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How to Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
Primary theme conscience
Themes confession, forgiveness, renewal, hope, Holy Spirit
Scripture 1 Samuel 24:1-12; Acts 24:16; 1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:15; 1 John 1:9
Approximate length through The Grand Finale 25 minutes
* TV and VCR
* Pinocchio (Walt Disney Productions, 1940)
* A deck of playing cards for each group of five to 10 students
* A personal story about a time you had a clear conscience
* Scissors and a piece of fabric large enough to provide a small swatch for each student
* A personal story about a time you had a guilty conscience
* A piece of Plexiglas at least two feet wide and two feet tall, a jar of peanut butter, a spoon, and some paper towels
* A big piece of raw meat, a plate, a clothes iron, and a table or ironing board
* Courage under Fire
Studies are showing kids are more confused than ever about their consciences. Many have learned to ignore their consciences, but the reality is your conscience is one of the primary ways the Holy Spirit guides you-provided you listen. That little cricket in Pinocchio had a good thing going when he sang, "Always let your conscience be your guide" (though the Blue Fairy said it first!).
Use what you have
Throughout this book, TV and VCR are listed whenever a movie can be shown. Of course, you can also use a video projection unit (VPU),DVD player, computer, or whatever other technical resources fit your situation.
If an activity calls for a whiteboard to list ideas or responses, you can use an overhead projector, a flip chart, or butcher paper taped to the wall.
It can get cumbersome if we list all the possible variations every time. So feel free to adapt to the technology you have available.
The Opening Act
* Movie clip Pinocchio (see sidebar)
* Game I Doubt It (see sidebar)
* Ask students to describe the conscience and how it works.
* The word conscience comes from two words meaning "to know with"-in the sense of knowing yourself completely. And in the Bible the conscience is often referred to as a person's heart.
* Then say something like-
I think some of you need to understand what God says about your conscience so you can sense him speaking to you more clearly! There are a few ways God speaks about our consciences in the Bible. Let's look at these verses.
Start 1:34:00 "Am I a real boy?"
Stop 1:36:52 Pinocchio steps into buckets and falls with a crash.
The Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket talk with Pinocchio about becoming a real boy-which requires that he know right from wrong. Jiminy Cricket explains the meaning of conscience to Pinocchio, and the Blue Fairy tells him, "Always let your conscience be your guide." After you've shown the clip, ask your students these questions.
Cute song, but how is it truthful and not truthful?
What is your conscience?
How does your conscience work?
How often is your conscience reliable?
Why don't you always do what your conscience tells you?
How is Jiminy Cricket like the Holy Spirit?
I doubt it
Yup-it's a card game! This would have gotten you booted out of most of the churches in America three dozen years ago. (Ooh!) Anyhow ... divide into groups of five to 10, giving each group their own deck of cards, which should be dealt among the players till no cards remain.
The goal of the game is simply to be the first player out of cards. Players take turns discarding cards-face down-into a pile in the middle of their group. They can lay down one to four cards of the same face value-the two of hearts and the two of spades, for example-or they can lie by laying down one to four cards that don't match at all!
If someone in the circle doubts another player is being honest about the discarded cards, this doubter can say, "I doubt it." The cards in question must then be exposed immediately. If the person discarding is proven to be a liar, they must pick up the entire discard pile and add it to their hand. If the doubter was wrong, then that person has to pick up the discard pile. And then the game continues.
Encourage your students to play to win. In this game cheating is completely legal-provided the cheater can get away with it!
After playing the game discuss how lying about their cards affected the students' consciences, how easy or difficult it was to get away with, and how they felt while lying-don't expect them to say they felt terrible!
heart of the talk
The Main Event
1 Sometimes we have a clear conscience.
* A clear conscience means absolutely nothing to feel guilty about!
* Scripture Acts 24:16 ("So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.") Paul was accused of stirring up the crowds, and this passage is from his defense speech.
* Personal illustration My Clear Conscience (see sidebar)
* Object lesson Cutting It Close (see sidebar)
My clear conscience
Tell a personal story about a time you were accused of something but knew you were innocent-and had a clear conscience! Contrast that with a time when you were accused of something and there was at least some truth to the accusation.
Cutting it close
Read-or tell in your own words-the story from 1 Samuel 24:1-12, where David cuts off a piece of King Saul's clothing in the cave. As you share the story, use scissors to cut small pieces from a cloth and hand them to students.
Wrap up the object lesson by saying something like-
David got so close he was actually able to cut off a piece of Saul's clothing-sort of a bold message for Saul and a souvenir for David!
You see, David approached Saul to take his life, but his conscience got the better of him! He was able to face Saul afterward and hold up the proof that he had spared his life. A tiny piece of fabric-just like the one you're holding-represented a conscience that was clean and clear.
2 Sometimes we have a guilty conscience.
* A guilty conscience means a terrible feeling deep in your gut, knowing you did the wrong thing!
* Scripture 1 Samuel 24:1-12 (David and King Saul in the cave)
* Personal illustration I Got Away with It. Tell a personal story about a time when you got away with something, but the guilt ate at you so much you went back and made things right.
