We do not hear much taught on the conscience. This is a revelation that the apostle Paul had, and I believe it to be of vital importance if we are to be a people of faith. Understanding the function of our conscience will help keep us out of the “kingdom of me.”
Conscience is commonly defined as the voice of the soul.
The apostle Paul was aware that a clear conscience is essential to our relationship with God. He makes reference to its importance throughout the New Testament. In the book of Acts Paul makes this statement:
Acts 24:10 “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”
When we are feeling conviction from the Holy Spirit, that simply means that our conscience has been offended. We have done something that is in direct disobedience to the Lord. Be it a sin of commission, or omission, the bottom line is, when we violate the King’s word, our conscience knows it and communicates that in the form of conviction.
If we are not a born-again citizens of the Kingdom of God, our conscience cannot always be trusted because our perception of everything is based solely on our natural senses and life experience.
A better definition of conscience is: Co-Perception or Co-Perceiver.
If we are born again, our spirit man has been transformed, recreated with a new nature, a new moral compass. Our spirit is now one with the Holy Spirit and can be trusted to keep us walking in the Kingdom of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (Amp) Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].
Our conscience is no longer limited by our senses and experience. It has been altered because we have been born again. We now have a co-perceiver. The Holy Spirit perceives the mind and will of God and communicates that to our conscience. Our conscience perceives the amount of light and revelation that we have and holds us accountable for walking in that light. They work together to give us a co-perception.
Let me explain the function of conscience in a little more depth. Let’s look at two scriptures from Proverbs:
These two verses are tied together. In Proverbs 20:27 the word lamp could also be translated candle. In modern terms, we would use the word flashlight. God uses our spirit like a flashlight so we can search for His council by the Holy Spirit in our inner man. (co-perception)
Our inner man consists of our spirit, our soul, and our mind. These three parts of our being are spiritual. I think we miss that truth sometimes. Words are spiritual, therefore thoughts, your mind, and your soul are spiritual. They need to be in the proper spiritual environment and fed the proper spiritual food to rise to the place God intended. Our conscience resides in our soul, our mind.
Our spirit is incorruptible, our soul and mind are not. They can be corrupted. When corruption takes place in these areas we have a breakdown in communication between us and the King. Our conscience is our protection against corruption and deception in these areas.
When the Holy Spirit communicates something to our spirit, that information is then processed through the filters of our mind and emotions. This is why it is so important to be constantly renewing our mind to God’s word. If the filters are unclean, the communication becomes tainted, cloudy, and obscure. When the line of communication breaks down, it cuts us off from receiving instruction and correction. It makes it very difficult for us to stay on the course that God has laid out for us.
Most cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc. are internal combustion engines. They are basically air machines. The more air they can push through the engine, the more power they can produce. You can have the largest, most powerful racing engine in the world, but if it can’t breathe the air properly all that power is never realized.
My lawn mower has an air filter that I have to clean several times a year. If I don’t clean the grass and dirt out regularly the mower loses power and becomes hard to start, and eventually quits until it can breathe again.
The word for spirit in the bible can also be translated breath. The Holy Spirit breathes life giving communication to our spirit. That breath of God is then filtered through our soul and mind. If those filters are not continually renewed, and washed by the Word of God, we will slowly but surely lose power and eventually stop moving forward altogether.
We must discipline ourselves to constantly renew our mind to the Word of God. Read it, study it, meditate on it, speak it, and pray it out over our lives and circumstances. When we do this, our conscience becomes an internal compass that can be relied upon to lead us through this life supernaturally, and into God’s will and purpose for our life.
The Holy Spirit always guides us into truth, (John 16:13) therefore our conscience can always be trusted. If we continually give heed to our conscience, we will become sensitive to the voice of the Spirit. When we live this way, supernatural encounters with God and a knowing of the future are the natural byproduct.
John 16:13 (Amp) But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future].
The account of the Pharisees and scribes bringing a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and “testing Him” to see if He would violate the law is a great example of how our conscience works. When Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.” something amazing happened.
John 8:7-9 (NKJV) So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again, He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
I find it interesting that the oldest began to leave first, and then on down to the youngest. The older ones had enough experience to know that they could not keep the law, they had tried. The Pharisees and scribes had violated the law so much that their conscience was desensitized, calloused, and seared.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 (KJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,
Their seared conscience made them legalistic and judgmental. They could not keep the law themselves, so they tried to hold everyone else accountable to it. Yet when Jesus spoke the truth, their conscience immediately responded in a right way. Jesus is the Light, the Word, and the Truth. He was speaking the word of truth and shining a light on their sin. Even their seared conscience wasn’t calloused enough keep them from doing what was right.
The conscience, when exposed to the light of truth, will hold you accountable for walking in that light. This is the primary function of our conscience.
If you know anything about cooking a good steak, you know that you must put a good “sear” on both sides of the meat. It creates a barrier to hold in all the flavorful juices and helps to keep the meat from drying out.
When our conscience is seared it also creates a barrier. That barrier holds inside the destructive sin that brings death and darkness and hinders the light of God’s word from entering in.
When Jesus confronted them with His profound statement “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.” the candle of their spirit burned bright and exposed their sin. They dropped the rocks that they were so eager to throw and turned away from their sin because of their conscience convicting them.
James says the Word of God is like a mirror.
James 1:22-24 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
When our conscience is confronted with the truth, it will always make us look at our self, as if in a mirror. It will point to what is right, true, and just, as well as what is wrong and needs to be changed. If we willfully and continually violate our conscience, it becomes seared, desensitized, and numb. The more it is seared, the more indistinct the voice of our spirit becomes, and being led by the Spirit becomes increasingly difficult. It is an extremely dangerous place to be.
In 1 Timothy we see a powerful truth about faith, and how its function is tied directly to our conscience.
1 Timothy 1:19 (NIV) Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.
You may be familiar with the term “shipwrecked faith”, but are you aware that this shipwrecked condition comes from a violation of conscience? Oh, how important it is to listen to our conscience! It is our direct line to the Holy Spirit.
When our conscience is violated we lose peace, and carry around a strong sense of emptiness and conviction. Our heart is telling us that we have missed it, we have gotten off track, we have violated a Kingdom command. Our faith then becomes shaken, and our confidence in God’s ability and provision is compromised.
We believe with the heart and the mind. If our heart is in perfect harmony with God, faith comes easy, but a violated conscience will not allow our own heart to believe. We may still agree with it and acknowledge it in our mind, but in our heart, we don’t have the ability to believe because of a violated conscience. Look at what John says about how our heart works.
1 John 3:20-22 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
Our confidence in God comes from knowing in our heart that we are in good standing with God. When we walk in willful disobedience, we try to function outside of kingdom principles and cast away our confidence.
Hebrews 10:35,36 (NKJV) Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:
To violate our conscience and not address its conviction is to cast away our confidence in the King, and our faith becomes shipwrecked. Our clear conscience keeps our faith ship sailing smooth.