Your conscience is illustrated in a scene from the TV show “The Big Bang Theory,” Sheldon and Penny are driving in her car, and Sheldon points out that the check engine light is on. Penny replies that it is fine. Sheldon says that it was installed by the car manufacturer to tell her that everything is not fine, she assures him that it’s been on for a month, and not to worry about it… the light means nothing. Sheldon, worried, then asks if there’s a check the check engine light light, and Penny later says, “I need to put a sticker over that!”

This is a graphic illustration of what is happening to the human conscience. Our conscience is God’s built in monitor, alerting us to the moral quality of what we do or plan to do.  It is the innate ability to sense right from wrong, and only humans have this ability. When we violate our conscience, it condemns us, triggering feelings of shame, anguish, regret, anxiety, disgrace, guilt and even fear. When we follow our conscience, it commends us, bringing joy, peace, self-respect, and well-being.

Titus 1:15 (ESV Strong's)

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.

 

While your conscience is a God-given safeguard for your life, our society seems hell-bent on destroying it, because we don’t want anyone to ever feel bad or guilty, and therefore whatever you do is never your fault but someone else’s, or your upbringing, or your genes, or a mental disease.

 

And so we ignore the check engine light of our conscience, eventually putting a sticker over it so we can’t see it, believing then that everything is alright!

 

CONSCIENCE- THE SOUL’S SKYLIGHT

 

Ps John MacArthur tells us that, “the conscience functions like a skylight, not a light bulb. It lets light into the soul; it does not produce its own. Its effectiveness is determined by the amount of pure light we expose it to, and by how clean we keep it. Cover it or put it in total darkness and it ceases to function.

 

Your conscience is a sensitive and precious thing, but we can damage it and thereby decease it’s function without too much difficulty. Yet despite the way we try and dull our conscience, putting a sticker over it, it does not change the fact that it is an indicator of a more significant problem.

 

Romans 2:15 (ESV Strong's)

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.

 

So despite how much we attempt to dull or blunt our consciences, they still accuse us and confront us of sin, either now or one day in the future. Your conscience is the check engine light of life. You can ignore it, cover it up or put a sticker over it, and it is not there to just be a light, it is an indicator of a deeper problem, and should not be ignored.

 

We said last week that guilt is what alerts us to sin, and unless you recognise that you have sinned, you cannot be forgiven. Our world’s obsession with absolving people from their guilt means that none of the deeper problems of sin are ever dealt with… because everybody is a victim, it’s never your fault and therefore, you don’t feel guilty, your conscience feels nothing, and no one sins!

 

When you come to Jesus, you can be forgiven and your soul set free from the death and destruction of sin. Why ignore the check engine light, or pretend it means nothing, when you can find out what it means, and deal with the underlying cause?

 

CONSCIENCE AND THE STANDARD WE FOLLOW

 

Every person, or organisation has a set of standards or rules. These differ between people and organisations, and that’s why we as Christians believe that that the Bible is the standard our society should use. Of course, unbelievers and sadly many Christians think that our standards should be subject to the prevailing standards of the day. I don’t! The Bible is God’s Word to us, and His standards do not change with fashions and opinions. Our conscience is not the standard, it is only the check engine light that alerts us when whatever standard we adhere to is violated.

 

The Bible speaks of many different types of consciences, so let’s look at some of them…

 

1.      GOOD CONSCIENCE

 

Acts 23:1 (ESV Strong's)

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”

 

The Apostle Paul said he lived with a good conscience, meaning not that he never sinned, but that he had lived as much as possible according to the standards of God. He followed his conscience, and his conscience was based in the standard of God.

 

Having a good conscience does not guarantee being right, because it depends on the standard you are adhering to. Paul’s speaks of his pre-Jesus life persecuting Christians when he says,

 

Acts 26:9 (ESV Strong's)

“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

 

A good conscience is a good thing, but it alone cannot save you. If all you have to do is follow your conscience, and truth is variable and individual, then an atheist, or Islamic, or Hindu or an anarchist would be saved, because they live according to the standard of their own conscience. A good conscience is only truly powerful when it is based on the truth of the Word of God!

 

 

2.      CLEAR CONSCIENCE

 

Acts 24:16 (ESV Strong's)

So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.

 

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control what happens in you.  In the same way, you cannot control what other people think of you, but you can live at peace with a clear conscience. A clear conscience means blameless, devoid of guilt towards the Lord or any person. Paul is saying in this passage that his conscience affirmed his actions, and no warning bells went off about how he lived and what he said.

