“You coward... you liar... you thief!” a voice within you screams. Loud at first, but as the years go by its voice becomes fainter and fainter... But the conscience never forgets — never.
Remember the first time you stole or lied to cover up something you did? Why did you fear telling the truth about it when you were questioned? The shame you felt and that sense of guilt within you — where did it come from? What made you know that what you did or did not do was right or wrong?
Every single person born has this innate knowledge automatically within himself — a clear standard by which he can judge himself. You have not been taught these things that you know, yet still somehow you know. It is called THE CONSCIENCE. The conscience is the most sensitive aspect within human nature. It is the instinctive knowledge of right and wrong.1
Like a candle, its light shines to expose the darkness. It keeps a perfect record of every thought and every deed you ever committed. Like a witness in the courtroom, it testifies to that which is most hidden in the chambers of the soul. It urges us to obey what we know is true and turn away from what we know is evil.
The conscience is the inner voice of God within each person.2 It is the self-reflecting, judicial power in mankind by which God can call every man or woman to account. If we are absolutely honest with ourselves, our conscience will let us know what we are really like, passing perfect judgment on our state before God.
The word con-science means “to know with” or “to have knowledge.” It is that hidden part of the human soul which most reflects (like a mirror) the likeness of the Creator.3 It is the “common denominator” in all human beings that binds us together as a unique creation and distinguishes us from all the rest of creation. It causes us to hold something in common with each other despite all the many differences.4 It also acts as the moral judge within people’s hearts.
The conscience is based on knowledge and functions off the highest standard it knows.
How much worse the world would be if it were not for the human conscience. To reject conscience is to reject God, for the conscience speaks on God’s behalf to lead and to guide man in the way he should or should not go. It is a rewarder of those who listen to it. It also warns a person about the consequences they face when they commit offences against it.5 Since it represents God and acts on His behalf in this way, it could be seen as a “Vice-Regent.”
A Vice-Regent is one who rules in the absence of a sovereign (king). Acting as a Vice Regent, the conscience exercises its authority by summons, calling a person to account, as in a court of law. It calls the court in God’s name and acts for Him in passing judgment. As a witness is called upon to give evidence, so our conscience either speaks on our behalf (defends) or condemns (accuses) us for our guilt.6 If our conscience condemns us, then God condemns us, for God is greater than even our conscience, knowing all things. On the other hand, if our conscience acquits us, then God also acquits us.7 Knowing He accepts us, gives us the inner confidence to embrace suffering or pain when necessary in doing what we know is right.8 The conscience also communicates to our own heart that an eternal reward is awaiting us for persistence in doing what is good — our struggle is not in vain.9
Because a person’s heart is revealed by his actions, people will be judged by their deeds: whether they obeyed or disregarded their conscience.10 Disobeying this inner voice of conscience is serious, because there are eternal consequences for doing so, just as there are repercussions in this life for our actions. It is a true saying that “as a man sows, so shall he reap.” Why then do we not use our better judgment to judge the evil that we have done and turn and do the good we know to be true?
A person who lives by his conscience instinctively lives by an Everlasting Covenant with God, his Creator (also referred to as the Second Covenant11). All men are born with a good conscience. As we grow up, we are responsible to make the right choices with the good conscience we were born with. A person makes choices based upon what fills the heart. Whatever fills the heart overflows into one’s actions and deeds.12 The heart is connected to the will of a person. What motivates someone in making decisions is revealed in his will. The heart is the deciding factor in his life, in much the same way as a judge decides his verdict once evidence is presented. The only problem is that we often betray our better judgment and end up acting as an unjust judge. Each time we compromise, our conscience records the guilt.
Many could not care less about honoring the good they know in their conscience. As a result they commit deeds that express the rejection of it. They will not go unpunished for doing what they knew was wrong. Every man and woman is responsible for the judgments he makes — good or bad. If it were not for conscience, man would have no accountability. That fact of accountability demands reckoning in judgment. The conscience calls for justice — that the records be cleared.
