Paul warns Timothy that some people have had their conscience “seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2 NIV). In this context, he is talking about hypocrites who spread false teaching based on lies. But this is a phenomenon that can happen to anyone.
When we give in to sin, it makes sin seem less repulsive to us. At first, we may understand that we shouldn’t take a single step into sin, but the further that we go into sin, the less repulsive those first steps seem to look. Eventually, we have gone so far into the evil depths of sin, that we look back on those initial sins, and don’t regard them as evil at all. Compared to the depths of sin that we are in now, those initial sins seem “positive” or even “good.”
This is what it means to have our conscience seared. We are no longer able to determine right from wrong. Even what is wrong appears right to us. This is what happens to Joseph’s brothers, as we’ll see in today’s Scripture passage.
Please read Genesis 37:18-33.
Joseph’s brothers have determined to kill him. Can you imagine how far they must have fallen into sin to simply contemplate killing their brother? Now they have moved past thought and are ready to take action—they are actually going to kill their brother!
But both Reuben and Judah have second thoughts: maybe they shouldn’t actually kill their brother. Instead, Reuben suggests they simply torture him in a pit for awhile before bringing him back home, and Judah suggests that they sell him into slavery so they can at least make some money off of showing mercy to their brother.
Did you catch that? Compared to the rest of Joseph’s brothers, Reuben and Judah actually think that they are showing mercy to Joseph… by throwing him in a pit and selling him into slavery! That’s how badly their consciences have been seared! They are committing horrible atrocities against their own brother, and they see it as mercy!
When we don’t honor God as the Lord of our lives, we too are susceptible to committing heinous acts. The more that we give in to our sinful nature, the less evil these acts appear to us.
No matter where you are in your walk with God, we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. The closer that we get to Him, the more the ugliness of our sin is revealed to us. The closer we get to the Truth, the more we understand the truth of sin: Sin is horrible, disgusting, and wretched!
And yet, many of us can commit certain sins without even feeling guilty about it. When we don’t see anything wrong with breaking God’s Word, violating His commands, and rebelling against His lordship through sin, we are in trouble. When we think that it was just a quick look at something sexual, it was just a small lie, it was only a little greedy or selfish; when we think that we deserve that new toy, or we’ve earned this or that right; when we give in to pride or vanity or gluttony because everyone else is doing it, we are only demonstrating that our consciences are seared.
If we are to have a right view of our sin and God’s holiness, then we need to repent of our sin, and ask God to renew our consciences by the power of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to help us to see sin for what it is, not to make light of it, but to hate it as He does. Ask God today to give you a new heart that desires to follow Him above all else.
Ask before its too late, and you too feel righteous about selling your brother into slavery because it seems better than your original plan to murder him.
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