Our CONSCIENCE: The Good, the Bad, and the Uncomfortable

LIFE is full of decision-making, whether we are young in life or old.  

I can look back today at my childhood and often wondered in making decisions,

“Should I do this or do that?”  

My mother would say, “Always listen to your CONSCIENCE Mel.”

At the time, I had no idea what a “conscience” was, so mom would explain “It’s that little voice you hear inside of you coming from your heart.”  Now that was confusing at my young age.

Dictionary.com DEFINES Conscience as “The inner sense of what is right or wrong in our conduct or motives, impelling one toward right actions.”

If my mother were alive today and heard this definition of Conscience, she would chime in…”that’s what I said!”

And now, in the twilight of my years, I still have trouble keeping my CONSCIENCE under control.

Managing your conscience is somewhat like keeping Chayote Squash under control in the garden

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My wife tells the story of her distaste for the squash growing up in Southern, California.  She says that her dad loved it so much, that he grew it in their backyard against a wooden fence.  The vines grew uncontrolled and the squash was so prolific, they had Chayote every night for dinner during the Summer months.  Now I like squash, but every night for dinner?

Managing your CONSCIENCE is somewhat like keeping Chayote Squash under control by continually struggling to keep the vines under management.  

Our CONSCIENCES are also a struggle to manage.

THE GOOD CONSCIENCE:

Our CONSCIENCE can uphold us when we struggle spiritually.  

The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to fight the good fight; to keep a clear conscience when facing struggles.

1 Timothy 1:19 (AMP):

“Holding fast to faith (that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence) and having a good (clear) CONSCIENCE. By rejecting and thrusting from them [their conscience], some individuals have made shipwreck of their faith.”

Our CONSCIENCE can also protect us from TEMPTATION.

In Genesis 39:7-12. Joseph was sexually tempted by his bosses wife.  Joseph followed his CONSCIENCE and resisted the temptation.  Because of his decision, he developed a stronger testimony for God.

THE BAD & THE UNCOMFORTABLE CONSCIENCE:

Our CONSCIENCE can also display a bad side which can fuel PARANOIA

Proverbs 28:1 (The Message bible):

“The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them;”

Let me give you a few more bible examples of “bad consciences”:

1 Timothy 4:1-2 says,  [1] “But the [Holy] Spirit distinctly and expressly declares that in latter times some will turn away from the faith, giving attention to deluding and seducing spirits and doctrines that demons teach,[2] Through the hypocrisy and pretensions of liars whose CONSCIENCES are seared (cauterized)  (AMP).

That folks, is an example of a hardened conscience!

Another example I found in Scripture, was a CONSCIENCE of self-destruction in a disciple, a follower of Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5 NIV): 

[3] When JUDAS, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders.  [4] “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”  “What is that to us?” they replied.  “That’s your responsibility.”  [5] So Judas threw the money into the temple and left.  Then he went away and hanged himself.

So by EXAMPLE, our CONSCIENCES are not altogether GOOD or BAD.

Billy Graham said “Most of us follow our CONSCIENCE as we follow a wheelbarrow. We push it in front of us in the direction we want to go.”  So the issue is managing our consciences properly.  And how do we do that?

God has given each one of us the resources needed in managing our CONSCIENCES…which brings me to the BIBLE TEXT FOR THIS BLOG-STUDY, where God’s RESOURCES are revealed to help us manage our conscience.

God’s RESOURCES found in 1 John 3:18-23:

 

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Whatever you do, let your ACTIONS be motivated out of LOVE (3:18)

A good illustration of this Resource can be found in 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul discusses eating food that has been offered [sacrificed] to idols.  The question had been raised:  ‘Is it proper–the right thing to do–to eat meat that was left after the blood was used in sacrificing to an idol?’  Paul’s instruction was that it was okay. There was nothing morally wrong with it.  However, if this practice causes someone else to stumble, then avoid such practices.

LET LOVE BE THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE!

Using this RESOURCE as our guide, we should then apply this principle concerning our actions–

  • Speaking rudely to another person.
  • Social drinking.
  • Cursing.
  • Being critical of another person.

Our words, actions and thoughts should communicate LOVE to the other person.

Paul says in Acts 24:16,  “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”

Another RESOURCE noticed in John’s letter was to submit to the TRUTH.

