“The Conscience: What It Is and How to Help It” Pt. 2
May 15, 2016
Jerry White provides a picture of how most people think about the conscience:
Willie, in the comic strip Moon Mullins, is slumped in a chair in front of a TV set, coffee cup resting on his pot belly. As he flicks his cigar ashes in his coffee cup, he says, “You’re awful quiet this morning, Mamie.”
“I’ve decided to let your conscience be your guide on your day off, Willie,” Mamie replies.
In the next picture, Willie is outside surrounded by lawnmower, rake, and hoe, and is frantically washing the windows. “@!** Every time I listen to that darn thing,” he mutters, “I end up ruinin’ my relaxin’!”
That is how many people view the conscience — a s fun-killer, an irritating voice warning them not to do something, an inexplicable feeling to be repressed, tricked, or ignored.
The conscience speaks at the most awkward times. It unsettles the best laid plans. It prevents restful sleep. Years after an act has been committed or a word spoken, the conscience persists in reviving the memory of that deed. A day rarely passes without the conscience attacking some issue of inner thought or outward action.
Most people would like relief from this persistent voice. [“Your Conscience: Guidance in a World of Moral Turbulence,” DJ #26, p. 18.]
What is the conscience? And how do we help it function well? This morning we will continue our study of a series of passages that will give us a more complete understanding of the nature of the conscience and how it functions. The theme of the message is —
The conscience is God’s gift to all men to guide them to moral living.
As we begin, let’s start with a discussion about what the conscience is. The conscience is a guide, monitor, witness, and judge to and of our moral actions. The conscience functions as both a guide to morality and evaluator of the moral quality of our actions. So Naselli and Crowley write this: “Your conscience guides you to help you conform to moral standards, monitors how you conform to them, testifies to how you conform to them, and judges how you conform to them, thus making your feel guilt and pain.…The conscience is your consciousness of what you believe is right and wrong. It’s basically your…moral awareness turned back on yourself.” [Conscience, Kindle location 541.]
So here is my definition of conscience: “The conscience is one’s awareness of what he believes is right and wrong, and the evaluator of how one is living to that standard.”
What’s helpful about that definition is that it emphasizes three particular truths about the conscience:
- Everyone is internally evaluated by conscience
- The standard of one’s conscience will vary according to information and training
- Response to one’s conscience will vary based on willingness to submit to the conscience
We began last week by looking at how the conscience operates in unbelievers; today we want to look in greater detail at how the conscience works in the believer.
- The Conscience and the Unbeliever
- The conscience evaluates the moral quality of actions (Rom. 2:15)
- The conscience can be defiled (Titus 1:15)
- The conscience can be killed (1 Tim. 4:2)
- The Conscience and the Believer
- Enjoy the blamelessness of your conscience (Heb. 9:13-14; 10:22)
- Clear your conscience (Ps. 32:1-5)
- Remember your conscience (and the way you use it) is not perfect (1 Cor. 8:10-12)
- Use your conscience to love others (1 Cor. 8:13)
- Always (generally) follow your conscience (Rom. 14:22-23)
- Train your conscience by the Word of God (Acts 10:9-16; 1 Tim. 1:19)
Download the rest of this sermon on the conscience.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.