Cauterizing the Conscience (Revisited)

Cauterizing the Conscience

Robert Wurtz II

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2)

Our passage deals with events that would take place after the writing of the text, in latter times. The words could be translated “latter seasons.” These times will go on until the coming of Christ at the second advent; times of great deception that are characterized by some departing the faith as a result of demons animating false teachers with both power and doctrine. Paul warns Timothy and then adds, If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. (1 Timothy 4:6 KJV) We need to be aware of the fact that the enemy seeks opportunities to introduce falsehood into the churches of God to get folk to “depart from the faith.” That is his primary objective and standard operating procedure (modus operandi).

Seared Conscience

When the conscience is seared the mind is no longer summonsed to consider the truth of an action or idea. The Greek word is the root for our word cauterize. This makes the person dangerous to the churches because they normalize sin. When a person refuses to agree with God’s word they are searing their conscience. If there is no repentance the conscience will lose its influence upon the behavior. Where once the sinful behavior wore on the mind, now the person can sin without any pain of conscience. This is a dreadful state of being. They go on sinning and rebelling against God and have no sense that they need to confess and repent. They are given over to their sin. 

Synchronized Knowledge

Some refer to an aspect of the conscience as sequent; that is to say, it follows action. God placed in all human beings the ability to measure right from wrong. This allows man to have a faculty of judgment. The effects of conscience are first seen when Adam and Eve had sinned and then clothed themselves with fig leaves and hid themselves from the Face of Jehovah (Genesis 3:8). They knew God’s will and that they had transgressed God’s will. It was before their minds. The pain of conscience followed their action. Knowledge of God’s will informs the conscience to function properly. This is why it is important to rightly divide the word of truth. The conscience is being programmed.

All human beings are born with this moral sense because they are created by God in His image. (Romans 1) The conscience may be buried under years of rebellion and darkness, but everyone started out with a sense of what is “fair.” Unless the conscience is completely seared, people know how others ought to behave and how they ought to behave. This is as simple fact, but it is amazing how easy it is for some people to dismiss the golden rule. They treat others in ways they would not want to be treated. This is evidence of a seared conscience.

Conscience and the Nervous System

Everyone is born with a basic sense of right and wrong. The conscience simply weighs our actions against what we sincerely believe is right. It is like an umpire in our heart making judgment calls. It is unaffiliated with our own desires. Some have said that God placed the conscience in man to give Himself a voice in our heart. 

The faculty of conscience is tied directly to our hard wiring as human beings. As it has been said, “Lie detector tests are based on the science that although we may be very proficient at telling lies, whenever we do so we trigger a kind of spiritual smoke alarm which alters the rhythms of our bodies. This universal sense of right and wrong was sharpened in the Ten Words given to Israel and it had a God-wards factor too in making God the centre of our affections and allegiances.” (R. Bailey) When we go against our conscience it can be detected electrically — if we are attached to the right type of equipment. What then is a seared conscience? When the “smoke alarm” has been transgressed to the point that it no longer functions properly. In a figure the room is full of smoke — but the detector remains silent.

Refusing to Agree

When a person refuses to agree with God they are not allowing Him be true. They are calling Him a liar. (1 John 1:10) They then substitute their own false religious views for His. Paul gives an example of this when he writes of those who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:3) These are man-made laws such as the Gnostic’s would adhere to. They have nothing to do with God, but are an example of how paganism can gain entrance into Christianity under the guise of being “spiritual.” This is an ancient lie. Understand that it is impossible to improve upon the Spirit-filled life. No amount of rules can improve on someone walking in the Spirit and thereby establishing the law. 

As we have seen in the so-called Catholic priesthood, celibacy may give a show of wisdom in will worship, but it actually opens the door to much greater sins and evil. Why? Because God did not place these restraints on man, Satan has done it in order to give himself an occasion to tempt men for their lack of self control. (1 Corinthians 7:5, Colossians 2:20-23) “A concomitant of legalism and mysticism is asceticism. It is the pseudo-spiritual position that revels in rules of physical self-denial. Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! These prohibitions increase from not handling to not even touching. This same legalism was manifest in Eve’s carnal exaggeration, ‘You must not touch it, or you will die.’” (BK Comm. Genesis 3:3; cf. Genesis 2:16-17) This is not what God said. To say more or to say less than what God said is to lie against the truth; the one path leads to legalism and the other to license.

