No one enjoys a guilty conscience. If you read most self-help books or listen to motivational speakers, they tell you a guilty conscience is a bad thing. Is it though? In one sense, yes, but in another sense, no. If you’re suffering from a guilty conscience, you need to ask, “Why is my conscience guilty and what is the remedy?”
God’s view on the remedy for a guilty conscience is often at odds with the surrounding culture’s view. The culture tells you to suppress those feelings and ignore them. It encourages you to work on your self-esteem, as a hedge against your guilty concience. It trains you to think that your guilty conscience is a very bad thing. The truth is, a guilty conscience is usually an indication that you’re actually guilty! You can supress your guilty conscience all you want, but that’s not going to deal with your guilt. This week’s passage addresses the issue of guilty consciences and points to a remedy for your underlying guilt. God’s grace is the only cure for your guilt, and this week’s message exposes four important facts about guilty consciences, all of which will lead you into God’s graceful remedy.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. “ (Philippians 4:4)
Euodia and Syntyche were two prominent Christian women in the early church (Philippians 4:2). They were dear friends of the Apostle Paul and “labored side by side” with him in the spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Philippi. While Paul was imprisoned, for proclaiming that Christ was crucified Messiah who had risen from the dead for the forgiveness of sins, he somehow heard that these two dear partners in the Gospel were at odds with one another and creating a rift within the church. Paul does not tell us the details of their personal conflict, but it was serious. The conflict risked demolishing the church of Philippi’s witness of Christ to their neighbors.
What was the underlying cause of their conflict? They took their eyes off of Jesus. In his letter to the church, Paul pressed these women “to agree in the Lord.” Paul asked the church to “help these women” put aside their need to be right and focus on the fact that Jesus has made them right with God. Paul told them all to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” So important was the admonition that Paul followed up, “Again I will say, rejoice!”
A continuous (“always”) rejoicing in Christ is what displaces all other desires that seek to ensnare our sinful hearts. If we are always rejoicing in the fact that are names are “written in the book of life” (4:3), and see that it is Christ who has made us worthy and acceptable to God, what need is there for self-justification or pride? What need is there for rejoicing in self? When our eyes are fixed on Jesus and what He has accomplished, we see others and ourselves in the same needy state. When our eyes are fixed on Jesus and what He has accomplished, we recognize that we must forgive as we’ve been forgiven.
Are you at odds with someone? Is there a person you’re always trying to one up or best? Is there someone who you always feel the need to prove yourself to? You suffer from a lack of continuous rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for you. Jesus loved you so much that He willingly laid down His life for you. He made you right and bought you all the acceptance you will ever need. “And God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (4:19). Let’s agree on this: to remind one another, and others, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ often, that we might always rejoice in the Lord always.
What is God’s will for your life? Do you ever get the feeling you’re going to get in God’s way or mess up His plans if you make a wrong decision? These are tough questions and can cause a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety and procrastination. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as our passage from Genesis reveals this Pentecost Sunday. God’s people have a Spirit driven call to action. The Holy Spirit calls and enables Christians for action according to God’s purpose. That means followers of Jesus Christ have good reason for confidence and courage as they make both small and large decisions. Being in the will of God may be easier and more freeing than you previously thought.
We’ve been seeing so much of God’s sovereignty, the last few weeks of our journey through the book of Genesis. No one is stronger than God and no one can forestall His plans. The Lord is not weak and He goes to great lengths for the sake of His people. He has overcome sin through His Son, Jesus, and provides assurance of eternal salvation for all who trust in Him. God’s will always prevails.
While we confess God’s sovereignty, His good and loving character, and rest in the assurance that our eternal inheritance in heaven is kept certain by His sovereign hand, we often want Him to reveal to us more than He does. Admit it, wouldn’t you love to know all the twists and turns your life will take? Wouldn’t you love to know all the plans God has for you? In fact, for many, not knowing the answer to the what, where and when questions of life produces an anxiety that goes beyond curiousity. That need becomes more pronounced in the middle of a crisis or when you’re faced with a big decision. But as we’ll see, the next two Sundays, there is a way to be at peace, even without knowing all the details.
Our passages, this week and next, show how peace is found when surrendering to God’s will. Though the circumstances of your life is different than Pharaoh and Joseph, you can find a great deal of comfort and assurance when resting in God’s will. God has a plan and will for you.
Do some days, weeks, maybe months, seem like a colossal waste of time? Do you look back and wonder, “What was accomplished?” Joseph was enslaved and imprisoned for approximately 13 years, and some may consider his time held captive a colossal waste of time. But that’s not what our passage this week reveals. Quite the contrary. It points us to the fact that every moment of our lives has purpose. If we have a high view of God’s providence, we must confess that God is always at work in every moment of our lives. He’s doing something even when it seems like we’ve just wasted a day, year or season of life.
Maybe you’re in one of those places right now and don’t have a clue how God is at work in your life. You just can’t see it. If that’s the case, then I hope you’ll consider, with me, this week’s passage in the book of Genesis. We’re going to look at how God was at work in Joseph’s life, growing him in ways that are become more and more apparent. What’s so encouraging is that God’s at work in all His people, in ways similar to how He was at work in Joseph. Not a moment is wasted. God uses every one.