Thoughts to Ponder

The danger of a seared conscience.

God has given all human beings a conscience, and written His law on our hearts.

Romans 2:12-16
     All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. [13] For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. [14] (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, [15] since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) [16] This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. [NIV]

There are people that society claims are without a conscience, they are often called sociopaths, or some other name that is suppose to explain why they act on their evil impulses without seeming to care about right or wrong. Were these people truly born without a sense of right and wrong; did God forget to give them a conscience? I don't believe so. I believe there is another reason for why they act the way they do. Obviously they are evil, but then all humans are born with the capacity and even the tendency to do some very evil things. Yet most people won't act on those impulses for one or more reasons; it may be their upbringing, it may be their fear of the consequences, or it may be because their conscience tells them it is wrong, they listen to that inner voice.

Why do some people not seem to be bothered and go out and do horrible things, like murder innocent people? Well I think you have to look in that person's past to know the answer. Now I am not saying because they didn't have a father figure in their lives they turned out to be sociopaths. Many people grow up without a father figure and never commit horrible crimes. No, what I am talking about are little steps that grow larger as time goes by and eventually lead to the kind of horrific crimes we see on the nightly news.

When a person does something that they know is wrong, their conscience convicts them, as the passage above shows, but if that person ignores that conviction and continues to do what they know is wrong they will be hardened to it. It doesn't have to be something large or horrible; it can be what is often called 'little' sins. You know the little white lies, the taking of a pencil or two from work, the laughing at vulgar jokes, looking at inappropriate things in magazines or on television. There are many examples, things that the very first time we do them cause us a pang of conscience, but after a few more times seem okay.

What is happening to us is that our conscience is getting hardened or seared. What happens when something gets seared? It loses sensitivity. So as we sear our conscience it too gets less sensitive. From that point on it is easy to think that there is nothing wrong with what we are doing, after all it doesn't bother our conscience. As our conscience gets more seared, it loses even more sensitivity to larger and worse things that we do.

Our conscience, as I said above, is God given. So when we ignore it and harden and sear it, what we are doing is rejecting God. This is dangerous, because there is a point when God will give us over to our evil natures.

Romans 1:21-32
    For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
    [24] Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. [25] They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
    [26] Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. [27] In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
    [28] Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. [29] They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; [31] they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. [32] Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. [NIV]

Psalm 81:11-12
    "But my people would not listen to me;
        Israel would not submit to me.
    [12] So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
        to follow their own devices. [NIV]

Gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts... Gave them over to shameful lusts... Gave them over to a depraved mind... Gave them over to their stubborn hearts... So could it be that these so called sociopaths are just people who because they continually ignored their conscience were given over to their evil natures and desires and no longer feel the pang of conscience when they do evil? I think that is not only possible, I think it is most likely true.

I hope this is a sobering thought for everyone. You don't have to be a sociopath to have a seared conscience. I don't believe you have to be so far gone that God gives you over to all your evil desires either. What I do believe is that you are on thin ice and in danger of ever more movement away from God when you don't listen to your conscience.

As Christians we try to bring our children up in a moral environment, but they are very susceptible to this searing of their conscience and we need to be aware of it. All too often parents are part of the problem. They know, for example, that their children are exposed to 'alternative' lifestyles in school, and even taught to not judge those perverted lifestyles. The children are told there are no absolutes; just because your parents say something is wrong, you must judge for yourself. They are exposed to peer pressure to pepper their language with vulgarity, to tell crude jokes, to engage in sex or sexually charged situations. Yet many parents believe this is okay, because their child is a missionary to the lost in their school. So they watch as their child's conscience is slowly seared and never realize there is a problem.

Parents never say anything when their children start listening to 'Christian' rock, by bands that display tattoos and piercings. After all they could be listening to those evil secular bands! But what happens as the child looks up to these bands that have tattoos, piercings and dress and act like the world, all the while professing that Christ has changed their lives? Searing is happening; tattoos begin to seem okay. Piercings begin to seem okay. Dressing like the world begins to seem okay. Speaking like the world begins to seem okay. The world's music begins to seem okay. The slope might be a gentle grade to start but it is headed in the wrong direction.  

Trust me, even when a parent tries to teach the difference between what a Christian should be and what the world is, the child may rebel and head down the wrong path. Society has been telling children for years that they should make their own decisions, that they should love themselves. Even churches have been preaching self-love for years. You hear things like, 'you can't truly love God until you love yourself.' So is it any surprise that we find exactly what Paul warned would be?

2 Tim. 3:1-5
     But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. [2] People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, [4] treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- [5] having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. [NIV]

Along with all those things Paul mentioned goes a seared conscience. Without a searing of their conscience they would realize that what they are doing is wrong. As I said some of these things are even taught in churches:

1 Tim. 4:1-2
    The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. [2] Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. [NIV]

Whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron! I just don't believe that happens all at once, the searing takes time. We need to guard ourselves and our consciences and we need to guard our children's consciences too. But how do you guard against this? Well for yourself the answer is simple, listen to your conscience and listen to the Holy Spirit who convicts you when you sin. Repent and strive to live a life that is pleasing to God.

Hebrews 4:7
    Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before:

    "Today, if you hear his voice,
        do not harden your hearts." [NIV]

Don't ever allow yourself to think; "I know this is wrong, but I will repent of it tomorrow." Putting off something we know is wrong until later is dangerous. What is we no longer think it is wrong tomorrow? And of course what if for us tomorrow never comes? Don't play games with your conscience, keep it tender and pliable.

As for your children, be aware of the small steps. When they don't see anything wrong with something that you think is wrong, don't just ignore it. Talk to them; explain why you feel something is wrong. Don't allow the idea that "at least they are Christians" to cloud your judgment. Many things are called Christian, but if it looks like the world, acts like the world, smells like the world, tastes like the world... it is the world! We are told the come out and be separate. This world is not our home and we shouldn't become too comfortable in it.

Many people will argue that in and of themselves some of these things aren't really wrong. After all what is wrong with a boy having ear rings, or a girl having a lip ring? Well ask yourself, why? Why would a person want these things? There are a couple of reasons, one and it is a very old reason, is rebellion against the older generation which the younger generation thinks is old fashioned. But what is rebellion? If you said it is the beginning of sin, then you are getting the idea. The second reason is that the person wants to look like the world. The person wants to 'fit' in and whatever the subject (tattoos, piercings, etc...) it is part of being part of the group. This is the exact opposite of coming out and being separate.

But what does this have to do with our discussion? Everything, as a person, especially a young person gives into some small step towards being part of the crowd or fitting in, they blunt their conscience. Then the next small step is closer and easier to take, and so on and so on until they are no longer taking small steps, but are sprinting toward the world and the world's attitudes. So, before I get a lot of hate mail, I am not saying having a tattoo will send you to hell. What I am saying is you need to figure out why you want to look, act, smell and taste like the world. Do you really want to be friends with the world or come out and be separate? Let me leave you with one more sobering thought:

James 4:4
    You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [NIV]

E-Mail Ralph

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December 2009