Tuesday, August 1, 2017
By Colleen Podmore
My topic tonight is the conscience.
What is it? How does it work? What happens when the conscience is corrupted? How can we keep our conscience sensitive?
What is it?
The conscience is a part of every human being and it helps us to decide between right and wrong. The conscience acts as a guide to our actions. It is sometimes called the ‘still small voice’ and ‘inner voice’.
It will produce good feelings when we do what is right according to our value system and it will produce mental distress and guilt if we do what is wrong.
The other day I bought some clothes at The Base and when I got home I realized I had 4 articles but had only been charged for 3. What to do? At first I just thought, ‘Oh well too bad’ but then I thought No – I will have to go and pay for the t-shirt. A couple of days later I got to the shop and explained what had happened and the lady was absolutely dumbfounded. She said she had never seen such honesty!
I just thought – well that’s pretty sad!
Discussion – have you experienced something like this?
How does the conscience work?
Odon gave a series of messages on the conscience in 2001 and he describes the conscience as being like a torch. Proverbs 20:27 says, ‘The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being’. The conscience (the lamp of the Lord), lets us know if what we are doing is right or wrong according to our value system. Furthermore there is nowhere that we can hide from the conscience. Even Jonah who tried to run away found no relief from his conscience in the belly of a big fish – the only way he could find peace was to repent!
In his messages, Odon also describes the conscience as being like a computer programme that can easily become corrupted or changed. When the conscience is re-programmed by satan then ‘right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right’ (Is 5:20) and our value system is changed completely.
We can see this happening in the conscience of the church today and unfortunately many churches serve satan rather than God (Rev 18:3) – examples: marrying homosexuals, witchcraft, gossip, factions, hatred etc.
If the conscience is weak it can easily be re-programmed by satan. Eve knew it was wrong to take the fruit but satan said, ‘Did God really say that?’ and she was tempted to take the fruit and eat it (Gen 3:1-6). Afterwards she felt guilty as her conscience condemned her and she hid from God. Then she tried to justify herself by blaming the serpent and a guilty conscience can lead us further into sin. The only solution to a guilty conscience is repentance.
I have imagined the conscience as being like a filter which guards and protects our hearts and minds. It warns us when an action may not be right. What I see, hear and do is filtered through my conscience. When my conscience is not working, the heart and mind become polluted.
If we want a clean heart and mind then we must keep our conscience clean. Paul says, ‘So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man’ Acts 24:16.
Intriguingly, Paul says in 1 Cor 4:4, ‘My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent’.
Paul knew that he could claim a clear conscience and still act against the will of God. This happens when we trust in our feelings and lose touch with what the word of God says. When we neglect to read our Bibles. When we listen to worldly wisdom rather than Godly wisdom.
Psalm 43:3 says, ‘Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me…’
I remember when it was really important to attend church every Sunday – if I didn’t go then my conscience made me feel guilty. But now I go twice a month and it’s ok because I have more knowledge and understanding of who God is. My relationship with Jesus is not based on my church attendance but rather the condition of my heart. God looks at the heart and not the outward appearance.
Odon describes 4 types of conscience
We see this type of conscience in David when he hid in the cave and was tempted to kill Saul, but instead he cut a corner from his clothes (1 Sam 24:4). Furthermore he immediately confessed his sin to Saul
God describes the Ninevites as being unable to ‘tell their right hands from their left hands’– meaning that their conscience was not working – it was dead. But God sent His servant Jonah to preach and they repented (Jonah 4:11).
David’s conscience was also dead when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then conspired to cover his guilt. His conscience was awakened when the prophet Nathan spoke to him and in repentance he was restored – read Psalm 51:10, ‘Create in me a clean/pure heart’.
Hebrews 9:14 says, ‘..cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death’
Forgive us Lord, then he will remember it no more but what if we still carry the guilt –tell satan that you have been forgiven, your conscience is clear!
Peter’s conscience was asleep when he denied the Lord – but then it woke up and the Bible says He wept bitterly.
Depending on the circumstances our conscience can stretch to justify certain actions and we can do something one day without batting an eyelid. Joseph’s brother’s described themselves as ‘honest men’ even though they had sold their brother into slavery. (Gen 42:11)
Knowledge of God’s word can help with an elastic conscience – we all know how patient God is with us.
So – be careful of your conscience. Ask God to keep it sharp. Always examine yourself, keep short accounts. If you are wrong say sorry. Be honest and more than anything – be accountable. Let people speak to you about your actions especially if they are not pleasing to God!