 

I strive to lead this church with a clear conscience, and a clear conscience is a wonderful thing. It means you can look back at what you’ve said and done without regret, without guilt and without wanting to replay events to improve on them. In my life, and I hope in yours, the standard is the Bible, and I make no apology for that standard. I have been criticised at times (even last week) for adhering to this standard, but my conscience is clear, and I proclaim God’s standard without regret.

 

I guess the jump is that we adhere to God’s truth, but do so in love, without judgement or attacking the character of others. This is sometimes a difficult thing. To have a clear conscience one needs to keep it clear before God, that is proclaim His truth without compromise, and also keep it clear before man, which is to love even those we disagree with.

 

I can love those I do not agree with, and do so with a clear conscience. Our love for others must reflect God’s love, which is unconditional, that is it is not tied to what they do or say. So regardless of whether others lead a lifestyle I believe is wrong, regardless of whether they attack and accuse me, I can make the godly choice of loving them, and do so with a clear conscience.

 

If I compromise God’s standards to keep the peace or placate others, then my conscience might be clear before men, but it is not so before God! If I am overly harsh and judgemental, and if I mistreat those who do not obey God, then my conscience is clear before God, but not men.

 

It’s a tough balance, and I apologise for sometimes getting it wrong. Passionate people sometimes become judgemental, and compassionate people sometimes become compromised. I endeavour to live my life in a way that when I die even the undertaker is sad! I want to keep a clear conscience, and conscience that is undefiled, between God and myself, and any one else and myself, devoid of any guilt about what I say and do.

 

The dilemma is that when you stand for Christ, ungodly men will attack you, criticise you and try to destroy you. This is clearly happening in today’s world.  So we must love them, even if we don’t agree with them and they are attacking us! That’s why Jesus said

 

Matthew 5:44 (ESV Strong's)

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

 

3.      EVIL CONSCIENCE

 

Paul speaks of another kind of conscience, too.

 

Hebrews 10:22 (ESV Strong's)

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.

 

An evil conscience is one that is so offended and violated by guilt that it screams that we are sinners! This is a horrible way to live, completely riddled by guilt and shame, but it can actually be a good thing. It warns us of our sinful actions and drives us to repentance of our sin, and forgiveness.

 

2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV Strong's)

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

 

In the Old Testament, temple sacrifices were made to cleanse the heart of the people, to cleanse their consciences. But nowadays we do not need to do this, because Jesus has once and for all paid for our sin. Pail says His blood sprinkles us and sets us free from our evil conscience. However, He only does this if we acknowledge our sin, not if we put a sticker over our conscience so we fail to recognise guilt and sin!

 

If you are struggling with your conscience today, the great news is that you can be set free today from this evil conscience that is condemning you and causing guilt.

 

4.      DEFILED CONSCIENCE

 

Titus 1:15 (ESV Strong's)

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.

 

Paul speaks of certain people whose conscience was defiled, but the question is, what kind of conscience is one that is defiled?

 

Defiled means contaminated. Someone with a defiled conscience is so polluted that he cannot differentiate good from evil, because his standard is corrupt. These people are exactly what we see around us today, even in the church, where they depend on their feelings to guide them, not God’s standards.  Paul, before he met Jesus, was just like this… he felt persecuting Christians was right, but he was in error. His conscience was not violated, but it was defiled.

 

Our modern world has countless examples of defiled consciences.  People immediately jump to the wrong conclusions when they see something that formerly was considered quite acceptable. To the pure, all things are pure, but to defiled, Paul says, nothing is pure! So innocent conversations are twisted into sexual innuendo, and innocent actions are viewed as sinister or impure. Even in church, in this moral climate, we cannot have men driving young girls alone.

 

Defiling means dirtying, taking something pure and making it dirty. Today even believers are lowering the standards of the Bible, allowing morality that the Bible clearly does not endorse!

 

Matthew 23:27 (ESV Strong's)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.

 

This is what people are like even in the church today… we look good, we look pious on the outside, but inside many cases our consciences are defiled, dirty and full of dead men’s bones. Let us not be like that!

 

5.      SEARED CONSCIENCE

 

1 Timothy 4:1-2 (ESV Strong's)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,

 

We are living in these later days right now, and Paul uses an interesting term… seared. I love Barbecues, and when I cook meat I sear it on both sides… this is called barbecue searing.  But when sinning repeatedly sears your conscience it is not called being sin-sear.