SUBMIT TO THE TRUTH
SUBMIT TO THE TRUTH

Sometimes a GUILTY CONSCIENCE is inappropriate.  That said, there are times when I personally feel guilty because…I AM GUILTY!

The best guide in determining TRUE GUILT isn’t other people.  They may not give you very sound advice.

The BEST GUIDE is God’s Word!  It is always consistent, unlike opinions from others.  It is unchanging.

BUT there is a challenge here in becoming submitted to the TRUTH, God’s Word and accepting what it teaches.

I once read somewhere,  “The TRUTH will set you free but it will make you uncomfortable in the process.”

Here’s but one example to apply:  Maybe you are having trouble forgiving someone.

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive your [own] shortcomings and let them drop”  (Mark 11:25 AMP).

As we submit to God’s Word in the Bible, we will make right decisions in following a consistent pattern that is pleasing to God.

The 3rd RESOURCE John lays before us is to Accept the GRACE of God (3:20):

[20] “Whenever our hearts in [tormenting] self-accusation makes us feel guilty and condemn us.  [For we are in God’s hands.]  For He is above and greater than our consciences (our hearts), and He knows (perceives and understands) everything [nothing is hidden from Him].”  (Amplified Bible)

The Bible instructs us to throw your sin into the deepest ocean and leave it there. In addition, God has put up a no fishing sign:

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If you have confessed your sin and asked God’s forgiveness, then REJOICE in the GRACE OF GOD!

GRACE isn’t a pacifier for those who want to continue living in their SIN.  However, if you truly REPENT–change your direction–God’s GRACE will heal your wounds.

Finally, in verse 23, we find the RESOURCE of Putting Your Trust in Jesus.

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“Now, what does JESUS have to do with managing our conscience?”

Good question.

JESUS forgives us when JESUS FORGIVES us when we SIN, thus giving us a CLEAN HEART (clear conscience).

“If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins…”  (1 John 1:9).

BUT there’s more!

Besides forgiving you and I for our sins, He will also give you a fresh start!

A lady by the name of Louise Fletcher Tarkington wrote a poem entitled “The Lord of Beginning Again” [See Footnote [i] ].  This poem reflects the desires of many.

I wish that there were some wonderful place

Called the Land of Beginning Again.

Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches,

And all of our poor selfish grief

Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at 

the door And never put on again.

In Jesus this is possible.

We can gain victory over our CONSCIENCE.

We must follow the internal leadings of LOVE, submit to God’s TRUTH, accept the GRACE of God and put our TRUST in Jesus.

Is God speaking to you about your CONSCIENCE right now?  He wants to give you VICTORY.  Will you accept it today?


CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i]:  http://fromtroublesofthisworld.wordpress.com/…/the-land-of-beginning-by-lau…

Photos:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations Used:  Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted in the text.

 

 

 

Living in a Moral Fog

Being in a FOG
Being in a FOG

One Helicopter Pilot’s Story:

A helicopter pilot was flying over Seattle and got lost in the dense fog that rolls in from Puget Sound.  He emerged from the fog and had no idea where he was.  He could see a tall building nearby with people working at their desks, hovered the aircraft near one of the windows holding up a sign asking “Where am I?”  One of the workers wrote a response then held up a sign that said,  “You are in a helicopter.”  The pilot nodded his thanks and flew straight to the airport runway.  One of the passengers quipped, “How could that sign ‘you’re in a helicopter’ help you know where you were?”  The pilot said,  “Simple.  The answer that guy gave me was technically correct, but completely useless, so I figured that must be the Microsoft Customer Relations Building, so I knew where I was!”

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How Can We Know Right from Wrong?

Most of the moral advice today is found in magazines or heard on talk-shows which leads to more confusion.  So how about this advice:

“Let your conscience be your guide”

No, that’s not in your Bible.  Can you guess (no Google-ling please) the original source of the saying?  I thought it came from my mother when growing up; and she no doubt coined the saying from the 1940 Disney movie “Pinocchio”.

In the movie, Jiminy Cricket sang a song to Pinocchio in which he said,  “Take the straight and narrow path; and if you start to slide–give a little whistle, give a little whistle and always let your conscience be your guide.”

Darn it.  I’ll have the tune embedded in my head while writing the rest of this post!

Can you let your conscience be your guide?

My answer?  YES and NO.

“YES” when you are really young, you should pay attention to your conscience, but as you grow older, we’re going to see dangerous things in letting your conscience be your guide.

