We’ve all heard this familiar adage. What most people think is, “Let your brain be your guide.” Or they imagine a little a silly devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. The angel points us in the right direction and the devil the other. Of course, both are wrong when it comes to discerning truth or the path we should take. God’s way is through the human spirit that has three parts: Conscience, Intuition and Communion. Conscience tells us what’s right or wrong. God’s way is defined this way:
“Things which the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, who obey Him, and who gratefully recognize the benefits that He has bestowed].” For God has unveiled them and revealed them to us through the [Holy] Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things [diligently], even [sounding and measuring] the [profound] depths of God [the divine counsels and things far beyond human understanding]. For what person knows the thoughts and motives of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So also no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the [Holy] Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the [wonderful] things freely given to us by God. We also speak of these things, not in words taught or supplied by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual thoughts with spiritual words [for those being guided by the Holy Spirit]” 1 Cor. 2:9--10 Amplified)
In other words, the human spirit receives from the Holy Spirit the things God wants to reveal to us. My good friend Steve Sampson in this guest blog clearly spells out why conscience is paramount in hearing God. Steve has been a teacher to the Body of Christ for 47 years and has authored 12 books. The following is an excerpt from revised edition of his book, You Can Hear the Voice of God, chapter 9
Hearing God in Your Conscience – Steve Sampson – www.stevesampson.org
Let your conscience be your guide.
God has created every human being with a conscience, which equips us with an innate sense of knowing right from wrong. The human conscience is a gift from God, but it can become calloused and insensitive if we ignore it.
Our conscious is clearly one of the ways God speaks to us. It is not necessarily God speaking directly to us, but if we are living open to Him, our conscience gives Him opportunity to invade our thinking. Our conscience acts as a moral compass.
Conscience can be defined as the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, thereby guiding one toward right action. For example, I would eat another piece of pie, except my conscience would bother me. We can override our conscience through daily incidences such as cheating at a game, displaying a poor attitude in traffic, taking too long on lunch break, or giving in to the temptation not to point it out when a clerk gives us too much change. Although these seem like small things, we can learn to keep our conscience clear buy heeding these warnings.
As we grow in the Lord, He holds us to a higher standard. Careless habits that we once thought nothing about now convict us in our conscience—God’s way of letting us know what is displeasing to Him. Listening to Him through our conscience, we begin to learn about being faithful in the little things. “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).
Sometimes our conscience will tug at us and tell us to apologize to someone for something we said or did, and we know that we need to make it right. As Matthew 5:23 says,
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
This “tugging” we feel can be the voice of the Lord clearly talking to us, using our conscience. That is why Paul declared that some who were born with a working conscience have since had it seared with a hot iron. They have given in to evil so frequently and have hardened their hearts so often that there is no more awareness of right or wrong in them. Paul wrote that those who depart from the faith in the latter days will be found “speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).
At one point when the children of Israel ignored their conscience, they began to accuse God of killing them:
And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt” (Numbers 14:2–4).
Because their present circumstances made them feel uncomfortable, they gave into anger and panic, and they abandoned their faith and their conscience. Can you imagine that after all the Lord had done for them by parting the Red Sea and burying the entire Egyptian army, they chose to harden their hearts?
As we endeavor to follow the Holy Spirit in our daily lives and keep our hearts open toward Him, Scripture gives us wisdom to know how to be a reflection of who God is in us. This is to God’s glory. Look what Peter wrote about having a good conscience:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 1 Peter 3:15–16
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
1 Peter 2:19–20
Condemnation or Conviction?
Some people struggle with knowing the difference between condemnation and conviction. The word condemnation has to do with accusations from the devil. They usually come in the form of harsh, shameful or guilt-producing thoughts from the enemy. But thankfully, there is no condemnation toward believers in Christ (see Romans 8:1).
Conviction, on the other hand, is when the Holy Spirit is gently telling us that we are doing wrong in our actions or motives. This conviction will often occur in our conscience.
The bottom line is that the devil condemns us, and the Holy Spirit convicts us. The devil drives and accuses us from behind, but the Holy Spirit leads us, going before us.
The devil tries to separate us, isolate us to get us into a weakened state. He wants us to think that we are the only person having a particular battle. But 1 Peter 5:8–9 tells us how to handle his attacks: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
The Lord will gently draw us to Himself and endeavor to get us back on the right track. When His conviction shows us what to change in our behavior and attitude, it softens our heart and graces us with a desire to repent. The result is a new strength inside.
The Spirit of the World
When Jesus confronted the religious leaders regarding the woman caught in adultery, He appealed to their conscience:
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. John 8:7–9
In today’s society, the powers of darkness work feverishly to get people to ignore their conscience—to ignore their sense of right and wrong. Political correctness is the greatest factor in this, combined with a fear of what people think. We are so afraid of offending some special interest group that we cease standing up for truth.
Remember when Elijah was discouraged, thinking he was the only one left standing up for righteousness? But God was quick to remind him that not everyone had crumpled under political pressure: “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18 KJV).
“Kissing Baal” means surrendering to political correctness. This attitude of compromise is rooted in fear. Often, it is easier to agree with the public view (even when we personally do not support it) than to take a stand. But to surrender and kiss Baal, we have to ignore our conscience.
The spirit of the world wants no absolutes. It wants all of society to tolerate every kind of sin. But tolerating the spirit of this world means ignoring our conscience and taking the easy road.
God will not tolerate that in us, as He told one of the churches in Revelation 2: “Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (verse 20).
We cannot tolerate sin and political correctness and get away with it in the Kingdom. We can try to ignore our conscience, but eventually that results in a seared conscience and a hard heart. It is better to take heed to our conscience and hear what the voice of the Lord is telling us through it. He will speak clearly through our conscience; we just need to listen.