Conscience, that still small voice that says “Yes” or “No”, directs us to what is wrong or right. It is shaped by the world, our experiences, church teaching, and our upbringing. Everyone has a conscience that tells them what is right or wrong, and no two consciences will line up perfectly. Everyone has faults in their conscience because of our sinful nature and experiences. As Christ-followers we need to ask God to evaluate and change our consciences to act according to His Word. The conscience perceives all matters as black and white, no in-between. The Holy Spirit is black and white on matters as well, but He also fills in the gaps where our conscience fails. The Holy Spirit helps us navigate the grey areas of life.
When we come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit doesn’t take over the conscience but influences it. The more time we spend in prayer and in God’s Word, the more our thoughts on right and wrong will change. We get to see the world differently through the lens of Heaven.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.“
Colossians 3:1-2 NIV
When we allow God into our “why” for believing what we do, our rights and wrongs, we are truly bowing before the King. Surrendering our beliefs, what we stand for, and what we want, is the act of truly dying to self. We are handing God our moral compass and saying, “make mine point in Your direction.” I thought I understood dying to self until I learned about conscience. Now I know what it truly means to die to self, thoughts, beliefs, lifestyle, and all. Even if we believe, or know something to be right, it may in fact be wrong. That is why we need to set each decision at Jesus’ feet, die to what we know, and take up His way.
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Luke 9:23 ESV
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:33 ESV
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:3 ESV
I was taught and have believed for my entire adult life that my conscience was the Holy Spirit. So to disobey Him would be a sin. This still stands true, even though they are separate. To disobey your conscience means you are willfully choosing to do wrong. This is a hard concept to wrap the mind around. For example, to steal is a sin: Scripture says it, and our conscience says it’s wrong. The same goes for those grey-area issues. When you believe something to be truly wrong and do it anyway, you’re going against your conscience; the part of you God made for morally good choices.
To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.
Titus 1:15 ESV
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
Romans 13:5 ESV
You may believe it is wrong to wear pants as a woman. You may have been taught this in church and at home. You could have been taught that it is modest and right. There might be scripture to back up what you have been taught, but nothing too specific. If you believed this to be true, then to wear pants would be a sin; you would knowingly “tempt” the men around you or dishonor your own body. On the other hand, you might find it silly that there are women who don’t wear pants because the Bible doesn’t say you can’t wear them. Paul puts it best in Romans 14. Some believers thought it was wrong to eat meat sacrificed to idols because they thought they were sinning against God. While others were fine with eating meat sacrificed to idols because they knew there was only one true God and the idols weren’t real. Paul says in verse six, “Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.”
It doesn’t matter who is right in the pants or skirt situation, what matters is we do it unto the Lord and we mind our own conscience. It is not my place to tell a woman who wears pants that they are sinning if they do. They do not have my convictions, this is a grey area. To go against something we do for the Lord knowingly is a sin. This means that in Romans 14, neither of them is wrong because they do it for the Lord. The one who doesn’t eat meat is weaker in their faith because they do not understand God fully yet, the idols are still a prominent threat to them. While the meat-eaters had fully grasped Jesus’ redemptive power.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.
Romans 14: 1-3
As believers, we are to surrender our core way of thinking to God: to die to ourselves and ask, “Is this what you want God?” He might tell the woman who chooses to wear skirts, “Great job.” Or, He might give her the freedom to change her way of dress. This is recalibrating the conscience. Recalibration is shifting the conscience to align with what God’s Word says. Also, the pants-wearing woman may feel convicted by the Holy Spirit when she asks if her pants are acceptable if her intention was to get lustful attention while wearing the pants. In other words, she may have wanted to look sexually appealing, even though we are called to be representatives of Christ and not ourselves. Looking good isn’t a sin, but the reason behind our “why” can be. She, too, would need to recalibrate her conscience to God’s word.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
We need to take time and ask God to search our minds and have Him renew our thoughts. That our ways would be for His glory. This can be a battle with our conscience, the core of our moral compass. “Whenever “Obey conscience!” collides with “Obey God!,” “Obey God!” must come out on top every time.” - Andrew Naselli & J.D. Crowley
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Psalm 139:23 NLT
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2 NIV
I also thought all the guilt I felt came from God when in reality, it came from my conscience. My convictions came from the Lord, but not the soul-crushing guilt that stopped me from serving Him. The conscience is much easier to listen to than the Holy Spirit because it has always been there. That means we can fall captive to thinking we are wrong when we aren’t, and God intends to give us freedom.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 ESV
God is not in the business of constant guilt and worldly grief. He is, though, a God of conviction. As Christ-followers, we can feel more pressure as we read Scripture and get to know God because our conscience and way of life gets challenged. The Lord will convict you of wrong through the Holy Spirit. Conviction is an act of mercy. It allows us to see our sin, repent and turn away from it, and move on. He is a God who is drawing us nearer and nearer, purifying and sanctifying His creation.
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 ESV
And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…
John 16:8 ESV
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 ESV
Before learning about the conscience, I never noticed it being used in Scripture. My world has expanded, and my mind has been renewed. As you process conscience, let’s look at what Paul said about his conscience and a few other scriptures.
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”
Acts 23:1 ESV
13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Romans 2:13-17 ESV
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Hebrews 10:22 ESV
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5 ESV
I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—
Romans 9:1 ESV
Look at Romans 9:1 again. “My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit.” Paul was in full alignment with God and His Word at this moment and what He had done. There are more scriptures on conscience, but I will stop here and give you a link to a great book I’ve been reading. This book has 30 conscience scriptures in it and the breakdown of their full meaning. The title is, “Conscience, What it Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ.” By Andrew Naselli and J. D. Crowley. CLICK HERE, to get the book. This book has helped bring me to a better Biblical understanding of conscience in my life.
Conscience is a gift that each person has. When we become followers of Christ, our conscience needs to change. I encourage you to dig into God’s Word and seek Him on every decision. Pray before you call someone to vent. Pray before you decide what type of school your child should attend. Pray before dating that really cute guy. Pray, Pray, Pray!
There are two main principles I live by:
Does this honor God?
Is what I am consuming honoring God?
Is what I am about to say honoring God?
Is what I am doing honoring God?
My conscience will convict me and direct what I will do.
Am I being obedient?
Has God told me to do something that I am ignoring?
What does God’s Word say about this?
In a grey area of life, do I have a clear conscience in my decision making?
If yes, keep moving forward.
Thank you for taking the time to read all of this, I will share a few links below on the topic of Conscience. The one way to make sure we line up our conscience with God’s Word is to read His Word, pray, and be in a relationship with God. And when you are feeling alone and cannot seek Him, call a wise friend or mentor that can help you through. Community is key, even when we do not fully agree.
The Daily Grace The Podcast: Episode 30: PERSONAL CONSCIENCE WITH EMILY JENSEN & LAURA WIFLER OF RISEN MOTHERHOOD
Risen Motherhood Podcast: Episode 168: Should I Do This?
Netflix also has a documentary called: "American Gospel: Christ Alone" that is a great watch and challenges the conscience. This documentary can renew your thinking while allowing God to remove guilt from wrong teachings.
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Editor: Shanaya Allen
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