In this sermon, Pastor Babij teaches from 1 Peter 3:13-17 how Christians should respond to unjust suffering. Pastor explains several reasons why Christians will suffer in life and reminds believers that they are called to suffer for the gospel’s sake. Pastor also offers four admonitions to observe in the midst of suffering and exhorts believers to keep their consciences clean before God and men.
Let us pray:
Lord, Thank You for bringing us here. We know, Lord, it is by Your providence that we sit here and are alive today. The privilege are ears could experience is that of hearing the word of God. I pray, Lord, that you would bring the word of God to convict our hearts, teach us how to live, and move our wills to do so. I pray, Lord, that this passage would become evident on what we are supposed to do. I pray this, in Christ’s name, Amen.
We will be looking at 1 Peter 3:13-17. We have come to the last section of this epistle of 1 Peter. The first section dealt with salvation. When it comes to suffering, we get a sense of where Peter is going with this. It is important for all Christians to have a real good understanding and grasp of their own salvation in Christ Jesus.
The second section focused on submission, and the different ways Christians are to submit coupled with the characteristics and attitudes appropriate for proper submission that is pleasing to the Lord. Now, we come to this third major section, the last major section of Peter, which is suffering.
By way of wisdom, the Apostle Peter has laid the foundation for Christians to be ever prepared for any kind of trial or suffering that may come their way. If these principles are put into practice, then we will be able to overcome, get through, and be a testimony to those around us during times of suffering and persecution. Meaning, all Christians need to grow in these truths and understand the first two sections, so that the last section isn’t too confusing.
The third major section of 1 Peter has to do with suffering for the cause of righteousness. Of course, we will consider suffering unjustly. Here, the focus is suffering as a citizen, or the prosperity of suffering as a Christian citizen, which is someone living the Christian life in the world when it is difficult.
Already, you can see how radically different the Christian response is to things as compared to the old sinful way, which we were accustomed to. Before we came to know Christ and His word on matters of salvation and sanctification, we responded in a way completely opposite of what the Scriptures teach us.
On this Lord’s day, the word of God is instructing us on how to respond to unjust suffering. In the first few verses of our text, we have two conditional sentences: one forms a question and the other is in the form of a concession. How can we know these are conditional sentences? Notice what it says in 1 Peter 3:13-14:
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED
The way we know that they are conditional sentences is by that word if. Thus, both are placed there for our encouragement, especially to be able to carry out the four admonitions that are going to follow.
Remember, these passages follow on the footsteps of passages that have come before. In our last section of Scripture, Peter was quoting King David from Psalm 34. Even on the very worst of days, he learned that the very thing that turns a bad day into a good day is this: The Lord is with you through the valleys. David learned how to live a blessed life.
In the last section, there were three things that we saw. First, we saw that he learned to walk on the right path, which means that he must turn away from evil and do good, and he must seek peace and pursue it. He learned that you can’t just turn away from evil, but it must be replaced by a pursuit of that which is good and seeks peace.
If you are to love life, you must avoid and despise evil, and you will stay away from what you hate. Then, you must pursue peace. 1 Peter 3:11 says:
HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.
Now, this peace requires an effort. Peace is good for the soul and the wellbeing of God’s people. Mentioned here, that peace is that we are made at peace through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. By His shed blood, we have peace with God. Because we have peace with God, we can have peace with other people.
Leading to how David learned by living with the right perspective. In 1 Peter 3:12, it says:
FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.
That is divine favor, but also divine disfavor. In other words, the incentive for doing good is the knowledge of the actual presence of God in a person’s life. I know God is with me, I know God is real, I know God tells me the truth, I can trust His promises, I can lean upon what He says, and I can live my life worry-free.
Then, the incentive for doing good is that very knowledge. We know the Lord sees and hears, and those who live for the Lord are motivated by a real consciousness of God’s character and God’s actions. In other words, God will not make a left turn on us and lose us. God’s character is consistent, regular, and you can bank on it because He is not going to go against His will or word. This is what Christians know and what gives them great stability in this life.
