Summary: Part 7 of 10 in a series dedicated to debunking commonly held myths that we think are in the Bible but really aren't, myths that can and often do have devastating effects on our faith.
INTRODUCTION: I’m pretty much convinced that it could go without saying that each and every one of us wants to make right choices, we want to do the right things, and we desire positive outcomes in all decisions that we make, and as believers we ultimately want to glorify God in the process… so how exactly do we go about achieving that goal? In many instances the answer given, both by both Christians and non-Christians alike is next on our list of “dumb thing that smart Christians believe”… “Let your conscience be your guide.”
BACKGROUND: For some of us, myself included our first encounter with “conscience” may have been the classic 1940 Disney movie Pinocchio, where the wise Jiminy Cricket exhorts our hero to "let your conscience be your guide." Actually the idea goes much further back than 1940, in fact it can be traced back nearly 1,300 years, and its origin isn’t Christian, it’s Islamic. The father of one of Mohammad’s wives was returning to Medina after helping capture Jerusalem, and on that occasion gave a message where he said “And speak the truth, do not hesitate to say what you consider the truth, say what you feel, let your conscience be your guide.”
So whatever the source may be; a Disney story, a sermon from Islamic history, or some place in between humanity is taught that following our conscience is not only a very good thing, but also a very necessary thing. But is it really?
WHAT IS THE CONSCIENCE?
• To begin let’s define the term… in the New Testament the word “conscience” is (suneidçsis) which means “witness born to one’s conduct” to “be aware” of ones actions
• Now make no mistake, we all have a conscience, given to us by God and it definitely has a purpose
• Even without being taught a moral law (i.e. the Law of Moses) all people are born with a sense of what is right and wrong, and of what God expects of us, and He gives two witnesses to this fact…
• (1) External Witness – this is the creation, when we come to understand the amazing complexity and order of all that is around us we’re compelled to admit that there is something greater than us!
• (2) An Internal Witness – this is the conscience, the “moral” equipment we’re all born with that helps us know the difference between right and wrong (Romans 2:14-15)
• Some believe that our consciences work like a thermometer, telling us the difference between “hot” and “cold”, or in the case of our actions the difference between “right” and “wrong”
• The problem is the conscience doesn’t work like a “thermometer” it works like a “thermostat,” and while the two are related to one another, there’s a huge difference between the two!
• Thermostats don’t define “hot” and “cold” they only report the temperature, and in the case of our actions “good” and “bad” they simply reflect our view of them