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Traditional Worship Online (7/19)

Traditional Worship Online (7/19)

Background Notes

Dumb Idea #7: Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide   --- Thrive Group Notes

Message July 19, 2020

Remind your group members to bring a Bible with them to your Thrive Group. There is value in opening the Bible together with others...and making use of them as we seek to live lives of following Jesus!

Background Notes

Basics: How do you know how to live? How do you decide on a course of action? How do you determine if something is appropriate? Or right or wrong?

For a fair number of people, it comes down to conscience. What is conscience?

A big volume I have in my library is the New International Dictory of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology. It has an entry on conscience. Let me share a little:


“Conscience is the inner aspect of the life of the individual where a sense of what is right and wrong is developed. Our conscience prompts us to react according to the code of morality it has learnt either with a sense or guilt or of well-being to proposed or past courses of action. Christians understand conscience as the guardian of the integrity of the person.

There are three basic biblical principles in understanding conscience.                      1. Conscience is universal and is given to us by God (Romans 2. 12-16). This explains why those who have no knokwledge of God’s law may still obey its requirements. Those who have no other guide should obey their conscience. 2. Consciences have been affected by the sinfulness of human nature. Althoguh the conscience is a gift of God it is not perfect and may be corrupt (Titus 1. 15). Thus it may accuse where there is no reason for accusation and remain silent when it ought to speak. 3. The saving word of Jesus cleanses guilty consciences (Heb. 9. 14). The blood of Jesus can both cleanse us from the blight of a guilty conscience and also liberate us for the service of God.

“Conscience therefore needs instruction, so that it may be trained to alert us to what is genuinely right and manifestly wrong, and it also needs the liberating experience of forgiveness.”

Thrive Group Conversation

Dumb Idea #7: Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide --- Thrive Group Notes

Message July 19, 2020

There is more material here than you will be able to cover. Read the questions, and consider which you will use. Add a question or topic of your own.

  1. Use conversation starter/ice-breakers (10-15 min) to get your group talking. We want to build connections and relationships with each other.
  2. Share with your group: “So listen to this: ‘It’s a good idea to let your conscience be your guide.’ You’ve heard that before. Or something like it. What do you think of it? What did you think of it before you heard this week’s message? What sounds good and right when you listen to it?

Why do you or did you think that way? 

  1. Larry Osborne likens the conscience to a thermometer...and then to a thermostat. One reads the way things really are; the other doesn’t tell us what is but reflects our own action in setting the level.

“The problem is that a lot of us imagine our conscience to be a spiritual thermometer. We assume it can be placed into any situation and it will tell us the moral temperature -- too hot, too cold, or just right. But that’s not how our conscience works. It isn’t a spiritual thermometer. It’s a spiritual thermostat. The difference is important. Thermostats don’t define hot or cold. They reflect our definition of hot and cold. We set them to respond however we like. 

“...That’s exactly how our conscience works. It’s a spiritual thermostat. We set it to the standards we choose. We determine when it kicks in and when it stays idle. It doesn’t tell us if we’re violating God’s standards. It tells us when we’re violating our standards.”

How does that analogy help you think about your conscience differently than you have before.

  1. Have you ever dealt withsomeone whose foolish or sinful choices messed up their life but they still refused to take responsibility beause they were following their consciences?

Have you ever followed yur conscience to a really bad decision? If so, what happened? What di you learn from the experience? 

  1. There are a number of realities that damage the God-intended functioning of our consciences.

Read I Corinthians 4. 3-4. How does it strike you that an apostle writing what we view to be Holy Scripture, has this attitude about and thinks about his conscience in this way?

Here are a couple of reasons why our consciences are nowhere near something to be trusted and leaned on all the time or even as a matter of course:

  • Our sin nature and blind spots. Our sin nature -- the reality that we are all naturally sinners (we don’t need to be taught to sin, we don’t need to be taught to be selfish) clouds our understanding of spiritual truth and God’s leading. Further, there are just things we don’t get and don’t see or notice.
  • Our conscience is no better than the data it relies upon. It is possible for us to end up feeling very good about some very bad things.
  • A callused heart. “Most of us have experienced the callusing of our conscience to some degree. Think back to something you felt guilty about the first time you did it. If you kept at it, most likely your sense of guilt began to dissipate. Keep at it long enough and the gilt goes away for good. This can leave us with a clear conscience. But it doesn’t mean our actions are praiseworthy. It just means our conscience has been desentitized to the point where it no longer responds when prompted.”
  1. Our consciences tend to be tuned to how we were raised or the culture in which we grew up...or, on the other hand, they tend to be tuned to the culture around us. Sometimes there is teaching about certain things being wrong that the Bible actually doesn’t label “wrong” at all. The result can be a guilty conscience about something that is not wrong.

Can you think of an example of this in your own life?

Other times God’s Word speaks negatively regarding an attitude, an action, a practice -- but our society’s approval of said attitude, action, or practice re-sets our conscience, or dulls our conscience, and we begin to view things and react to things more as conformists to our culture than as people transformed by the Word of God.

Can you think of an example of something in your life where, honestly, you feel like society and culture might influence you more than the Word of God?

  1. Our consciences need help. They need conditioning. They need calibrating. They need input. With that in mind, read these two passages:

Romans 12. 1-2 and II Timothy 3. 14-17.

What are you currently doing to be sure your conscience is properly calibrated?

Is there anything you should start or stop doing to better align your heart with God’s heart and values?

Speaker: Craig Swanson
July 19, 2020
Senior Pastor

Craig Swanson

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