God gave every person an internal moral thermostat. It’s your conscience. It can be a means of grace to help you change, or it can be your worst enemy.
Jim, a believer, has been living in sin for many years. Though many people have brought his problem to his attention, he has never repented. Typically, Jim reasons along the lines of justifying, rationalizing, or blaming. The problem for Jim is that his conscience is not neutral in the matter.
Your conscience will react to how you respond to all things in life, whether they are sinful or not. If you do not respond biblically to sin, your conscience will respond by laying down a thin hard layer over the top of itself.
It is similar to a person who lays in the sun too long. The skin toughens in reaction to the sun. Whether an unrepentant sinner or a sunbather, the result is the same: their sensitivities are altered in unnatural ways.
Your conscience is moldable. It can be softened or hardened, depending on how you respond to guilt and conviction. A tender conscience has a sensitivity to the truth of God’s Word. The person who wants to walk in line with the truth will respond promptly and precisely to conviction. This “temporary transgressor” can live in a continual state of love, joy, peace, holiness, and victory.
If the individual chooses to resist the need to repent, their conscience will take revenge by hardening. Rather than experiencing the freedom in Christ’s work on the cross, the unrepentant person chooses another method to deal with their sin, even if their method is to ignore it.
When a person is unrepentant, the conscience has no choice but to harden itself. It does this so the person can live with himself. Let me explain. If I repeatedly cut my hand, eventually it will toughen to the point where I will not be able to feel the pain. A healthy body is supposed to do this.
A biblically informed conscience will do a similar thing if the transgressor refuses to repent. Eventually, the person will no longer have a biblically informed conscience because he desensitized himself to the truth of God’s Word (1 Tim. 4:2).
One of sin’s greatest deceptions is how it blinds the mind from perceiving its dangers. It does this by muting your internal moral thermostat, a gift God gave to all people–saved or lost–so they can distinguish truth from error (Rom. 2:14-15).
Tender or Weak?
A tender conscience is not the same as a weak conscience. A person with a weak conscience, as described in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, is a person on the opposite end of the spectrum from individual with a hard conscience (1 Tim. 4:2).
While Jim has rationalized and justified his sin away, the weak conscience person has a longer sin list than God does; many of their “perceived sins” are not sins at all.
In 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, the new converts believed eating meat offered to idols was a sin. Paul said eating that kind of meat was not wrong. He identified their problem as a weak conscience. They needed “conscience retraining” so they could eat meat offered to idols while not experiencing self-condemnation for doing something that others said was wrong.
It was not a big deal to Paul, but it was a big deal for these new, weak Christian converts. Sometimes our families, religious environments, and cultural traditions falsely teach a rigid lifestyle that is contrary to the Bible.
Biblically Informed Conscience
Every conscience should be informed by God’s Word to live well in His world. Your conscience and the Bible should be in the same place when it comes to an understanding of “biblical sin” and how to respond to it. You will never be freer than when your conscience and God’s Word are singing in tune with each other.
Unfortunately, Jim has chosen to ignore his guilt, as informed by the Word of God and his friends. He is using twisted techniques to silence his inner voice. Jim thinks because he can’t hear his conscience, he is okay. He is not. Silence is not golden for Jim. God gave him a warning signal, but he has shut it down to where he’s flying blind.
Questions for Reflection
How would you describe your conscience? Is it weak, hard, or biblically-informed?
There are four means of grace to train your conscience properly.
- Canon – God’s Word
- Comforter – The Spirit of God
- Community – Your Friends
- Conscience – Your Inner Voice
How are these four means of grace working for you and what changes do you need to make so your conscience is more biblically-informed?
For Further Reading:
- How to Make a Decision About Anything
- When I Kept Silent About My Sin, This Is What Happened
- The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Learn to Change
This blog was originally posted on RickThomas.net.
Rick has been training in the Upstate of South Carolina since 1997. After serving several years as a counselor and pastor, he founded and launched his training organization, RickThomas.Net, to encourage and equip people for the practical living out of the gospel.