Now and then you might hear someone say something like, “I always follow my conscience.” Some people think that if they simply follow their conscience, they will never go wrong. But what if they are not aware of what it means to go wrong?
WHAT IS “CONSCIOUSNESS OF CONSCIENCE”?
This is where consciousness of conscience comes into play. Consciousness is to have awareness through knowledge and experience. A conscience is the strength of an individual’s moral judgment according to that person’s consciousness of what is right and wrong.
A lot of people depend upon their conscience to be their guide. Some depend upon it to be their only guide, especially in times of decision and action. At least this is what Sir Winston Churchill, the famous prime minister of Great Britain, said onetime in a tribute to his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain.
Neville Chamberlain, British prime minister just before World War II, tried to keep his country out of war with Hitler through a policy of appeasement but the plan was unsuccessful. Later, after recognizing his failure, Chamberlain joined in support of Poland and led Great Britain into war against the German aggressor, Adolf Hitler.
In a tribute to Chamberlain about a month after his death on November 12, 1940, his successor, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, said to the House of Commons,
History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. What is the worth of all this? The only guide to man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however, the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor. (Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations)
Note what Churchill said…”The only guide to man is his conscience.” According to the prime minister, “the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations” indicate the need to be shielded with a conscience so that history will honor us regarding the actions we take.
Our awareness of their actions is a revelation of their conscience. Our consciousness in regard to their choices, their motives, and the results of their actions, tells a great deal about their conscience. And it sets an example for our conscience, as well.
WHAT IS A “GOOD CONSCIENCE”?
The consciousness of your conscience is important. If you’re going to follow your conscience, then you must make a conscious effort to have a good one. But how do you have a good conscience?
I submit that it starts with the teachings of God’s Word. When one has a consciousness of God’s presence, power, and purpose for his creation, then one can develop a conscience based upon God’s wisdom, strength, and plan for his creation. We can have a clear conscience knowing that we can trust him in time of need.
This leads me to a joke: A college professor handed out exam papers to his students requiring them to sign a statement at the end saying they did not receive any outside assistance. One student was hesitant about signing it noting that he prayed for God’s assistance. The professor answered back, “You can sign with a clear conscience. From what I’ve seen, God did not assist you.”
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THE CONSCIENCE?
Speaking of God, are you aware of the many Bible references to the human conscience? Consider a small sample of the following scriptures on the conscience…
- Good conscience (1 Timothy 1:5, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and good conscience and a sincere faith.” ~New American Standard Bible, NASB)
- Clear conscience (2 Timothy 1:3, “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.” ~NASB ~The Apostle Paul to Timothy)
- Proud confidence (2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom, but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you,” ~NASB.)
- Cleansed conscience (Hebrews 9:14, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God?” ~NASB)
- Defiled conscience (Titus 1:15, “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.” ~NASB)
- Evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22, “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” ~NASB)
- Weak conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7-13, “However, not all men have this knowledge [consciousness of the one God, our Father and Creator, and his Son, Jesus Christ] …and their conscience being weak is defiled…But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow becomes a stumbling block to the weak….And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ….” ~NASB).
Upon a close examination of these and other scriptures, you’ll find that having a good conscience or a bad one depends on one’s consciousness of sins. Hebrews 10:1-2 says,
“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would not longer have had consciousness of sins?”
HOW DO YOU GET A “GUILTY CONSCIENCE”?
The writer of Hebrews in these verses is referring to the Law of Moses, given directly by God, himself. We are well aware of what right and wrong are through the Law. Sin is disobedience to the Law. So when the Law is broken, whether intentionally or not, our conscience bothers us. The sacrificial offerings that Israel was instructed to observe in their worship raised the consciousness of their sins and reminded of them of their guilt (Hebrews 10:3-7). In fact, one of their offerings was called a “guilt offering,” (Leviticus 6:1-7).