 

The Greek word for seared is kautēriazō, which means to sear, cauterise, brand or, by implication, render insensitive. When cattle are branded with a hot iron, the area becomes insensitive.

 

How is your conscience seared? By repeatedly being run over. It is the slippery slope towards the deadening your conscience. So the first time you offend, you feel really bad and really guilty, but each time you commit this sin, you feel less and less bad about it. Your conscience no longer pricks you, and slowly your conscience is being seared or cauterised.

 

When you cauterise flesh you can stop the flow of blood. When you cauterise your conscience, you stop the flow of the Holy Spirit.

 

An example would be profanity in our society on TV and movies. It used to offend me, and now I barely notice! My conscience has been seared, and it is a slippery slope! Once upon a time the Simpsons was a show that plumbed new lows of morality, but then came SouthPark, and suddenly the Simpsons seem tame!

 

Defile your conscience again and again, and you sear it, stopping God’s flow in your life. Sear it enough, and this leads to …

 

6.      HARDENED CONSCIENCE

 

You may remember Pharaoh in the Exodus.  He was a man who sinned and seared his conscience so much that it became completely hardened to the truth of God. A hardened conscience is one that the Lord cannot break through, and is the end product of repeated searing and dulling.

 

Hebrews 3:13 (ESV Strong's)

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

 

We too are open to such a hardening! How do we avoid this? We keep exhorting or encouraging one another. That’s why we need to keep coming to church, taking every opportunity to meet together and worship as one family. Together we can correct and protect each other from the hardness of repeated, wilful sin!

 

People in the world harden or deaden their consciences, and we see this all the time. The ultimate expression of an almost completely dead conscience is in psychological conditions like narcissism, which is in the rise in our society, and psychopaths like serial killers or nasty businessmen, who never really feel any remorse about what they do.

 

Indeed, we can be saddened and angered by this week’s abortion decision, but we should not be surprised. The same spirit that is behind our humanistic society, that is behind gay marriage and gender fluidity, that same spirit is the spirit of the age. It has hardened people’s consciences to such a degree that they condone murder, but get offended if we show them a picture of the slain baby!

 

 

7.      WEAK CONSCIENCE

 

One last conscience described in the Bible is a weak conscience, and this is one that you and I face as believers, and one that we can love and serve each other in.

 

Scripture describes a weak conscience as one too easily wounded or offended, usually due to some past experience. It does not mean that you are weak as a person or a Christian, it means that your conscience is hypersensitive to a particular area.  Ironically, a weak conscience is more likely to accuse you than a strong conscience.

 

Paul illustrates this with the issue of eating meat offered to idols, which was an issue for some in the Corinthian church. In Corinth, meat was routinely offered to idols and because the idols obviously could not eat the meat, this meat was sold off cheap. Now some believers thought this was inconsequential, because they knew the idols were false and really nothing. But others thought that this was really wrong, and would not touch the stuff!

 

1 Corinthians 8:7-13 (ESV Strong's)

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

 

The point was that sometimes things are permissible for one Christian but not for another because of conscience, and while meat offered to idols is no longer an issue, we have similar issues today. Alcohol is an example, which is ok for some and taboo for others. What about watching certain movies. What about eating certain foods? Even in this church an issue like speaking in tongues can become inflammatory. Again, there is no right and wrong, but for some they love it and others feel very uncomfortable around it.

 

Paul tells us how to respond, how love responds, how unity responds to these dilemmas of conscience.  We respond by preferring one another, loving each other more than our pet issue.

 

Yet we can live together happily in unity! How? By those who don’t have a problem with it refraining, not because it is wrong but because it hurts others. And those who do have a problem with it not judging the others!

 

I believe we must do all we can to maintain unity and protect our fellow Christians from violating their consciences. I’m a Pentecostal pastor, and I speak in tongues. But if it offends you or makes a visitor uncomfortable, I will choose to refrain! Why, because I love them more than I love my pet doctrine. I appreciate those who care for others in this way, and it shows true maturity when we prefer our brothers consciences.

 

KEEPING A PURE CONSCIENCE

 

So in this modern age, with all its destructive morality and victim mentality, how can we possibly keep a pure, unadulterated conscience?  The trouble with the advice, “Follow your conscience” is that most people follow it like someone following a wheelbarrow—they might be following it, but they direct it wherever they want it to go, and then follow behind.