Titus 1:15-16  (RSV):

[15] To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.  [16] They profess to know God but they deny Him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed.

“To the pure all things are pure” – What does that mean?

Some people would like it to mean that one can engage in some sort of less than pure entertainment and not be adversely effected by it.  For example, some have said that they could view pornography with their own “purity” (?) that make their observations pure.  They suggest the only way one could be adversely effected by such must have a “dirty” heart (mind) to begin with.

So what is the apostle Paul trying to convey in this passage of Scripture?  Does it mean if I am “pure in heart” in every thing I do, will it be construed automatically as PURE?  Does it mean that a person’s lust, greed, immorality, cursing, cheating and lying are all “PURE” if the person committing them is pure within?  I think that anyone who is rational thinking and dedicated to pleasing the Lord knows better than that.

Spiritual Principles of a Pure Conscience:

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines the English word “pure” in Titus 1:15 with the Greek word Katharos, “pure”, from the heart.  In the Greek, there are different words for PURE (“hagnos”); WINE mixed with water may be “hagnos” – pure, “not being contaminated”. But “katharos”, as used in verse 15, implies “when there is the admixture of any element even though the later is ‘pure’ in itself.”

Our English word “conscience” comes from two Latin words:  CON meaning “with” and SCIENCE meaning “to know”.  The New Testament word, sunelesis (Greek), means “to know together”.  Both words have the idea of “knowing with ourselves” or “knowing within ourselves”.

When it comes to MORAL DECISIONS, it means to “understand internally”.

Cain’s Conscience–

In Genesis 4, because of Cain’s outrageous anger, he kills his brother Abel.  Although this act was committed long before the Ten Commandments,  “You shall not murder”, Cain knew instinctively what he had done wrong.

Your conscience is to your soul what your nerves are to your body.  When your hand grabs hold of a hot pan’s handle on the stove, the nerves send a message to the brain: THAT’S HOT!  REMOVE YOUR HAND!

The same is true with CONSCIENCE.  Your conscience is like a warning light telling you what you are about to do is wrong…and if you do it, your conscience says, “See, I told you not to do that!”

Having a God-conscience:

People are born with a sense of right and wrong.  The Bible teaches God provided two solid proofs to point out His existence.

THE FIRST…an external witness of creation.

When you understand the amazing ans awesome order of the Universe around us, you are driven to admit to a higher intelligence that designed all this and created it!

THE OTHER WITNESS to the existence of God is an internal witness-conscience.  The fact that we are born with moral equipment called conscience.  It should prove there is Someone who determines the rightness and wrongness of our actions.  You don’t have to read a written law to know that stealing, killing, and lying are wrong; that’s something everyone instinctively knows.

Romans 2:14-15 says,

[14]  When Gentiles who have not the [divine] Law do instinctively what the Law requires, they are a law to themselves, since they do not have the Law.  [15] They show that the essential requirements of the Law are written in their hearts and are operating there, with which their consciences (sense of right and wrong) also bear witness; and their [moral] decisions (their arguments of reason, their condemning or approving thoughts) will accuse or perhaps defend and excuse [them].  (Amplified Bible).

Your CONSCIENCE doesn’t make you do right, or wrong, but lets you know when your about to do wrong; makes you suffer when you have done wrong.

Moral Guidance is Contorted–

Our conscience is like a piece of sharp metal within our soul.  It has sharp corners when you are considering doing something wrong; corners that can stab you on the inside.

Filing the Edges
Filing the Edges

However, every time you ignore or deny your conscience, it files down the sharp edges of the metal of steel.  The next time you are faced with the same opportunity to do wrong, conscience stabs you again, but this time, the jab isn’t as sharp.  Over time, as you continually resist the words your conscience brings to mind, sharp edges are worn down until you seldom feel them.

The Bible says, “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted.  They profess to know God but they deny Him by their deeds; they are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed”  (Titus 1:15-16).  

Have you ever told a lie?  The first time you told a lie you probably felt badly.  But the next time you told it, it became a little easier.  People have convinced themselves that telling a “little white lie” is not actually bad–everyone does it.  Their conscience has become “dulled”.

SO HOW DO WE COME OUT OF THE “MORAL FOG”?

Your CONSCIENCE must be transformed by JESUS.  If you and I could spend our entire lives listening to and obeying our God-given consciences we would live a perfect life.  But God’s Word tells us,  ALL sinned and we fall short of the glory of God.