Modern Application

A few years ago, Dr. Carl F. Henry, founder and editor of Christianity Today, sent out a questionnaire to what he called, “Twenty of the leading intellectual preachers in the country.” And the question that he sent out was this: “What do you see for the church of Jesus Christ by the year 2000.” I remember only one of the replies, it was given by Elton Trueblood, the Quaker philosopher. He said this amazing thing: “By the year 2000 the church will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant, militant paganism.” (Leonard Ravenhill)

One only need look at the plethora of posts on social media lauding the fining and jailing of Christians who refuse to support the gay agenda to see that Elton Trueblood was speaking prophetically. One lady wrote concerning the jailing of the clerk in Kentucky, “now lets go after those cake people!” For her, fining the folks that refused to bake the gay wedding cake was not harsh enough. These militant pagans not only want the right to marry as homosexuals, they want to force that view on everyone else “jailing” the opposition. What is worse is that some Christians have depatred from the faith and joined the ranks of those who agree with practicing homosexuals. Some may have been grievous wolves all along just waiting to come out of the closet themselves. Listening to some of the things I hear Christians saying it’s hard to know who is on what team these days. Do they agree with God or the gay agenda? Do they support God’s people or this present evil world? Do they think they can straddle the fence? 

Deadly Decisionism Comes Home to Roost

The evangelistic methods of the last 100 years are now coming home to roost. In modern times we are suffering terribly from the effects of decisionism. Multitudes have prayed a prayer, raised their hand, signed a card, etc., but have not been regenerated. Their conscience is still seared even though they have made a profession of faith. Had they been regenerated (in the biblical sense) they would feel differently about sin. The unregenerate have a carnal mind that sees God’s word as foolishness. The carnal mind is at enmity with God. It’s a simple question, but “if a person refuses to agree with God’s word, how can the Spirit that inspired the word be living inside of them?” This is common sense. 

If a persons’ attitude towards sin has not changed they cannot possibly be born again. For it is written, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them (…) Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. (Ezekiel 36:26–27, 31 NKJV) Focus on the words Then you will remember…” The born again experience that comes in the New Covenant radically alters a person’s attitude towards sin. They may have been proud of their sinful life before, but once the new heart and spirit come in they view their sin completely different. 

In these latter times we don’t need another healing revival. We don’t need another smooth-talking inspirational speaker spouting out platitudes and hopes for financial prosperity. We need the Gospel to be preached as it was once delivered to the Saints. We need the Gospel that changed the world in the book of Acts. We need to strip-off the doctrinal grave clothes of generations that are binding the minds of multitudes — preventing them from being born of the Spirit. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in latter times some shall depart from the faith. What faith? The faith as it has been preached for the last 100 years? No! Multitudes have departed from the faith that was once delivered to the saints. They have forsaken the faith that we are supposed to be contending for (Jude 3). This is the faith that can reverse the effects of a seared conscience. Nothing else will do it. Nevertheless, many will continue giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. The Spirit has expressly spoken this and it is happening. Our only hope is to make sure we don’t fall prey to it.  

The "Ancient" Inquiry Room (Enquiry Room and Praying Through)

The “Ancient” Inquiry Room
Robert Wurtz II

The inquiry room is an example of a once novel measure that has come and gone from mainstream Christian practice. It began prior to the ministry of Charles Finney (1800s) and continued on until early in Billy Sunday’s ministry (early 1900s). This was a room or church sanctuary set apart for the sole purpose of counseling and praying with anxious sinners in an attempt to help lead them to genuine conversion. “Anxious sinner” is a term that used to describe people who had heard the Gospel and came under great conviction of sin. We don’t use this term any more mainly because we rarely encounter anyone who is anxious for their soul. Nevertheless, we have an account of the use of such a room taken from the May 1834 edition of The Religious Intelligencer:

In all of our protracted meetings we have had the “anxious seat,” and the meeting for inquiry, and have desired those who had submitted to God to manifest it. The same measures have been adapted at this meeting, and only one new measure has been added; viz: giving liberty in the public assembly to ask prayers. And very numerous requests have been preferred, and many gracious answers have been obtained, and the influence of this measure, both upon saint and sinner, has been happy. Our measures have been those, viz: In the forenoon, meetings for prayer in different parts of the congregation, and a meeting for inquirers in the anxious room (inquiry room). At 2 o’ clock P.M. and in the evening—public preaching. At the close of the evening sermon, the impenitent were invited to present themselves on the front seats as subjects for prayer. 

Then they were sometimes addressed in a few words of instruction, and at the close, they were affectionately urged to be present the next day, at the inquiry room. This same course was pursued during the whole meeting. The inquiry room was the place for the most heavy and successful labor, because here the attention could be fixed. We did not invite into this room visitors, lest the attention should be diverted. Here the character and the claims of God were presented, and each one singly conversed with, and urged to an immediate and honest submission to God

After this interview with individuals, the whole were instructed by presenting divine truth under a variety of illustrations. These measures, whether new or old is immaterial, have been signally blessed. They are pre-eminently calculated to lead sinners into the kingdom of Christ; and to fit and to prepare souls for heaven. Any church with a minister who loves and who faithfully preaches divine truth, with a believing reliance upon the Holy Spirit, which will adopt and pursue these or similar measures, may expect certain and blessed success.[1] (emphasis added)

The Inquiry Room Experience

The use of the inquiry room became so popular, that it became necessary to provide those who labored with the anxious sinners a guide on how to conduct themselves. In 1884 George Soltau (1847-1909) of England wrote a handbook on the subject entitled, Enquiry Room: Hints for dealing with the anxious. He moves first giving basic directions.