Thirdly, David lived with the right policy. It says in 1 Peter 3:13:
Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
For a believer who loves life, a good day is not one which is catered to, but one in which that believer experiences God’s help, comfort, support, and blessing in the middle of their problems. Not being delivered from their problems, but in the middle of their problems. Not being delivered from their trials, but in the middle of their trials.
In the beginning and end of trials, God is with us. Trials are usually short lived, and they don’t go on forever. David says in Psalm 34:17:
The righteous cry, and the LORD hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
Remember, David was on the run from Saul, and living in a cave in Adullam. Being a king, can you call that a good day? However, it was a good day because David knew the Lord delivered him out of his troubles, and the Lord gave him peace and joy. In that same passage, David praised the Lord for what He had done. Thus, David was very aware that God was involved with his life.
David learned, which we ought to learn too, that God is near to his children for blessing for good and all the time, not just some of the time. God doesn’t take off and leave you alone but is always there with you. The good life is a life in which God is near to you for blessing where you experience God’s help and support and blessing in the middle of problems and trials.
Since God is watching over us and hearing our prayers, whatever people do to us will not hurt us in the long run, but they will try to harm us. At some time and in some way, believers will be a target. In fact, we already discovered that there were accusations against believers in 1 Peter 2:12:
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
There was ignorant talk against believers in 1 Peter 2:15:
For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
There were evil insults against believers, threats against believers, and malicious talk against believers. All those things were happening to believers. This has always and will always be the case, which is the point of Scripture. Notice in Acts 12:1-3:
Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. 2And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. 3When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread.
The key to this passage of Scripture is in Acts 12:11:
When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”
They were expecting to put Peter to death just as they put James to death simply for being a Christian. In that text, the church was praying, so a bad day turned out to be a good day for Peter. God delivered him, which is what made the day good.
Back in 1 Peter 3:13, the answer to the rhetorical question is: no one can harm you. However, if you look at the text, our part is to prove zealous for what is good. Someone who is zealous is painstakingly pursuing a goal. They are relentless to get where they are going, which is what a zealous person is. An overzealous person gets into a lot of trouble because they end up running over people.
Peter is saying here that we ought to be zealous for good works, and painstakingly pursuing good works in our life. Good has already been defined in 1 Peter 2:11-3:12. In this next section, it is going to be fleshed out.
In 1 Peter 3:14, notice how it starts with a concessionary statement. Meaning, you may not always be going through suffering right now, but it is also not hypothetical. Christians should always be ready for verbal and physical suffering. Here, the focus is that Christians are encouraged to pursue desirable behavior, a positive form of conduct, which pursues peace and righteousness. In other words, upright behavior even if that upright behavior leads to suffering.
Upright behavior can lead to trouble. In this world, doing what is right can lead to trouble. In our world today, everything is upside down. What is good is bad, and what is bad is good. In some cases, you don’t even know what to think or do anymore.
As it says in our text, if believers do this, God will reward you and be near to you for favor, help, comfort, and blessing. It is like what Jesus said on the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:10-12:
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
This is the same principle that Peter is explaining to us. Another way of saying it is found in Acts 5:41:
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
That’s odd. That is not a normal way of thinking that we’re used to, but it is a Christian way of thinking. Don’t forget, Scripture has already told us that Christians have been called to some type of suffering as mentioned in 1 Peter 2:21:
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.
Remember, there are reasons for suffering such as suffering for doing what is right. It says in 1 Peter 3:17:
For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
Also, there is suffering according to the will of God. Often, suffering is in God’s will for us. Then, there is suffering for our testing and being a Christian, which is having our faith tested to see where we are at. Usually, good times don’t do that, but suffering will do that. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:2:
It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
You don’t learn anything from a wedding, but at a funeral, you learn that you are heading there, so where are you going to go after? That is sobering. We don’t want to dwell there, but we ought to consider it every day that we are going to die. When we die, we are going to stand before God. It says in Hebrews 9:27:
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.
Also, there is suffering for living a godly life. If you are a Christian who is living a godly life in an ungodly world, you will suffer, and something will come against you. In the face of opposition, that will be a great test as to where we are at as a Christian or whether we are a Christian at all.
