When the conscience became a tool of the Law everything turned toward the things of the Law. Rules, standards, things to avoid—these became the focus of religious (Law-centered) life. Good was obeying. Evil was disobeying. People still made choices, but they made choices with a new perspective.
But here’s the problem: the conscience was still broken. The conscience, even under the Law, could not discern right from wrong. So David wrote:
Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Psalm 19:12
And the author of Proverbs called his readers to wisdom, to go past the voice of the conscience to the voice of God:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
So, even before the cross, the people of God were to be aware of the brokenness of their conscience. They were to seek the word of the Lord. Their own understanding, that which the flesh system had built in them, was insufficient and deceptive. They would not be able to depend on it for truth. They needed the voice of the Lord.
When Christ came to us and we were saved and His life became ours, two things happened in relation to the conscience. First, the reality of our situation changed. We no longer were under condemnation of any kind and the Holy Spirit was resident within us. All our sins—past, present, and future—were washed away in the blood of Jesus. We were set free from the domination of sin forever.
But our conscience doesn’t understand that. I ask people all the time to tell me how much sin is on their accounts with God. I get all kinds of answers. Some say lots; others say only what has not been confessed; some understand that there is no sin on their accounts because it has all been dealt with on the cross. But the reality of that truth does not come from our flesh. Our flesh is still the same old system it always was. It still sees life the way it used to.
Our flesh is a system with which we are very familiar. We grew up with it. We put it together over years and through many experiences. It is very difficult for us to leave it behind. Much of the perspective offered by our flesh still makes sense to us. Our conscience is still active and still messed up. It still misleads us and it still condemns us.
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 1 John 3:20-21
In other words, if your conscience condemns you, find the truth in the Lord. He knows and He tells you that there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). If your conscience does not condemn you, give thanks that you are beginning to walk in the Spirit. Either way, your focus should be on the Lord.
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7