A burglar who needed money to pay his income taxes decided to rob the safe in a store. On the safe door, he was pleased to find a note reading, "Please don't use dynamite. The safe is not locked. Just turn the knob." He did so. A heavy sandbag fell on him, and floodlights lit the entire premises, and alarms started clanging. As the police carried him out on a stretcher, he moaned, "My confidence in human nature has been rudely shaken."
This story illustrates the need for who I would like to introduce us to today. We may stifle it; we might quench it; hurt it, or even defile it. However, we will never be able to escape it. It will be there, attaching itself to the highest standard we know inside of us. Everyone has heard it talk to us, congratulate us, convict us, remind us, or try to guide us. Who and what am I talking about today? Allow me to introduce you to your conscience. Charles Wesley called our conscience, "a principle within of watchful godly fear."
In the Greek language, conscience means "to know with." Greek people in their everyday conversation used conscience. It meant "the pain that you feel when you do wrong." According to the standards we have in our heart, conscience is that inner faculty that indicates to us whether our actions are right or wrong.
Author Warren Wiersbe writes, “Conscience is not the law, conscience bears witness to the law. Conscience is not the standard; conscience bears witness to the standard. Conscience is judicial. Conscience does not make or pass the law. Conscience bears witness to the law." Our conscience is our God-given guide to God’s highest, our personal best, and society's best if we listen to it.” Pretty heady stuff, huh?
Here are some quotes by wise leaders supplying insight about our conscience. “Conscience is a man's compass.” - Vincent Van Gogh. “Conscience is the perfect interpreter of life.” - Karl Barth. “Conscience is thus explained as the voice of God in the soul.” - Peter Kreeft. “Reason often makes mistakes, but a good conscience never does.” - Josh Billings. “Your conscience is the measure of the honesty of your selfishness. Listen to it carefully.” - Richard Bach. “Character (from a good conscience) is doing what you don't want to do but know you should do.” - Joyce Meyer. “Consciences keep silence more often than they should, that's why laws were created.” - Jose Saramago.
When we cheat on an examination, tell a lie, or do something that we instinctively should not do, our conscience reminds and even bothers us. Something inside of us says, "Dude, you missed it!" Of course, like the burglar above, we may have abused our conscience so much that it doesn't bother us as it did before in the significant areas of life that bring peace and prosperity. That’s a bad sign when a person or a society gets to that point. Honore’ de Balzac says, “Conscience is our unerring judge until we finally stifle it.”
The Scriptures reveal several types of consciences. There is a clear conscience, a good conscience, and an undefiled conscience. Conversely, there is an evil conscience, a seared conscience, a defiled conscience, and a weak conscience. Our conscience can only respond to the standards it was given. That's why it's crucial to have the best standard. After all, a conscience without God is like a court without a judge.
Some believe that conscience originates from behind us, that is, from our evolution. Some believe that conscience originates from around us, that is, from society-based standards. Some believe conscience originates from within us, that is, from our upbringing or family standards. Remember, society or upbringing may give us standards, but it doesn't give us a conscience. So, where does our conscience originate?
The Bible says in Romans 2:14-15, that conscience originates from above us. Conscience is in people everywhere in the world. It has a common source, and that common source is God. God gave all humanity a facility called the conscience and the best standard on which the conscience operates. All people instinctively know what is right and what is wrong in a general sense. All people have a God-imparted desire to do good and to be good when they were born. Outside influences on our conscience, if we allow it, can eventually quench it, grieve it, or defile it, eventually leading to an evil conscience.
Indeed, our conscience was designed by God to be our guide. It can help us or hurt us, depending on the standard we choose for it. Hint: Don't force your conscience to malfunction by continually making self-centered, self-absorbed, “whether right or wrong, I’m going to get what I want now” decisions you heard from other sources. The best food for a healthy conscience is the Word of God. That’s what makes you and your conscience soar.
Please don't think subjects like having a good conscience are old fashioned. Just watch the news. A good conscience, a clear conscience, and an undefiled conscience coming from God are what we need. Why? It isn’t very pretty what a person, society, and a world without pity or a good conscience can do.
Oh, one last reminder on your conscience. Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of reading it.