In times of difficulty in the church, we need to cultivate Christian joy, help, and encouragement, especially in this age in which we live. Right now, we have relative peace, freedom, and good level of security in our country that we live. Peter was writing to people who were facing sharp hostility from their employers, neighbors, people at large, and possibly government officials.
Often, when you read a passage of Scripture like this one in 1 Peter, you sometimes feel disconnected, especially in our country. In this portion of Scripture, we are suffering little persecution for being a believer. However, did you ever imagine that doing good could lead to hostile verbal attacks against us in certain circumstances?
For example, when a believer puts forth a Christian moral standard to anybody they are talking to in a conversation such as the ideal of marriage being between only a man and a woman. I s that something easily taken by people today? We live in a culture where that is not taken, and you are narrow and not up on the times. Therefore, you are going to receive a push back.
If you start talking about homosexual and lesbian behavior and that it is wrong because God says it is wrong and sinful, then what will happen there? It could be that you will be called old-fashioned and hateful. What about abortion? Even though our government says that it is legal, abortion is still wrong and sinful. What about promiscuity, living together, but not getting married at all? Then, you mention how promiscuity is sinful because it teaches that a person can do what they want without any moral restraint, responsibility, or judgement, and they will respond by saying that you are not up on the times and that marriage is out.
Maybe, you’ll say that there is only one way to be made right with God and that’s through believing, repenting of your sin, and believing in Jesus Christ alone. Some religions will say that they don’t really care if you believe in Jesus, but they care if you say it is Jesus alone. To them, there is many paths to God.
No, that is not true. There is only one savior and one Godman, who came into this world as a perfect man and died on the cross for sinners, who paid for the sin eternally, who defeated Satan, and who rose again. Now, He is seated at the righthand of God and is coming back again. See, no one did that, so we can emphatically and dogmatically say there is only one way to be right with God, which is through Jesus Christ.
In a pluralistic society, that doesn’t go well. My opinion on how you are to get right with God is just as equal as your opinion, so then nobody knows what is right or what is wrong. You will get pushback and degrading comments from just talking about these things. Then, the Christian finds out that their standard of righteousness is not acceptable in the culture around them and with the people around them.
Christianity is mildly being tolerated today. However, underground, there is a growing Anti-Christian opposition fueled by political correctness, postmodern pluralism, gay-rights movement, and spiritual wickedness in high places that is fueling all those things and many more. Why? Because you follow Christ and are a Christian.
Right now in the world, there are Christians who are being denied, losing their jobs, losing their homes, being denied basic human rights, and even losing their lives just because they are followers of Jesus Christ. In other words, Peter wants us to mark this down: the possibility of suffering is the general rule for the Christian.
Things are changing so incredibly rapidly in the world. One day you wake up and something you never thought would happen, happens. This is the world we live in. Behind it all, Satan wants to usurp the authority of Christ and His plan. He has already lost, but he has a short time to do that. Thus, the discipline of Christian suffering would be that of suffering as a Christian.
In our text, there are four admonitions. First, in 1 Peter 3:14, don’t be fearful. There are two options as to what this admonition refers. First, it would be not to fear what they fear, which is drawn from Isaiah 8:12:
You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,
And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
It could also mean to not fear their intimidation. In other words, those who instigate. Don’t let them scare you or disturb you as to what you know to be right in thought and in behavior. During the times of suffering, people can be intimidated. However, it has been established that our fear is to be directed at One person. Isaiah 8:13:
It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread.
Peter wants us to see that we don’t have to be afraid of the intimidation of people, what they’re going to say about us, what they’re going to say to us, and what they’re going to try to do to undermine us as believers. Don’t be afraid of them. Proverbs 29:25 tells us:
The fear of man brings a snare,
But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.
We do not have to be afraid of men as a believer. Men are just dust. They are given a little bit of power for a short time, but they are all heading to the same place. Proverbs 14:26-27:
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And his children will have refuge.
27The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
That one may avoid the snares of death.