While it is perfectly natural for the Jewish people to have a guilty conscience for breaking the Law, you might ask, Then why do I still have a guilty conscience even if I may not be Jewish? The Apostle Paul answers the question this way:
“For when the Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ,” (Romans 2:14-16., NASB).
In other words, God has implanted this little thing called a conscience in everyone’s brain whether they are conscious of the written Law or not. And from that conscience the Law is written in our hearts. Thus, we are instinctively capable of telling right from wrong.
It’s because of this fact that we know (1) God exists; (2) Sin is real; and (3) We have a conscious choice to make according to our conscience. Our conscience is a testimony that God is the Supreme Lawgiver and Judge. And it’s because of our conscience that we are aware of the reality of sin. What we do with our belief in God and the condition of sin we’re in will have a bearing on our conscience.
Because of our conscience, we know the need for having human laws and governments. We make moral or immoral choices according to our conscience. We make plans, join certain groups, take various actions as our conscience dictates.
But what if we ignore our conscience? What if we shut off the consciousness of God? And, what if we no longer abide by the absolutes God provides for establishing order and contentment in our lives? You can imagine the chaos that will result.
A “SEARED CONSCIENCE” AND LATER TIMES
A world that is no longer conscious of God and loses the sensitivity of its conscience… Well, that’s just the problem that the Apostle Paul describes in First Timothy 4:1-2,
“But the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,” NASB).
We believe that “in later times” is a reference to the near return of Jesus Christ. One of the signs pointing to it is the great “falling away” (a.k.a.. “the apostasy,” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) of believers from the faith established through Christ. The falling away will occur through erroneous teachings and deceitfulness of liars whose consciences have lost all feeling for what it is good and right. Leaders will do whatever they have to do— manipulate and take advantage of anyone—for the sake of their own power, greed, and control.
These days we don’t have to look very far—indeed, right under our nose—to witness the lies and deceptions of those having a seared conscience: politicians preaching socialism, the “fake news” in the media, left-leaning judges, propagandists who pose as educators, and so-called “experts” in the science field who deny the existence of the one, true God. Add to these things, the rise of false religions, cults, and Satanic worship, and one can see how close we are getting to the age of “the Antichrist”—”the man of lawlessness”—who will have no conscience at all (Daniel 11:3639; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; 1 John 2:18, 22; Revelation 13:1-10).
THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF OUR CONSCIENCE AS CHRISTIANS
That is why it is so imperative to keep our own conscience clear as devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus exhorted his Church to be ready for his coming. For there will be many false Christ’s and prophets who “will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, the very elect,” (Matt. 24:23-24, NASB).
Jesus is the One whom God gave to save us and give us a pure conscience. The consciousness of our conscience is built upon the gift of God’s grace and the growth of our faith through Christ. Had Jesus not died for our sins and given us the hope of living forever in his Kingdom, then our conscience would forever be filled with guilt and shame.
But Jesus, who was without sin, took our guilt and sin upon himself and died in our place so as to spare us from the second death (Revelation 20:6) as well as to provide forgiveness (1 John 1:7-10) with the hope of receiving eternal life when he returns (2 Corinthians 5:21). The shedding of his innocent blood bought us our eternal salvation (Romans 8:1-8). Therefore, if we willingly accept him as our Lord and Savior (Acts 2:38-39), we are covered by his blood with a clean conscience so as not to have the stain of a guilty conscience due to sin (Hebrews 10:22).
Desiring to become more conscious of Christ in our lives, we prepare our conscience to live, learn, and grow in our faith. As we follow his Word, we are aware of the times in which we’re living. And our conscience speaks clearly to us, Get ready, for you don’t know when that Great Day will come! “Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming,” (Matthew 24:42-51, NASB).
Good News to YOU!
P.S. When we recognize the holiness of God, we can start to appreciate our need to have a good, clear conscience through his Son, Jesus Christ. With that thought in mind, here’s Addison Road singing, “What Do I Know of Holy?” https://youtu.be/N6J5TzSE_18