Is Your Watchdog Awake?

Matthew 6:22-23

I read about a lady in Texas who purchased a watchdog to protect her property.
After a few days, she discovered that the dog was prone to go to sleep.
Instead of trading in the dog for a more alert animal, she did an unusual thing.

She purchased a duck.
And whenever the duck saw the dog dozing, the duck would begin to quack and peck at him.
Whether or not that solveed the problem, I don't know, but hearing the story should cause us
to ask ourselves if our watchdog is awake?

Everyone needs a watchdog, not just to protect his material possessions,
but to protect something far more valuable.
And that is your moral and spiritual possessions.

If someone steals your camera, you can always buy another one.
But if someone steals your honesty or your integrity, you will have a difficult time of replacing them.
The treasures on the inside are far more valuable than those on the outside.
So, everyone must take care to guard his or her character.

Of course, there are many people who would scoff at such an idea.
They probably would say, "What difference does it make if I lose my character,
just so long as I am a success in the world
?"
Well this depends on what you mean by "a success."

If a person is a winner financially, but a loser morally; you could hardly call him a success.
What a person is certainly is far more important than what a person has.

When someone asked financial wizard, J. P. Morgan, what the best bank collateral was,
Morgan replied, "A man's character."

Many people live for reputation; and, of course, a great reputation is desirable.
But a reputation is only what people think we are; character is what God knows we are.
This is why D.L. Moody once said, "If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself."

Just having a good reputation before men is not quite the same as cultivating a true character before God.
Many people enjoy a good reputation, not because they are known, but because they are unknown
for no one really knows the secrets of their lives.

As one writer has said, "Many a person's reputation would not know his character if they met on the street."
Next to trusting Jesus Christ as Savior, the most important thing in life is building a true character
before God and men.
So, to help us build this character, God has given us a watchdog, and is called a "conscience."

Conscience is that inner judge that warns us when we have done wrong.
Conscience is the voice of God in the soul of a person.
Conscience is the moral watchdog that warns us when a thief is approaching.
So, when a person is making a decision, he hears several voices from his inner being.

Cowardice asks, "Is it safe?"
Greed asks, "Is it profitable?"
Vanity asks, "Is it popular?"
But conscience asks "Is it right?"

Jesus could have had conscience in mind when He said, "The light of the body is the eye;
if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.
If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness
!" (Matthew 6:22-23)

It is so important to have a conscience that is strong and healthy – a watchdog that is awake and alert.

Like a delicate, scientific instrument, a conscience can be damaged.
In fact, a person's conscience can be so damaged that he would call light, darkness and darkness, light.

There is even a conscience among thieves so that if one betrays another, he feels remorse.
Conscience is like a window that lets in the light of God's truth.
If the window is allowed to get dirty then less and less light comes in; and the person feels
less and less judgment when he disobeys God.

It was an American Indian who illustrated conscience to Dr. Harry Ironside.
The Indian said: "It is like and arrowhead in my heart.
If I do something wrong, the arrowhead turns and cuts me.
But, if I keep on doing wrong, the corners will finally wear down, and that arrowhead doesn't cut me anymore
."

Or to use our original comparison -- the watchdog goes to sleep.

The Bible tells us there is more than one kind of conscience.
There is a good conscience.
As we read in Acts 24:16, "Herein do I exercise myself, to always have a conscience void of offense
toward God and toward men
."
A good conscience is one that is exercised, and is not allowed to go to sleep.
When it speaks, we listen and obey.

But there is also a defiled conscience.
Titus 1:15 says, "Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelievers,
nothing is pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled
."

A person with a defiled conscience finds dirty things in a clean conversation.
He can practice what he calls, "little sins," and still go to sleep at night without any difficulty.

A defiled conscience is the result of repeated sin – sin that is loved and cultivated secretly.
If you and I are permitting something in our lives that a year ago would have kept us awake,
then our conscience is defiled.

The Bible also talks about a "seared conscience."
1 Timothy 4:2 reads, "Speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron."
If you have ever been burned, you know what this is all about.
Nature covers a burn with a hard layer of skin to protect the sensitive place,
and you lose your feeling in the area.

The word, "seared," in this verse is actually our medical word, "cauterize".

A defiled conscience ultimately becomes a seared conscience, and all feeling is gone.

When that happens the watchdog is dead – the light becomes darkness – the judge is no longer on the bench
– the sharp arrowhead has lost its cutting edge – the delicate compass no longer points true north.

When this happens, a man's character has deteriorated; and it won't be long before everybody knows it.
Jesus said, "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness."

A man is not saved by character, he is saved by by his faith in Jesus Christ.
The lowest sinner and the highest moral man – both stand guilty before God, and both need a Saviour.
Romans 3:23 says, "For there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."

Because of the death of Christ on the cross, it is possible for a man to have his conscience cleansed,
and put back in working order again.
God's grace can radically change a person.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away,
behold, all things are become new
."

When a man's character is decaying, he lives in constant fear that other people will discover
his hidden secrets.
For months, perhaps even for years, he will sin against his conscience, and eventually,
put his watchdog to sleep.
Secret sin takes its toll in his life.
Is there any hope for this man?

Yes, thank God, there is!

Jesus Christ can take that life, and give that man a new beginning.
I am not saying that he will not reap what he has sown; but I am saying that Jesus Christ can forgive him
and cleanse his conscience.
Hebrews 10:22 says, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,
having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience
."

The blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse the heart and the conscience, making that person a child of God.

There are two conditions that must be met.

The first is truth: "Let us draw near with a true heart."
We can deceive ourselves and even deceive others, but we cannot deceive God.
The time comes for us to be open and honest with God and with ourselves and to admit sin.
This is the moment of truth.

We come to God and say, "I am not going to hide and pretend any longer.
Search me, O God, and know my heart
!"

The second condition is faith: "Let us us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith."
The man is saved and cleansed, not by works, but by God's grace.
This salvation is received through faith.

Faith means surrendering to God on His terms.
It means yielding to Jesus Christ and asking Him to save you.
John 3:18 says, "He that believeth on him (Christ) is not condemned,
but he that believeth not is condemned already
."

Ephesians 2:8 says, "For by grace are you saved through faith."

When Jesus Christ comes into a life, He makes the sinner into a new person.
He puts His life in the heart.
He cleanses the defiled conscience and causes it to function as it should,
so that we can start to build a true Christian character.

This means no more deception – no more fear of getting caught – no more agony
trying to live a double life.
A good conscience is a priceless treasure because a good conscience means a godly character.

Don't let your watchdog go to sleep!
With the apostle Paul, strive to maintain a conscience void of offense toward men and toward God.

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White