* Object lesson Plexiglas and Peanut Butter (see sidebar)
Plexiglas and peanut butter
Hold up a piece of Plexiglas between you and your students, telling them it represents someone's conscience. Then use a spoon to stick a big wad of peanut butter on your side of the Plexiglas, explaining how the peanut butter represents a bad thing in the person's life. Ask if the rest of the conscience still looks pretty clear-it should, of course.
At this point smear the peanut butter around with a paper towel-it will make a wicked mess-and talk about how the bad thing in this person's life won't go away if it's ignored. It will just make a mess like the peanut butter. Ask how clear the conscience looks now and remind them that it only took one bad thing-that never got cleaned up-to create such a disaster.
3 Sometimes we have a corrupt conscience.
* A corrupt conscience means a seared and polluted heart!
* Scripture Titus 1:15 ("But to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure.") and 1 Timothy 4:2 ("Whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.") In both of these Scriptures, Paul was talking about people who are no longer bothered by the wrong things they do.
* Object lesson Seared Beef (see sidebar)
This takes a bit of prep-but it will leave your kids with a great memory! (This is definitely something you'll want to practice beforehand!)
Use a hot iron (maybe a cheap-but working-iron from a thrift store) and fresh meat to illustrate how easy it is to become seared. First have an ironing board or table set up where all the kids can see, with a clothes iron that is hot and ready to use. With the raw meat on a plate, take your hot iron and-carefully-press the piece of meat like you would a piece of clothing. Your kids will think you're crazy! But show them what little effort it takes to brown-sear-the outside of the meat.
Then explain how sin-if it goes unrepented-can sear your conscience like the iron seared the meat on the outside. Your conscience will become tough and hard. It stops doing its job, and sin won't bother you anymore.
The Grand Finale
* Movie clip Courage under Fire (see sidebar)
* Close by saying something like-
Would it affect the choices you make if someone were to record all your actions on videotape? Would it make it easier or more difficult for you to do the right thing?
Choosing to do the right thing will always be difficult whether someone is watching or not. But the advantage to making good choices is that your conscience remains clear and you don't have to live with the guilt of a polluted conscience!
Courage under Fire
Start 1:41:40 "I think in order to honor a soldier ..."
Stop 1:46:13 "But it's a burden you're gonna have to put down, soldier."
In a movie subplot, Nat Serling (Denzel Washington) is haunted by the guilt of accidentally "lighting up a friendly" firing on one of his own tanks, killing his best buddy. His commanding officer wants to help him cover it up, but Nat's conscience ultimately wins out. In the end, he chooses to do the right thing.
One of the primary ways God communicates how he wants us to live is through our consciences. Let your kids know it will always be a struggle to choose to do the right thing, but it's the little choices we make each day that determine how our consciences will function. Those interested in following Christ have to get serious about listening to their consciences. So remind your students to always let their consciences be their guides!
Get It? Middle School
* What were the three types of consciences we just heard about?
* How can we keep a clear conscience before God?
* How did you help yourself get over a guilty conscience in the past?
* What happens when you ignore your guilty conscience for a long time?
* What's a seared conscience? Why do you think Paul used that term?
* What might it mean if we don't feel guilty after doing something we know is wrong?
* Why do you think David didn't kill Saul when he had the chance? After all wasn't Saul trying to kill David?
* How far can you see on a clear day? Why? How is that related to having a clear conscience?
* What kinds of things can pollute your conscience?
Get It? High School
* Describe the three conscience conditions we talked about in your own words.
* Talk about a time when you experienced a clear conscience.
* Talk about a time when you experienced a guilty conscience.
* What does it feel like to have a guilty conscience?
* What are some things that may help you keep a clear conscience in your personal relationships?
* What does it mean to have a seared conscience?
* How does a conscience become corrupt or seared?
* How can someone clear her conscience once it has become seared?
* What's the peanut butter in your life right now and how do you deal with it?
* When someone feels guilty for doing something that isn't wrong, it's called false guilt. How can we distinguish false guilt from the Holy Spirit's conviction?
What If? The Big Picture
* Talk about a time you lied about-and got away with-something you knew would get you into trouble. Did you experience guilt? If so, how did you deal with it?
* What if you thought you got away with something and then you suddenly got caught-what would you do to solve the problem?
* If you could change one thing in your past that led to a guilty conscience, what would it be and why?
* Why would non-Christians experience a guilty conscience? Explain.
So What? It's Your Life
* What would be the easiest way to keep a clear conscience? How could you start doing that today?
* First John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." What does that mean? What does it have to do with this conscience stuff?
* So who are we supposed to confess to? Talk about your answer.
* How could confession help you have a closer relationship with God? What might be keeping you from confessing your sins to God today?
* How might accountability help you as you struggle with your conscience? What can you do to set up accountability?
* Do you think it's important to keep or maintain a clear conscience? Why or why not? What implications does this have for how you'll live this week?
Excerpted from Great Talk Outlines for Youth Ministry by Mark Oestreicher Copyright © 2001 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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