Many believers were taught that their conscience was actually the voice of the Holy Spirit. When they feel caution about an activity, they believe they are hearing the Spirit’s concern about that activity. The Holy Spirit does speak to those who will listen. And, I believe, He speaks to us in our hearts with nudges and cautions. But there are some concerns with thinking that the Holy Spirit is the new conscience of the believer.
First, the flesh did not die on the cross. The old man died. I have taught about the difference between the old man and the flesh in another place. The flesh continues to be active in our lives and we must learn to trust the Spirit rather than the flesh. Because the conscience is part of the flesh system we learned through our lives and through the input of others, it did not go away when we were saved. It continues to try to guide us and show us the difference between right and wrong.
Second, the flesh system is set against the Spirit. The flesh was formed and nurtured in sin and the perspective of the conscience is based on both attraction to evil and personal condemnation. Paul constantly calls us to walk according to the Spirit rather than the flesh. The flesh deceives us because it is based on the lies presented through sin. The conscience deceives us in the same way.
You know what I mean. Some people seem to have no conscience. Anything they choose to do is acceptable in their hearts. I have heard people justify many terrible things, including murder, as though they had no sense of conscience. I have had the opportunity to visit with two murderers as they sat in jail awaiting trial. Neither of them expressed regret for what they did. There was no shame, no self-condemnation, nothing but frustration at getting caught.
Because the conscience is part of the flesh, it serves the fleshly desires of the sinner. It finds ways to excuse or redefine sin. It can be trained to ignore some things while focusing on others. When a person becomes a believer, that part of the conscience doesn’t go away. Instead, it is forced to operate within a new system. And, in that new system, it takes a new approach.
Think about this: what does the flesh want in you? It wants to go back to the way things were. So how will it do this when you have come to Christ? By keeping you from your freedom and forgiveness in Christ and pulling you back to shame, condemnation, and performance.
For the believer, the conscience will become the inner voice of condemnation. It will tell you that certain things are evil for you, while others are good. But it is still deceived and deceiving. It is still broken. It does not know what is evil, it only knows what fits its system and what does not. The new life in Christ, the freedom and victory in which we live, does not fit with the flesh system and it is rejected by the conscience. The old life of performance and striving does fit with the flesh system, so the conscience will try to draw us back.
The believer cannot trust his or her conscience. We are to look to the Spirit for guidance. The source of information we need is not of us. The Lord will tell us what is right and what is wrong—and sometimes what He says is unexpected.
Thoughts? Are you totally confused? Questions?