Summary: This post speaks on the different type of consciences and how we can have a clear conscience before God and man.
We live in a world with people having different beliefs and value systems. What is wrong according to my values maybe be right to another. How do I know right and wrong? Our conscience acts like a grid system that sends a stop signal when something wrong hits it. Can you trust your conscience to give you the correct warning regarding wright and wrong?
Illustration: In 1984, Avianca Airlines, Spanish airline 707, had a crash, hit a mountain. They went into the rubble, everybody died, the plane is all over the place. Finally, they found little black box which has the cockpit recorder on it so they can get the dialogue that’s going on in the cockpit just before the crash so they can reconstruct what happened.
They get the tape out of the little black box and found a frightening discovery when they listened to the tape. The cockpit recorder indicates that just before the crash, a computer synthesized voice from the plane’s automatic warning system starts saying, “Pull up, pull up, pull up, pull up, pull up,” in English. Inexplicably the pilot shouts back, “Shut up, foreigner,” flips off the switch. Within seconds, the plane hits the mountain and everybody is dead.
What a parable of the way conscience is intended to work and how dangerous it is not to listen to it. Conscience isn’t a body of information, conscience is simply a warning device. It’s just a shrill computer voice that says, “Pull up, pull up, pull up, pull up, hold it, stop, don’t do that, stop that, you’re headed for a crash, stop here,” that’s what conscience does.
Conscience is a human faculty. It’s not divine. It’s like pain. Pain is not a divine faculty, it’s human. Everybody’s got it. Is pain a good thing or a bad thing? Pain is a wonderful thing because it warns you you’ve got a physical problem, and if you didn’t have pain you wouldn’t know you had a problem and you’d die. What conscience does is tell you something is wrong in your spiritual life. That’s a parallel.
The Bible mentions 4 different types of consciences.
1. A seared conscience. 1 Timothy 4:2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have ben seared as with a hot iron.
2. A weak conscience. 1 Corinthians 8:12 When you sin against them this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
3. A corrupted conscience. Titus 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.
4. A good conscience. 1 Timothy 1:18-20 18Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
In those days, ships were the deal. If he was living today and writing, he would say they made air crash of your faith. If you don’t resist, you’re going to crash and burn
How to have a clear conscience?
1. Feed on God’s word.
Give accurate information to your conscience.
Illustration: Our conscience functions like a skylight. The skylight doesn’t have any light. It just lets light in. Conscience is a skylight, it doesn’t generate its own light. It can only let you…it can only shine on you what’s in that belief system. Feed your system with God’s word.
Back to the illustration of the plan crash, the flight had a fully informed little voice and the little voice said, “Pull up, pull up,” because it was properly informed. The pilot was foolish, “Shut up, foreigner,” means, “I don’t care what the little voice says, and I don’t care how well informed it is, I’m going to ignore it.” You don’t want your conscience to be wrongly informed, or it isn’t going to have the capability to tell you the right things.
Romans 2:15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them. Now what does it mean? Based on your information, you conscience accuses or excuses.
Illustration: Martin Luther who brought the protestant reformation out of the Catholic church questioned the doctrine and practices of the Catholic church in a thesis called ‘The Ninety-Five Theses’ in October of 1517. The Roman Catholic church wanted Martin Luther to recant his view. The Diet of Worms of 1521 was an imperial assembly meeting of the Holy Roman Empire. It was convened to determine how authorities (both political and religious) should respond to Martin Luther’s teachings. The diet was held in Worms, Germany. Martin Luther had to appear before the Emperor twice; each time he was told to take back his teachings. Luther didn’t see any proof against his thesis or views which would move him to recant. Martin Luther said, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Martin Luther’s conscience was captive to the Word of God. After negotiations with Martin Luther and failed attempts to recant his view, the pope excommunicated Martin Luther in 1521.
Feed on the word: Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
2. Sensitize your conscience to God’s word.
Have a belief system based on God’s word. The conscience responds to your highest system of morality. So if you have a low sort of belief system, your conscience will be sensitive only to that.
There are believers who know that lying is a grave sin but lie just like anyone else in the world. You know the word but your conscience has not been made sensitive to that particular sin. Therefore, in spite of knowing the word you sin.
Believers indulging in sin, adultery etc. They know it is wrong but they are not sensitized. Going back to the airplane. Why did that little computer start saying, “Pull up, pull up, pull up, pull up,” how did it know to say that? Radar. Radar was sending out a beam in front of that airplane and it told that little voice in that electronic system how close the plane was to the mountain.
So, you want to make sure your conscience is well sensitized and the way you sensitize your conscience is the values you derive from God’s word. It has to be made very sensitive so that it tells you the right message at the right time.
3. Deal with sin where it starts.
You have to deal with sin where it starts. Where does it start? In the mind. James 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
You have to deal with sin when it starts, in your mind. Don’t think that if you’re not doing sin on the outside, you’re okay. There may be constraining reasons why you’re not doing it on the outside, and you may be ten-thousand times worse on the inside than you are on the outside. You’ve got to deal with sin there or sooner or later, it will get out. Numbers 32:23 And you maybe sure that your sin will be found out.