Have you ever told a lie?

Have you ever cheated or stolen?

Have you deliberately hurt someone?

That’s why ALL of us end up with a messed-up conscience.

Having a Guilty Conscience–

Samuel Langhorne Clemens–pen-name, Mark Twain struggled personally with his own guilty conscience.  In the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, his struggles with conscience came out of Huck’s mouth:

“If I had a yaller dog that didn’t know no more than a person’s conscience does, I would pison him.  It takes more room than all the rest of a person’s insides, and yet ain’t no good, no how.”

When you have a guilty conscience, seems like it’s hard to ignore–but that’s a good sign; shows your conscience hasn’t been completely deadened.

What Do You Do When You Have a Guilty Conscience?

Hebrews 10:22:

“Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water”  (NIV).

The Bible teaches a guilty conscience is a dirty conscience.  It is like moral filth that you allow to accumulate and then. pollutes your soul.  And when your conscience becomes dirty, it always affects the way you look at yourself and others.

JESUS can do two important things for a “dirty conscience”:

#1.  Your CONSCIENCE must be cleaned by His blood.

When people have a “guilty conscience”, they do all kinds of things to get rid of their guilt.  Certain areas around the world people crawl on their hands and knees up steep mountains to reach a church altar.  Other people throw themselves into religious activities trying to get rid of their guilt.  But the Bible, God’s Word, teaches only one thing to clean a “dirty” conscience–the Blood of Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in Hebrews 9:14:

“How much more surely shall the blood of Christ, Who by virtue of [His] eternal Spirit [His own preexistent divine personality] has offered Himself as an unblemished sacrifice to God, purify our consciences from dead works and lifeless observances to serve the [ever] living God?”  (Amplified Bible)

I have an old Hymn Book I keep close to my computer out of nostalgia from long days past and for reference in writing my blogs.  In writing this past week on  addressing our CONSCIENCE ISSUES that in living, we need to ask ourselves the questions a Hymn writer by the name of Elisha Hoffman asks:

“Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?  Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”  [from Are You Washed in the Blood].

#2.  Your CONSCIENCE must be corrected by His Word.

When you become a Christian,  “set your conscience to the Bible-Word of God”.

We READ in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that God’s Word ALWAYS points you to JESUS.  He becomes your standard of right and wrong:

[16] ALL SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness;  [17] That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”  (KJV).

When you become a “true believer”; a follower of Christ Jesus, born-again of the Spirit–your determination of right and wrong no longer depends on your CONSCIENCE because you can’t “let your conscience be your guide”.  You come out of LIVING IN A MORAL FOG.

You don’t decide what is right or wrong on how you feel, because you have learned that feelings can be unreliable.  Your standard for MORALITY is NOT what the “majority” in SOCIETY are thinking.

THE “DOINGS”, the “DEEDS” PROVE THE LIE (Verse 16):

“They profess to now God but they deny Him by their deeds”

It is rather easy to talk about God.  The phrase “Thank God!” is probably expressed several million times across the land each day.  What a grateful God-fearing nation we must be!

We notice how at the Academy Awards, so many thanked God for their award.  But the fact remains while one may verbally use the name of God, this doesn’t mean they really know Him.  In fact, it is a false claim to say one “knows God” if they are disobedient to His Word by their deeds. John, the disciple of Jesus, inspired by the Holy Spirit had much to say about this (1 John 1:6; 2:4-6).  

The Scripture passage in Titus 1:16 says those who say nice things about God but will not submit to Him are:

“liars”

“detestable”

“disobedient in nature”

“worthless for any good deed”

That’s pretty strong stuff!

The Pure in Christ Come Out of the Fog–

“…in ALL THINGS, show yourself to be an example of good deeds with PURITY in doctrine dignified”  (Titus 2:7).

The godly man or woman teaches the TRUTH and dignifies it with righteous living (1 Timothy 4:12).  

In front of everyone we come in contact with daily, with a clear (PURE) CONSCIENCE, the proof is in the “doing”.  It is because of the HOPE we have in Christ Jesus we’re motivated to take a stand with a “pure conscience”, even if it is unpopular:

“And everyone who has this HOPE [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless)”  (1 John 3:3 AMP).

Here’s my last question:  Has the fog lifted, can you see the landing lights on the airport runway– can you see God?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”

–Matthew 5:8–