As a company of workers desiring to engage in the solemn and important work of dealing with the anxious in the enquiry room, we all are agreed at the very outset that the Holy Spirit alone can lead a sinner to the Savior; that each of us must look to Him for the right word, the fitting text, the wise counsel; and that we are to be but the mouthpieces through whom He will speak. Our constant attitude must be one of communion with God; our memories and minds must be well stored with Scripture, that we may be ready for the Master’s use. Before entering into the details of our subject, the following general suggestions will be found worthy of consideration:

1.     Do not be too eager to lead a soul into peace. In Jeremiah 6:14, and 8:11, we find the words, “They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace; when there is no peace.’” It is not desirable to use the expression, “Have you found peace?” seeing that the anxious soul needs a Person, rather than a blessing.

2.     Avoid the expression, “You have only to believe, to be saved,” until you have very fully stated and explained the facts and promises to be believed; and then point out that it is a person in whom the soul’s trust is to be placed, and not your statements about Him.

3.     Always read your quotations from the Bible, turning to the passage; so that the Enquirer may be able to distinguish between your statements and the Word of God. The latter has an authority that your statements can never possess.

4.     Avoid telling your own experience or that of others; as the Enquirer must lean on the Word of God, and not on any one’s experience of it.

5.     Do not try to apply to the need of the Enquirer any text, the truth of which you have not yourself experienced.

6.     Make it clear that at conversion the Lord Jesus claims possession and control of the entire being. Show that it is not merely the salvation of the soul that is needed, but also deliverance for mind and body from all the power of sin in every direction.

7.     If an enquirer baffles you with difficult questions, hand such an one over at once to a more experienced Christian.

8.     As far as possible converse only with persons of your own age or younger; of your own sex and walk in life.

9.     Do not tell a person he is saved. Let the Holy Spirit be the witness in the heart of the believer, telling him that he is delivered from sin and its penalty.[2]
        George Soltau then gives directions as to the importance of making sure the anxious person recognizes their sinfulness. He continues:
An inexperienced worker, having a few favorite texts, would probably speak to each person in this way, “You must just believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin. You know He said, ‘Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Cannot you believe that ‘Now is the accepted time,’ that ‘Now is the day of salvation’? ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.’ Just kneel down, and say from your heart, ‘Take me as I am’” We would not say that none of those thus addressed would get any blessing through such treatment: but what we ought to do is to – First ascertain the cause of this blindness; and lameness; and numbness, etc.; and then by God’s help apply the right remedy.

Our first questions then should be, “What brings you into the Inquiry Room?” “What do you think you need?” The answer may be, “I want to be saved,” or “I want to become a Christian,” or “I don’t feel I am quite right,” or, “I think I ought to turn.” In none of these replies is there any very definite statement concerning sin, or any apparent consciousness of sin. Therefore the first thing to be arrived at is to convict deeply of sin. The Gospel is not designed primarily to make people happy, and give them peace; but to deliver them from sin, its presence, power, and penalty; and to bring them into communion with a Holy God. Sin is not an accident or a misfortune, but a disease. Active in its principle, permeating every fiber and tissue of mind and body; hideous and loathsome as a foul leprosy; abominable and irremediable; not to be dealt with piece-meal, but to be attacked at this root. All the restlessness of soul, the craving for excitement, the love of the world, the dislike of holy things, the reluctance to come forward for Christ, are the effect of sin dwelling in the heart. What, then, is the state of the heart of a sinner?”[3]
    We will not continue to quote from this book as the reader may acquire it free since it is now in the public domain. Nevertheless, I have shown the approach to leading an anxious sinner to Christ in an inquiry room type environment as late as 1884. This method was similar to D.L. Moody, Charles H. Spurgeon, and many others. As we already read in the Religious Intelligencer

The inquiry room was the place for the most heavy and successful labor, because here the attention could be fixed.” Indeed it is “heavy labor” working with God to lead souls to a genuine conversion experience in Christ. There is nothing haphazard or slapdash about it. These counselors pressed the anxious to make a decision for Christ, as had been being done for almost 100 years.
As with Finney, and then with D.L. Moody, we there was an up tick of the notion that a person just needs to make a “decision for Christ” and a down tick of the New Covenant necessity of being born again of the Holy Spirit. These things happened so slowly over the course of time that they would have been almost imperceptible to anyone living in that day. New Measures serve as inflection points, but emphasis on regeneration (new birth) steadily dies out. The emphasis was shifting totally towards man and the minister. Indeed, there is a sense in which God does the work; the Word of God does the work; the minister does the work; and the anxious does the work. When this reality is forgotten the whole process is thwarted, and the result is often a spurious conversion.

[1]N. Whiting, Religious Intelligencer XVIII, 1833, P. 220 emphasis added
[2]George Soltau, The Enquiry Room: Hints For The Anxious, 1884, P. 8-10
[3]Ibid, P. 13

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