This article is about our conscience and the growth of our conscience. Guilt and forgiveness is also discussed.

Source: Reformed Perspective, 1995. 1 pages.

A Clear Conscience

We all have a conscience. It is also known as that small voice inside us. It's the small voice that warns us when we come close to a certain borderline which we should not trespass. It tells us: don't do it! Or, if we have gone too far, it accuses us. In this way we can have an active conscience in various situations.

It is good that we have a conscience. If we didn't have a conscience we would never hear that special warning from within. We would never have guilt feelings either. What if we had to go through life without a conscience …

Sometimes we say of a person: that's someone without a conscience.

The commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz – after 50 years – confronts us with the horror of the concentration camps, and we ask ourselves: don't all these people, who caused immeasurable misery, have a conscience? Maybe they did so at first, but later on not any more.

One's conscience can become dull, when one ignores it. According to the Bible you can “sear your conscience” (1 Timothy 4:2). Whoever does such a thing no longer acknowledges limits or has compassion.

“Conscience” means “knowing together.” If you were the only person in the world and if God did not exist, then there would be no one before whom you would feel guilty.

But we are not alone in this world. We have relationships. The Lord is there. And we have our fellow human beings. If we cause a breakdown in our relationship with others, and if we do things which we are not supposed to, then our conscience could be bothering us. Our conscience tells us what is right or wrong.

Our conscience does not automatically work at the right wavelength. Our conscience has been shaped by our upbringing: the environment in which we were raised and the customs which we learned from our parents. That also has to do with the standards and values which were taught. Something may have gone wrong during the time that our conscience was taking shape: we can feel guilty about anything. Nothing is acceptable. We always feel guilty about everything. We have wrong guilt feelings. Our conscience fails. Therefore our conscience needs to be molded and tested. It must be in line with the norm of all human conscience: the Word of God. Our small inner voice has to be brought in harmony with the voice of God.

It is also necessary to adjust our conscience, because it is in danger of growing out of whack. Ultimately we are referring to the work of the Holy Spirit, who uses his Word to shape us. It is the Spirit who convinces us of our sins, and Who shows us our guilt as well. The Holy Spirit also watches if our guilt feelings are right or not. If they are right, then we are directed towards confessing our sins. That is also the way in which we receive forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 9:14 speaks about purifying our conscience from dead (sinful) works through the blood of Christ. The sacrifice of Christ has enduring effect. He did not only give His blood to reconcile us with God, but also to cleanse our lives from all uncleanness. If we are aware of forgiveness of sins, and we are sinning again, then our life will be contaminated, soiled. Then we need to be decontaminated, disinfected. That happens through the blood of Christ.

In this context John points out: “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This cleansing is at the same time a purification of our conscience. If this purification does not take place, then we will not be able to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14).And we are called to do that. God wants full obedience.

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