To be one who fears God is, in the technical language of the Old Testament, to be a true worshipper of the one true God. The element of fear, in the usual sense, is not the absence of true worship, but it includes true worship. Worship is to set God in His important place, give Him the honor due His name, and give Him the weight that is due His name.
The one who is Creator, our supreme dignity, and redeemer of repented, Christ-trusting sinners is the only one we need to fear. The secret in persecution and opposition is to the practical Lordship of Jesus Christ. If we fear God, then we need not fear men. The fear of the Lord conquers every other fear vying for control of us.
Here, is the prosperity of suffering as a citizen. You don’t have to be afraid because God is with you in your suffering. He knows everything that is going on and everything that is coming against you. Therefore, don’t be afraid.
Usually, fear cripples you where you can’t do anything else. God says that you don’t have to be crippled, but you need to do the next thing, and the next admonition is to worship Christ. 1 Peter 3:15 says:
but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
Instead of fear, we are to acknowledge the authority of Christ. The only thing that will keep at bay the fear of men is the practice of the Lordship of Christ. In the core of our being, including our feelings, thoughts, and will, Christ is set-apart. He is venerated and adored in our heart as Lord. Thus, worship is the antidote of worry, fear, and depression.
The phrase, “sanctify Christ as Lord,” is used in a declarative sense. It is acknowledging Christ as holy and according Him His proper place. It is the inner acknowledgment of Christ’s authority in the life of the Christian.
The Apostle Peter continues to allude to Isaiah 8, and here’s the background: Ahaz, king of Judah, faced a crisis because of an impeding invasion by the Syrian army. The king of Israel and Syria wanted Ahaz to join them in an alliance. Ahaz refused, so Israel and Syria threatened to Invade Judah. In the meantime, Ahaz made an alliance with Assyria, and the prophet, Isaiah, warned him against ungodly alliances and urged him to trust God for deliverance.
In Isaiah 8:13, he means to set-apart as holy because He is the one who will give us the information and the knowledge we need to be delivered from our enemies. If you don’t set-apart Christ in your heart, then our fear leads us in the wrong direction. Fear always leads us in the wrong direction and to ask advice to unreliable sources; thus, causing us to make wrong decisions.
In our passage, in Isaiah 8:19, you will see where the council was being sought, and it was being sought in most dubious courses. It says:
When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?
He is bringing out the absurdity of where people sometimes get their advice for life. Like, “let me go to my horoscope or hand reader,” but the Bible is saying that is the wrong place. You will get the wrong information, wrong advice, and it could ruin the rest of your life. Why don’t you just go to God, who tells you the truth? Wouldn’t that be a logical conclusion?
When I go to have Chinese food and I get those fortune cookies, someone must have been drinking a lot of rice wine when they came up with those things. People put a lot of stock into that. Well, we need to stay as far away from that kind of whatever you want to call it. It’s not council. It’s council from the devil to keep you in bondage. We must answer the question: should not a people consult their God? Yes! We need to consult our God.
Christ is to be set-apart, venerated, and adored as Lord in the core of our being, so that He continually occupies a unique place in our heart. This is the approach of a Christian, which is to be a ready witness of the hope we have in Christ. Christ is on the throne of our heart, He occupies our mind, He inflames our emotions, and He moves and conforms us to His will and for His will.
Fear will keep our minds murky and our mouths shut because we won’t know what to say. When fear is absent, blessing and boldness to speak in behalf of the Lord will be intact. Instead of fear, Christians are to acknowledge the authority of Christ for always being ready to make Christ’s salvation plan and His holiness known to the world.
In this portion of Scripture, the prosperity of suffering as a Christian is that you are already settled on who is the Lord and to whom you serve. There is no debate about who is Lord or the Master of your life. Because Christ is, then we can do the next thing, which is to be ready to explain.
In 1 Peter 3:15, he is talking to a real believer, and the hope is in our heart. That hope has been given to us by Christ because Christ is the hope, and so he has settled that for us. Thus, the third admonition is that a Christian is someone who explains the Christian faith to Non-Christians.