 

Remember, your conscience is the check engine light of your life. You can not dictate to it, it informs you when you have transgressed. We need to listen to our conscience and be sensitive to its call, confess it and move on.

 

What would you think of a ship's captain who, sailing off a dangerous coast, saw suddenly through the clouds and the mist the flash of a lighthouse but, instead of at once altering his course, decided to go on a little farther and wait for a second or a third flash?

 

So how can we keep our consciences pure, even in this wicked world?

 

1.      CONFESS AND FORSAKE YOUR SIN

 

Proverbs 28:13 (ESV Strong's)

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,

but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

 

Modern society tries to teach us that we should ignore the guilt we feel, and legitimise what the Bible calls sin. This attitude, as we saw last week, has caused social gridlock…  “the irresistible search for someone or something to blame colliding with the unmovable unwillingness to accept responsibility.  (Charles Sykes)

 

Unless you recognise sin for what it is, and deal with it by confessing it and seeking forgiveness, you will never be set free to have a pure conscience. While we sit around arguing what is and isn’t acceptable as sin in a shifting moral landscape, while we fight for rights and actions that are clearly wrong, we miss the whole point.

 

Sin is sin, no matter how big or small. So don’t cover it up, don’t dress it up and don’t sear or dull your conscience to the point where you don’t feel it any more. Just acknowledge it, call it sin, confess it and let God’s healing balm of forgiveness flood your soul and your conscience!

 

 

2.      ASK FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILE

 

If you have knowingly wronged another, you may need to approach them and ask their forgiveness. It is not enough to ask God for forgiveness and leave a trail of destruction among those you love that you make no effort to heal.

 

Matthew 5:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

 

So being reconciled is part of the forgiveness and healing journey for your conscience. How do you know if you need to reconcile with someone? A good sign is if that person walks in the room and your conscience is pricked. I have people with whom I have a severed relationship, that I have forgiven and when I meet them, my conscience is clear. Others, when I meet them, things feel very awkward because my conscience might be stirred up. You need to ask God if you must reconcile, or reach out to them in love again.

 

3.      MAKE RESTITUTION

 

Numbers 5:6-7 (ESV Strong's)

“Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.

 

The proportions are not important, the principle is. If you have sinned against someone, do what you can to restore the situation. If you have stolen, pay it back. If you have kept something, give it back. If you have accused someone wrongly, take it back.

 

4.      BE SENSITIVE AND DO NOT PROCRASTINATE

 

Your conscience is a sensitive thing, so listen to it and don’t put this off. Your growth in the things of God will be stunted by your procrastination. If you are serious about walking with God, if you are serious about living for Him, don’t delay, just keep short accounts with God, confess it and move on.

 

Acts 24:16 (ESV Strong's)

So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.

 

Some people put off dealing with their guilt, thinking their conscience will clear itself in time. It won’t. Procrastination allows the guilt feelings to fester, generating depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems. Guilt feelings often persist long after the original offence is forgotten, and they frequently spill over to other areas of our lives. That’s one reason people often feel guilty and are not sure why. Such confused guilt may be a symptom that something is terribly wrong spiritually.

 

So if your conscience is disturbed right now, ask God to reveal why and deal with it quickly.

 

5.      EDUCATE YOUR CONSCIENCE

 

1 Corinthians 8:7 points out that lack of knowledge often results in a weak conscience, one that is hypersensitive and easily offended. If that is you, don’t violate your conscience, get into the Word of God and educate it on what truth is, and what sin is.

 

You can teach your conscience to focus on God’s truth, rather than operate on feelings. Being controlled by feelings of guilt, violation, victimisation or offence are no way to live.

 

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV Strong's)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

 

Fill your mind with Scripture, and your conscience will be tuned to God. You will be balanced, not weak, not seared and not hardened to truth.

 

RESTORE YOUR CONSCIENCE TODAY

 

Today, is your conscience clear? Is it pure? Have you done something that still leaves you feeling guilty when it comes to mind, or when you see someone or something? Don’t procrastinate, don’t ignore it and don’t put up with it! Confess it now and open the way to move on!

 

About Darin

Pastor Darin Browne is the Senior Pastor of Coast Church in Woombye, Queensland. He is an international speaker and worship leader and has toured all over the world, produced 8 albums and authored several books.