The conscience urges you to do right or make amends if you do wrong. It gives you a feeling of either innocence or guilt, depending on the choice you make. Certainly sin affects the conscience, but someone with a functioning conscience hates sin and does what he can to rectify the hurt he causes.
Our conscience is naturally sensitive. Though it has authority to direct a person’s life it can also be easily silenced by him.13 The conscience has no power to force anyone to obey it. It only declares what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil. The choice is left up to us. Where do we stand? On this basis of free choice, the Creator is able to make a righteous judgment upon all of mankind. If we desire to fulfill the evil within us, rather than choose the good we know to be true, we condemn ourselves in judgment. We end up violating (silencing) our conscience and suppressing the truth within us.14 If this happens, it is our own fault, not God’s. We defile (make dirty) our conscience by choosing the evil we know is wrong over doing the good we know is right.15 If we continue to suppress the truth within us, we become hard internally and are eventually given over to doing what is evil.16 Persisting in doing what is evil sears (brands, makes callous) our consciences.17
Of course, this present society has tried to make the human conscience “out of date.” As we live on in this society, actively taking on its spirit, our conscience gets more and more persuaded to give in to the popular trends. As we go time and time against our better judgment, it results in greater and greater guilt. We descend to a lower standard of human life. We go from being A-grade to “D-graded.” We end up exchanging the higher truth we had in our conscience for a lie.
Some have descended to their lower nature to do what is evil and unfit for humans to do. These people are “given over” to a depraved mind. They were not born this way, but chose to give up the struggle of obeying their conscience. They did not see it worthwhile any longer to maintain any agreement with their conscience.18 They have become something other than what they were originally created to be. They chose to give themselves over, regardless of all the warnings of their conscience, to degrading passions and lusts. They receive in their own personalities the due recompense of their evil.19 God is just; He restrained them as much as possible through the help of their conscience, but they persisted in doing what they knew was evil. The inner voice of conscience ends up being destroyed (for evil knows no limits or boundaries). Once you pass through one boundary it is always easier to pass through another and then another and another until... you lose your fear of God altogether — thus, your fear of punishment.20
Only when the “candle” goes out21 do people plunge themselves to such irreparable depths of sin and degradation — the point of no return.
Only when the candle goes out is there complete darkness and one becomes base — worthless and devoid of any good. In this state, the conscience becomes dysfunctional (non-working). One no longer acknowledges or senses the fact or even the feeling of guilt. Instead, its silence is implied as support of evil. It defends you when you do wrong and accuses you when you do right. 22 This is an evil (perverse, twisted, dysfunctional) conscience. Though guilt is a fact and not a feeling, only those still connected to conscience can sense the grief and anguish of their sin.
Despite the fact that most have descended to their lower nature, many can still feel and acknowledge the guilt of their conscience. They have not yet rejected conscience totally, but are living on the edge, testing the boundaries. They can still be rescued before they are sealed in their eternal destiny. It all depends on whether they can still hear enough to respond to that inner voice of conscience and obey its commands.
A “good” conscience is a functional, not dysfunctional one. “Good” does not mean perfect, but it maintains a healthy ability to function properly. It is not “out of order,” but remains in order, with the accuracy of setting clear standards. There is a life-long struggle ahead for anyone who desires to live by a good conscience. Those who persevere in doing what is good will suffer in this life. They are willing to pay the price for it. They regard the rewards of a good conscience of greater worth than any of the indulgences their lower nature would compel them to explore. They have been trained to discern good from evil — right from wrong — and take hope in the reward of a better life after death.23 They fear God and believe He is a rewarder of those who give thanks and acknowledge Him. These are the righteous people of the earth. They consistently choose to do what is right and fair. The fruit of their life is obvious. They do not easily succumb to cheap and worthless deeds of self-debasement. They have integrity and are discerning, not fearing to stand up for what they know is right and good. That is why people who truly live by the covenant of conscience are not easily deceived by the lie (that there are only two eternal destinies) and the hypocrisy of man-made religion.