Not only explaining the faith to Non-Christians, but they are also able to explain the Christian life to Non-Christians. Usually, they will see your life first before they hear your words. In the background of this, suffering is a great platform for evangelism.
The word defense, in the passage, is a legal term used to make a defense before a judge. It means to speak in one’s own defense, and to defend oneself. From the Greek word, we get apologetic. It does not mean you are apologizing for anything, but that you are giving a defense about why you are different. Why is your moral standard, behavior, and life different, especially in the place of trouble and suffering? Why are you responding to this trouble in your life in a way that I cannot?
At that point, are you able to give a defense? Have you come to a place in your life where you are able to do that? If someone followed you around for a week and observed your manner of life and even read your thoughts, then do you think that you would be able to persuade them that you are a Christian? Peter is saying that all Christians should be able to do that.
The reason why you may not be doing that right now is because one, Christ is not set-apart in your heart and you are afraid of the consequences that may come if you tell them how to become a Christian. In other words, do you have your own testimony, apologetic, and defense of the hope that is within you?
If you are a Christian, you should have one. How should that defense look? You had a past life, which was sinful and leading you to hell. Then, you were convicted of your sin because you heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ and realized you were under God’s wrath and in great trouble knowing that you couldn’t rescue yourself. Then, you heard that Jesus Christ took your wrath on the Cross, and if you repent and trust in Jesus Christ alone, you can be saved, have eternal life, be forgiven of your sins, and have a cleansed conscious.
Thus, you explain that to someone, tell them the actual conversion experience, and then your present, new life at conversion and say:
Therefore, I am living the way that I am living. Christ changed my heart because He is transforming my mind with the word of God. He is given me His thoughts to think instead of my own, the world’s and Satan’s.
Of course, a great example is Paul before the King Agrippa. In Acts, Paul gives his testimony in Acts 26:1-3:
Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.” Then Paul stretched out his hand and proceeded to make his defense:
2“In regard to all the things of which I am accused by the Jews, I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; 3especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
In giving his testimony, Paul lays out his past life before conversion. He was a rabbi and he is saying to them:
You think you hated the Christians? I hated the Christians way more than you. I was on the road to Damascus to put them to death and in prison. That is where I saw this light and I heard the voice of Jesus. Jesus convicted me of my sin. I realized I was not only persecuting the church, but I was persecuting the Messiah. Therefore, I became a Christian that day. In that spot and around noon time, I became a Christian, and everything in my life changed. God gave me a new direction, He delivered me from the domain of darkness and Satan, He transferred me to the kingdom of Light and God, and He bought me out of the slave market of sin. Now, He is giving me a new message.
Paul’s message is found in Acts 26:18:
to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.
This is what Paul said to King Agrippa, which was his defense. It was quite simple, not complicated, and he just told him what happened. In other words, a Christian must have something happen to them before they can even have a testimony. Remember, all Christians have a testimony, an apologetic, and a defense. That defense is about the hope that is in you, and that hope that is in you is what all people need. Are you able to tell somebody about the hope? Have you grown that far to be able to tell people what happened to you?
In our membership class, I ask people to write out their testimony, and most people have never written it out. When they start writing it out, they begin to look at their life and see how the Father was drawing them, even pre-conversion, to Christ. Some of the people and events that were orchestrated providentially by God, called that person to a place where they realize they needed Jesus Christ to save them, that no one else could, and that He is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life. Nobody goes to the Father except through Him.
You must know that, which is why Peter starts out with knowing you’re saved; then, knowing how to submit. Once you know those things, then here is how you learn to suffer when persecuted for doing what is right and proclaiming what is true, which is what you will be persecuted with. We should be able to give a reason for our faith in Christ and following Him as our Lord and Savior.
Your attitude toward the question in 1 Peter 3:15, ought to be this: with gentleness and reverence so that your approach will always be reverent toward God and respectful towards everyone else who is asking you those things.
Again, here is the prosperity of suffering as a citizen where you find out that you are God’s spokesmen and ambassador right where you are, which is right at your job, in your family, and in your neighborhood. You are the ambassador and the one who is supposed to tell people, and you can, will, and should.
