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TEXT: Proverbs 28:1
SUBJECT: Proverbs #18: Moral Courage
I.CHRISTIANITY MEANS COURAGE.
A.An habitually frightened Christian, therefore, is a contradiction in terms. For "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind".
1.Thus the Scripture often equates terror with damning unbelief. Poor sinners, unacquainted with "the spirit of adoption" suffer its opposite, "a spirit of bondage unto fear". They are "all their lifetimes subject to a fear of death". And to such people, death has an awful sting, the grave a fearful victory, for they but anticipate the second death, which is reserved, not just for "fornicators, murderers, sorcerers, idolators, and liars", but for "the cowardly" as well.
2.It is not surprising, therefore, to find God's people everywhere:
a.Forbidden to fear, irrespective of circumstances. Isaiah 43:1, Luke 12:32, and Philippians 4:6a.
b.And urged to bravery, no matter how frightening the opposition. Though Joshua would march against many nations more powerful than his own, he must yet "Be strong and of good courage, be not afraid, nor be dismayed".
3.God not only commands such courage, but also works it within His people, often in the most startling fashion.
a.Israel's most valiant men tremble before the Philistine champion. But an unarmed boy "runs to meet him".
b.The once-nervous Gideon leads an untrained band of 300 against an army boasting 135,000 well-equipped, veteran soldiers.
c.Even women show themselves mighty in combat, when assisted by God's Spirit. Deborah and Jael, you might remember, combined to break the power of gallant Sisera.
B.We may conclude, therefore, that the latter part of our verse is demonstrably true: "The righteous are as bold as a lion". Therefore, every Christian should be "Strong in the Lord and in the power of His might".
II.BUT ALAS, ALL ARE NOT. MORE THAN A FEW BELIEVERS SUFFER A CHRONIC LACK OF COURAGE. THEY ARE WEAK, COWARDLY, AND EFFEMINATE.
A.And why do you think this is so? There are undoubtedly many factors which contribute to a loss of nerve in Christians. Some are constitutional, others more spiritual. Timothy was naturally shy. Elijah was, at his defection, famished and terribly exhausted. On the more spiritual side, we note that Peter and Barnabas held their friend James in undue regard, finally preferring his opinion to the word of God. David, forgetting the Divine pledge to the contrary, thought himself a destined to die on the spear of Saul.
B.But as important as these causes may be, there is another, far more significant. The chief cause for cowardice among God's people is a bad conscience.
1."The wicked flee when no man pursues..." The man in our text has no visible enemies, yet never feels secure. He is not mentally unbalanced. His fear is entirely justified. For he's running away from an enemy he can never escape, his own defiled conscience. He can no more silence its thunder than he can cease to be human, for conscience, after all, is what makes us human. Man is not a sophisticated ape, for it has no moral sense. Man is created in the likeness and image of God, and therefore, inherently knows right from wrong. And therefore, even those who had totally given themselves over to sin, yet "know very well the righteous judgment of God".
a.This conclusion is verified by Scripture.
(1)Adam had never heard of fear, no less experienced it. Yet, the moment he gets a bad conscience, he tries to "cover up his shame" and flees from the presence of God.
(2)When Israel had defiled its national conscience, God "sent faintness into their hearts, so that the sound of a shaken leaf would cause them to flee."
b.I suspect that every Christian here knows only too well the withering effect of a bad conscience.
C.A bad conscience will drain the courage out of a believer as nothing else can.
1.It will hamper our communion with Christ. A believer is to Christ what a fetus is to its mother: completely dependent. Cut the imbilical cord in the womb and the baby suffocates. Sever the fellowship between Christ and the believer, and the saint withers. "Without Me, said our Lord, you can do nothing".
a.This is vividly illustrated in the life of Samson. His hair was a sign of his dedication to Christ. Cut the hair, and he becomes as any other man.
2.It will cloud your assurance of God's favor. To know His favor will enormously strengthen the beliver. "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear, what can man do unto me?" But to doubt his approval will paralyze the mightiest hero. David performed no exploits while in a state of impenitence. "Transgressors were not taught God's way. Sinners were not converted unto Him. Psalms were not composed. Enemies were not vanquished. How could they be, while he lay under the yoke of "bloodguiltiness"?
3.It will expose you to the malice of Satan. When a man "Lets the sun go down on his wrath, he also gives place to the devil". When the saint is fully armed, he must still beware of Satan's "fiery darts". How much more vulnerable does he become when lacking "the breastplate of righteousness"?
4.It will render you unable to help others.
a.How can you effectively teach others their duty while neglecting your own?
b.How can you reprove an sinning brother while indulging the very same sin?
c.How can you encourage a wavering friend while wavering yourself?
d.Indeed, such "help" will do more harm than good. The Jews knew God's will, but were unable to lead others into it. Why? Because they themselves lived contrary to it. Therefore, they became, not a influence for good, but just the opposite. By preaching "Thou shalt not commit adultery", while living in adultery, they "Gave the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme".
5.It will destroy your family.
a.Lot knew the will of God. But having lived so long with a compromised conscience, he was unable to rescue his family. Indeed, he did much to contribute to their downfall. Lacking moral authority, his warnings seemed to his children "as one who mocked". Not even his wife would pay him heed.
D.The leading cause of spiritual cowardice, therefore, is a bad conscience. And thus, the first part of our verse is also true, "The wicked flee when no man pursues".
III.IF THEREFORE, YOU WOULD BE COURAGEOUS, YOU MUST--ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE--ACQUIRE AND MAINTAIN A GOOD CONSCIENCE.
A.This is no easy task. Paul had to "Always strive to keep a conscience void of offense toward God and man".
1.It requires, in short, honesty before God and man. You must seek to know your duty. You must strive to do your duty. You must fess up to your violations. You must seek the forgiveness of the those whom you have offended. You must try to do better in the future.
B.But you should not suppose that "a good conscience" is achieved by your earnest efforts. For, in the final analysis, it comes from elsewhere, the Lord Jesus Christ. As it is written, "For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, santifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God?"
C.And so, Hamlet was only half-right in saying, "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all". A bad conscience does just that. But a good conscience achieves just the opposite result. For long before the bard penned that immortal line, another, far wiser man wrote,
"The wicked flee when no man pursues;
But the righteous are as bold as a lion".
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