Some of this might be a little scary, but just like it might have been a thrill to violate your conscience before you came to Christ, enjoy the thrill to protect your conscience. Sure there can be repercussions, but that is “part of the turf” if you and I are going to live godly in Christ (2 Timothy 3:12). So enjoy the thrill, asking God to make you ready for even bigger challenges to your conscience.
If you cannot say “no” to temptation and compromise now, what will you do when things get worse? It is best to learn to call upon God now before the pressure really mounts.
III. End Well 15 “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.”
Loving God through Christ should be the main reason why we want to guard our conscience. However, keep in mind every one of us will stand before God some day. If we keep yielding to sin we might find ourselves in the end with the label of “unjust,” for we have walked away from Christ.
Rest assured that no matter what country you live in you will be increasingly told to violate your conscience. Take a stand. Say “no.” Rather you should lose all in the earthly realm than lose your soul for all eternity (Matthew 16:26).
By all means, if you are not surrendered to Christ, please do so now. Confess that you, like everyone else, are a sinner. Ask God to forgive you and invite Christ right into you to live within and rule you as King. I have some help for you if you have done this.
God willing you will be able to hear the audio recording of this sermon hopefully by August 21, 2012 at http://www.sapphirestreams.com/life/audioM.html#M205. I will try to have it up before then, but it depends upon who shows up for church.