The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Jesus Now.
I want to explore the human conscience and its role in our walk with God in a bit more depth here than I did in chapter 1.
Think of the conscience as a window by which the light of heaven shines through to our spirits. Through the conscience, the Holy Spirit corrects, reprimands, and makes us feel uneasy when we take a step that contradicts our new nature in Christ.
A believer’s conscience reproves sin and approves righteousness. In order to walk in the Spirit, we must learn how to be sensitive to the voice of our consciences. For the Christian, the conscience is an inward monitor that alerts us to our spiritual condition.
The conscience bears witness to God’s will (Rom. 2:15; 2 Cor. 4:2), and it testifies to the truth (Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 5:11). Paul and Peter exhorted believers to follow their consciences (Rom. 13:5; 1 Cor. 10:25–29; 1 Pet. 2:19). The New Testament describes five different states of the human conscience:
1. A cleansed or purified conscience (Heb. 9:9, 14). A conscience that has been cleansed from guilt and protest by the blood of Christ.
2. A good, blameless, or clear conscience (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 1 Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; Heb. 13:18; 1 Pet. 3:16, 21). A conscience that is free from guilt, protestation, or reprimand. A believer is walking in the Spirit and the dictates of his or her conscience. As a result, the believer has unclouded communion with God. There is no stain on the window, so God’s light can easily penetrate into their spirits.
3. An evil or defiled conscience (Titus 1:15; Heb. 10:22). A conscience that protests that a person is violating God’s will in his or her behavior or attitude (and they don’t repent).
4. A seared conscience (1 Tim. 4:2). A conscience whose correction and protest has been ignored and suppressed. The individual has quenched and deadened the voice of his or her conscience.
5. A weak conscience (1 Cor. 8:7–12). A conscience that has been misinformed that some things are wrong for a particular individual when they are permissible for others (Paul used the examples of eating meat and drinking wine in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8).
It’s all too easy to hang on to a sinful attitude or practice and ignore the dictates of one’s conscience. I know, because I’ve done this myself in my foolishness.
If we will walk in the Spirit, then, we would be wise to let our consciences probe our lives, let them expose our faults, and accept their reprimands. Doing so is to deal with any sin in our lives by applying the blood of Christ, which cleanses our consciences, and repenting so that we may break free from sin’s consequences. In this way, the clouds that cover over the window of our consciences can be removed, and God’s light can shine through without hindrance.
The fact is, the more closely we walk with God, the more keenly alert we will be to the inward monitor of our consciences. We’ll explore how this works in the rest of the chapter.