Now no sin is more destructive than the sin of the mind because it has only conscience to fight it. We always say it’s really important if you’re going to grow in Christ to have accountability. To have a friend, somebody who disciples you, you can be accountable to.
But do you know something? There are people who are close to you and they know the way you behave, and they know the way you talk, and haven’t got a clue the way you think. And they might think, how holy you’re. But the truth is, inside you’re full of foul odor.
See the conscience is all alone in there slugging it out. At least on the outside you’ve got your friends to help you. And if you’re married, you’re not about to do that stuff that you think to do because it really would mess up your marriage, right? If you lived out all your mental sins?
So when you sin in the mind, and you cultivate sins in the mind, you just assault your poor conscience all the time cause it’s in there battling all alone. You want to know something about sins of the mind? They’re so deadly because they don’t wait for special opportunity, they can happen anytime. And it’s relatively easy to confess and forsake the sins of the outside, but it’s awfully hard to get rid of the ones on the inside. That’s where you’ve got to start. You’ve got to really start before God to deal with what’s going on in your thought life.
Four ways your mind will sin.
a. Remembering the Past.
The first way your mind will sin is by remembering past iniquity. All of us have got sin the past, right? Have you noticed how your mind will drag you back through it? And you know what happens when you do that? You’ve sinned it again. In God’s eyes what’s going on in the inside is sin, just as much as the out, right?
David said in Psalm 25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways. You know what he was asking God to do? Forget what he couldn’t forget. God, I cannot forget what I did when I was young. You want to hear some good news? You may remember it, but if you confess, God doesn’t. Hebrews 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. But every time you remember them and cycle back through them, you commit them again. Now, the mind sins not only by going back but by going forward:
b. Scheming about the future.
The sins of scheming. Over and over again in the Psalms and the Proverbs we read things like, “They were devising evil plans.”
Psalm 64:4 They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares.
Proverbs 12:20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil.
Psalm 36:4 Even on their beds they plot evil; they commit themselves to a sinful course and do not reject what is wrong.
He lays there and he dreams and schemes how he’s going to cheat. Scheming to vent your anger or your hatred, your lust, your greed, your envy, your covetousness, your discontent, your selfishness, your pride. And that’s scheming and even though you haven’t done the sin outwardly, you’ve committed the sin already in the mind.
c. Fantasy of the present.
That’s sins of fantasy or imagination where your mind is sinning in the present tense. David knew that’s where the struggle was. David sinned with Bathsheba but the sin on the outside was only an expression of the inside, right? So what did David pray? Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Start with the inside. How do you do that? Ask God to reveal your sins on the inside, name them, confess them. Be honest with God and do it daily.
d. Evil attractions.
It doesn’t do any good to try to deal with sin of the mind, if you’re exposing yourself to what generates it.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mokers.
Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.
Job 31:1 I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.
There’s some things I don’t look at.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
If you’re going to deal with sin on the inside, take control of your mind, take captive every thought: 2 Corinthians 10:5 We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
4. Cultivate loving God.
We wouldn’t think of doing something on the outside that somebody we care about would see. But I will commit sins in my inside where no one can see. Do you know that God knows your thoughts? God can see your inside. That’s a sad commentary on who’s important to us, isn’t it? Just ask God all the time, “Give me the grace to love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Make it so that I would rather offend everybody in the world than to offend you.
Conclusion: Paul had a very clear conscience. Look at the testimony of his conscience on trial before Felix.
Look at his conscience addressing the accusations of the Corinthians against him: 2 Corinthians 1:12 Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity.
Paul says, “Now that I’m on trial, I’m going to go to the highest human court.” God is the highest court of all cause He’s divine. But on the human level he says, “I’ll go to the highest court and I will say to you, ‘My conscience tells me that I am clear, holy, and godly. 1 Corinthians 2:11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them?
Is your conscience telling you that? Is that what you know to be true about you on the inside? Your friends don’t even know that. Your wife, your husband may not even know that.
Our generation of people is silencing their conscience on one hand and giving it bad information on the other. May I just say to those people who might wonder if you can really, permanently silence conscience? The answer is, in this life you can. You can so ill-inform it that it doesn’t function and you can so ignore it that it’s finally silenced. But there’s coming a day when you can’t silence your conscience. Do you remember reading about hell? Those who silence their conscience will end up in hell.
Well, that’s true. But I’ll tell you something. The heat’s not going to be only on the outside, the heat is going to be on the inside because in hell, every individual will have a fully informed and relentless conscience, accusing them forever and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever without relief. That’s what hell is. And that’s why there’s weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. And every sinner will know that every pain they feel, they deserve. And they will know that they deliberately and freely and gladly chose the lifestyle that led them to hell. And every charge against them and every indictment, and every pain they suffer is absolutely right and absolutely just and there will never be any relief. That is a frightening reality.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Acts 24:16 So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. My prayer for you, my desire longing for you is that you would be able to say, “The testimony of my conscience is that in holiness and godly sincerity I have conducted myself in the world.”