How does my conscience differ from the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
By Dr. Charles Stanley
The conscience functions something like a computer. A computer is programmed to respond in specific ways to specific information. Also, it responds to information based on the commands it has been programmed to follow.
When you click your word processing application, your computer knows which program to open. For the most part, computers are simply responders.
The conscience is a responder as well. It responds to certain input just as it has been programmed. Paul described it like this: “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:14, 15).
God has programmed His moral code into the heart of every man and woman. We are born with it. When a person’s actions or thoughts violate that code, the conscience responds by sending a “No” message to the brain. On the other hand, when the act or thought goes along with the preprogrammed moral code, the conscience says, “Go.”
Notice that Paul says our thoughts sometimes point out the legitimacy of certain actions. When that happens, if the actions line up with the law of God written in our hearts, the conscience gives us the go- ahead.
When you became a Christian, a change began to occur in your conscience. The basic moral code that everyone has at birth started to be overhauled. The Spirit of truth took up residency in your heart. Then, whether you were aware of it or not, He immediately set about to reprogram your conscience. Whereas before you had a general sense of right and wrong, the Holy Spirit began renewing your mind to more specific and complete truths (1 Cor. 2:10–13).
You participate in this renewal process every time you read your Bible, attend worship, memorize a verse, or pray. The Holy Spirit uses all this input to reprogram the database through which your conscience evaluates every opportunity, thought, invitation, word, and deed.
As this process continues, your conscience tunes in with the moral code of the Holy Spirit—a code reflecting the moral and ethical standards of God. This process sensitizes you not only to God’s moral standards but also to the will of God.
Adapted from "The Charles F. Stanley’s Life Principles Bible," 2008.
A conscience is a gift from God, one that gives us the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong. And it only works well if it's been shaped and developed by parents, elders, teachers, and friends who’ve influenced us as godly role models. (Watch Can Your Conscience Be Your Guide?)
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