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The Power of the Conscience

Training our children to listen to their conscience is an important part of following the Lord. But I find parents woefully ignorant of this important area for their own life and for helping their children.

The following is a quick overview of the conscience by Kevin DeYoung in The Hole in Our Holiness . Those points in bold are my emphasis.

We don’t think about the conscience as much as we should. But the Bible has more to say about the “little voice in your head” than you might think. One of the great blessings of justification is a clean conscience before God. The accusations of the Devil can be silenced by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:10–11; cf. Rom. 8:1; Zech. 3:2).

But even after we’ve been reconciled to God, we must pay attention to our consciences. According to Romans 2:15, we all have the law written on our hearts so that our consciences can either accuse or excuse us. God speaks to us through the conscience, and when we ignore that voice we put ourselves in grave danger.

Of course, the conscience is not infallible. We can have an evil conscience that doesn’t turn away from sin (Heb. 10:22). We can have a seared conscience that no longer feels bad for evil (1 Tim. 4:2). We can have a weak conscience that feels bad for things that aren’t really bad (1 Cor. 8:7–12). And we can have a defiled conscience that loses its ability to discern right from wrong (Titus 1:15).8 The conscience is no substitute for the Bible and must never be in opposition to it.

But a good conscience is a gift from God. As we pursue holiness we must always be mindful of God’s voice speaking to us through a tender conscience informed by the Word of God. It will lead us not into temptation and will deliver us from evil.

It’s critical that the Christian’s conscience be clean. That’s why Paul said, “I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24:16). He often mentioned the testimony of his conscience as his “boast” and as an indication of his moral uprightness (Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 4:2). Paul recognized he could be wrong in his self-assessment, but it was important to him not to be aware of anything against himself (1 Cor. 4:4).

When we violate our sense of right and wrong, even if the action in itself is not sinful, we are guilty of sin. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). That means, if you don’t believe what you are doing is acceptable, then it’s not acceptable for you to do it. You must not ignore your conscience.

Suppose you grew up thinking alcohol was wrong. I mean, always wrong, like, you’d rather drink Drano than Bud Light. But now you are at a church that says alcohol is not sinful, so long as you are of legal age and don’t drink to excess. What should you do? If you are convinced that the Bible approves of alcohol in moderation, then you are free to drink (1 Tim. 5:23; cf. John 2:1–11).9 But if it still feels dirty to you, you should abstain. Even if the Bible gives the green light, the red light in your conscience should not be transgressed. This is why passages like 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 and Romans 14 rebuke “strong conscience” Christians who lead “weak conscience” Christians to do things that feel wrong to them. The danger is that, if you violate your conscience in this matter (even though the action is not forbidden), you’ll learn to disobey your conscience in other matters.

The Hole in Our Holiness Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness (p. 42). Crossway. Kindle Edition.