Leading to the last admonition, which are all connected. In other words, you can’t have one without the other. Here’s the last one: keep your conscience clear. 1 Peter 3:16 says:
and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
Everybody has a conscience, so can that conscience be surgically removed? No, and your conscience has a loud voice. When you do something wrong, according to your moral standard, your conscience screams at you. After you did something wrong, your conscience screams even louder. If you keep disobeying your conscience, then you sear your conscience, and it becomes like calluses on your hands.
In other words, some people have no conscience, which is true. Their conscience is so seared that they are not moved one way or the other, and they do what they want, which is called a scoffer in the book of Proverbs. They just do what they want. There is no learning, no teaching, no discussion, and no reasoning. Unfortunately, there are some people like that.
The word conscience means to know. You have heard the statement, “let your conscience be your guide.” Well, that is a big fallacy because your conscience can be influenced by many factors such as environment, family, bad family, education, bad education, and the bad taboos in a culture that you take on as good taboos.
The conscience is an internal judge that witnesses to us and enables us no width. Either approving our actions or accusing our actions. On the day of judgement, God will use our conscience as part of the judgement process. Hebrews 13:18 says:
Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.
Notice two things that are connected in this passage of Scripture: we know that we have a good conscience, but why do we know that we have a good conscience? Our desire is to conduct ourselves honorably in all things, which is why we have a good conscience. We know the difference between right and wrong. We know the difference between God’s way and every other way.
Meaning, a good conscience gives the spiritual ability to allow one to make moral choices between good and evil, God’s way and every other way. 2 Corinthians 1:12 says it like this:
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.
In other words, the conduct and desire to live good and do right have everything to do with whether you maintain a good conscience. In 1 Peter, it says that our job is to keep a good conscience. It is our job to make sure that our conscience is always sensitive to the word of God and the voice of God. We must be always willing to go back to the word of God and get our information from there and nowhere else, so that the word of God may condition our conscience to know what the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God is. 2 Corinthians 4:2:
but 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.
Again, behavior and a good conscience go together. In saying all of that, what are ways that make our conscience sound? First, it is regeneration. You must be saved to have a cleansed conscience. Everybody prior to salvation has a defiled conscience, and they’re conscience has been defiled by sin and has been misinformed by almost everybody.
If somebody grows up saying that there is no God and there’s no real standard, then that will inform their conscience on how they live. Meaning, they can live with no rules, doing whatever they want, and they will enjoy life and die. However, they forget or reject that someday they must give an account before God. God has records, and Revelation 20 talks about how you lived your life.
The books will be opened, and the dead will raise from Hades. Those who are alive will be brought together in resurrected bodies. Meaning, they cannot die anymore. God will open the books and judge justly on how a person lived their life. Someone who never trusted Christ will be cast into the lake of fire, which burns forever and forever and where the false prophet and antichrist is.
In this passage of Scripture, how we have a conditioned conscience is to be born-again. Hebrews 10:22:
let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
That is describing salvation, which is through the blood of Christ. What makes our conscience clean is the blood of Jesus Christ, which wipes away our sin and guilt that goes along with sin. The conscience has a lot to do with guilt, and there is false guilt and real guilt.
When you are a believer, you experience real guilt. However, real guilt doesn’t have to stay long. When you confess your sin, then He is faithful and just to forgive you of your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Again, that language of cleansing has to do with our conscience, and that’s how we maintain a good conscience.
Everyday we wake up, we don’t feel guilty about things because we have been regularly confessing our sin and walking with the Lord, and the Lord has been developing our conscience. We have been cleansed and forgiven, we are at peace with God through the blood of Jesus Christ, and we have been restored to a relationship with God.
Then, there is the Holy Spirit. Once you are a believer, you have the holy spirit of God, which prompts us as to what is proper conduct and thinking. He is making us holy by teaching us God’s standards, God’s word, and God’s law that is producing in us a new disposition in life. This all has to do with developing a sound conscience.
