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Can You Trust Your Conscience?

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

1 Timothy 1:5-7

“Let your conscience be your guide.” This bit of folk wisdom seems to make sense because our conscience is designed to help us discern right from wrong. However, people cannot always trust their internal radar to steer them correctly; this is the case particularly with unbelievers, who don’t have the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and offer guidance for wise decisions. And while Christians do have God’s indwelling Spirit, they should be careful not to harbor sin, as that can interfere with the way their morality sensors function.

For a conscience to be trustworthy, it must be programmed with scriptural teaching. Believers build a stable and sensitive spiritual radar system by applying God’s truth to their life. They are committed to thinking and acting in ways that honor and please the Lord. Then, when sinful thoughts or choices come across that radar, it will deliver a sharp warning.

Those with a reliable conscience will have a strong desire to obey God. Instead of settling for what feels right or looks good, they seek the Lord’s will. In other words, they do not rely solely on their conscience but incorporate all of the Holy Spirit’s tools—including Scripture and prayer—into their daily activities. Moreover, when their spiritual radar sounds the alarm, they are quick to draw back and reject unwise choices.

A conscience isn’t designed to be our guide; it is a tool of the Guide. The Holy Spirit not only convicts us of sin, but He also brings to mind godly principles and leads us on a righteous path. He uses a variety of tools to conform us to the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Charles Stanley

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