The conscience is an interesting human faculty. It defines the moral code by which a person lives, or at least hopes to live by. As far as I know, everyone had a conscience. But it’s also clear that not everyone lives by the same standard of conscious morality.
When I was a boy, I asked for a BB gun one Christmas. I loved that BB gun and spent hours shooting at cans, flies, dandelions, and other innate targets. But one day I saw a sparrow land in a treetop. I didn’t even aim. I just put the stock to my hip pointed the barrel upward and shot. I hit that defenseless bird and I can still see it plummet to the ground after all these years. That incident pricked my conscience. I’ve never wanted to hurt one of God’s creatures maliciously and pointlessly. Since then, I’ve had to deal with much more serious injuries to my conscience. Also, as I’ve matured, things that used to bother my conscience no longer do so and vice versa.
How Our Conscience is Formed
This demonstrates that our conscience is formed from life’s experiences and inputs. By constantly rationalizing and entertaining actions and attitudes that conflict with our conscience, we manipulate and twist it. The Bible says that our conscience can become “corrupted” (Titus 1:15); “seared as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2); and “weak” (1 Corinthians 8:12). The Apostle Paul makes the statement, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:4) From all these things we see that our conscience is fallible. Our parents, teachers, coaches, friends, mentors, the media, and our culture in general all provide significant inputs to forming our conscience. Therefore it’s so important that we take care in what we watch, who we spend time with, and what we allow in our lives. On the positive side of forming our conscience, we need to abide in Christ, get a steady diet of His Word and the wise input of other brothers in Christ.
When we come to Christ, He cleanses our conscience from past sins (Hebrews 9:14). But this conscience-cleansing is not a singular event. Hebrews 10:22 urges, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Letting Christ form and mold our conscience and then living by that inner voice provides us with a clear conscience and a conscience we can trust.
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Personal Application: To what extent would you say your conscience is clear right now? What would it take to obtain and keep a clear conscience? If you’re a father or grandfather, consider the weighty matter of providing inputs for the conscience of your children, your spouse, your grandchildren, and others whom you influence.
Wendell Morton and Jim Grassi, D. Min.
We cherish any verse in Scripture that reminds us to keep focused and intentional about evangelism and discipleship. “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5