Thirdly, guard what goes into your mind. You know what they say, “garbage in, garbage out.” If you put garbage in your mind and heart, then you will have garbage in there. You must get the garbage out. One thing that I have learned as a husband is that the trash must go out. If it doesn’t go out, then it doesn’t go out, but it starts stinking. When there is trash in your mind, you must get it out, or it will start stinking. Then, your behavior starts stinking, and everything starts stinking when there is trash. Proverbs 4:23:
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.
Watch what you are thinking and what is going into your mind. In this world, we have information overload every day of our life. You better watch how much you let the internet and websites waste your time, and not develop your conscience and mind. Spend time in the word of God, and you will be able to balance out the rest of it.
The next three go together: listen to expositional preaching, which is what I am doing by going through the word of God. I am giving you the mind of God, and I don’t want to waste your time with a bunch of stories. I want to give you what it says in Scripture. You can follow what I am saying to you and see that it is right there in this text. Thus, we must listen to preaching.
Believe me, I am for a Christian meditating on what they are listening to. Don’t come and tell me that you are listening to five messages this week. You know what, I guarantee that you cannot tell me anything of those five messages. However, listen to one, meditate on it, learn what it says, and you’ll do what it says.
We don’t have that ability, with all the information coming at us, to synthesize and break down in our mind to practice it. Listen to one message, get what it is saying, put it into practice in your life, and it will change you. 2 Timothy 2:15:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Careful study of the word of God and what it truly says. Study the word of God, so you find out what it says. Lastly, memorize Scripture. In Psalm 119:9-11, it says:
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
The meditating and memorizing of Scripture will keep you away from your old ways of sinning. Thus, the conscience is the only safe guide when the word of God is its teacher. The word of God is going to inform the conscience of truth. Then, it is going to change everything in your life. In saying all of that, here are some suggestions to keep our conscience clear:
Number one, never do anything you are in doubt about. If it is doubtful, don’t. Number two, never do what you know to be wrong. Number three, do everything you know to be right. Number four, search God’s word for His point of view. Number five, seek Godly wisdom. Number six, put everything aright that you have done wrong as far as it is in your power to do so. Number seven, keep short accounts with God and fellow human beings. Number eight, pray for wisdom.
Again, here is the prosperity of suffering as citizen in this world. You will keep a clear conscience and never having the fear of what other people say about you. In suffering, when people come against you and insult you, you don’t have to be guilty in your heart that what they say is true. You already know what your behavior is, what you are thinking, and what God has done in your life. Thus, you don’t have to fear them. Christ is set-apart in your heart. You don’t have to be afraid of what they say to you.
Here is the question: why should we keep a good and sound conscience? The life of goodness will show that the slander of other people will be a lie. In 1 Peter 3:16, there is a promise. God will shame those who are hostile to believers, and their shame will be either in the present, in the future, or in both realizing that what they accused the believer of was false. However, God is the one who does the shaming, not us. The bottom line is found in 1 Peter 3:17:
For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
Good wills doing what is right rather than doing what is wrong even if its results are suffering. It is always better to do what is right. When you do that, you will have the opportunities that God presents to us for giving an answer of the hope that lies within us.
We can’t forget: God does test our faith and use the difficult side of His providential care to do that. He does it to bring us closer to Him. He does it so that we will deal with our remaining sin. He does it to make us stronger in the faith. He does it to bring us to depend more regularly and closely on him.
So then, every trial allows the Holy Spirit to make us more holy in our thoughts and behavior. Therefore, giving us more opportunity to speak without fear, but with boldness about what God has done to us in our life. In summing it all up, don’t be fearful, worship Christ, be ready to explain, and keep your conscience clear. Let’s pray:
Lord, I Thank You for the word of God. It is so powerful to see what is contained in Scripture for our edification and benefit, so, Lord, we can be the people You want us to be. I pray, Lord, that we put these things into practice, especially, Lord, when our day is so uncertain, and this world is so fragile. I pray, Lord, that we would be the people that can be Your ambassadors, living as aliens on this planet. To bring an example to those who don’t have one and bring the word of God and Gospel to them, who have never heard it. I pray that You would bless us in that way. I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.