Have you ever ‘believed’ God would do something but still been disappointed when you didn’t receive what you hoped for? Have you ever shown half-hearted faith and, somehow, still saw God work? Why did faith work one time and not the other? Is it possible that God’s Will is for something to happen but our lack of faith keeps it from happening? Are there times when God works apart from our faith– meaning, times when our faith isn’t required for God to act? And does that mean that God is completely unpredictable and arbitrary in how He acts? Is the Christian life a complete “wild card?” Does God want us to be completely confused about one of the most important issues in the Christian life or are there things we can know?
It’s not that faith always makes sense, but nor is it that faith never makes sense…it’s that it sometimes makes sense.
Faith in the Christian life requires that we think about these issues. We should live out the Christian life, but we also need to reflect on it, to think deeply about issues of faith. Metacognition is thinking about how you think, the mind reflecting upon itself, being aware of your cognitive processes, and understanding one’s own thought patterns.
As humans, created in God’s image, we are capable of personal reflection and analysis. As Socrates taught, we should know ourselves. Failing to think about faith and about ourselves doesn’t mean that there are not issues we need to understand. Just as being ignorant of scientific laws, like the law of gravity, doesn’t mean that they don’t apply to us. Likewise, failing to understand how the laws of faith work doesn’t exempt us from understanding them either.
Generally, does God want me to understand how He works? Yes! God “made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel” (Psalm 103:7).
God wants you and I to think about our faith, to deeply ponder and contemplate issues and laws of our faith. To better understand the role and importance of faith, I encourage you to read Hebrews 11 this week. Read about faith in the lives of the ‘heroes’ of the Old Testament, and how the law of faith applies to us here and now.
I’m going to spend the next six weeks discussing faith, studying five foundational facts about faith, a psychology of faith, and how faith interacts with our mind and with our emotions. Faith is foundational and vital in our Christian lives and is something that all Christians should take the time to think about.
Even after two weeks discussing what the conscience is and how it works, some of you may still not know why understanding your conscience is important. To conclude my series on the conscious, I’ll address this issue and how to apply what I’ve been talking about the past two weeks.
Now, Why Does It Matter?
You might say, “So what?” Who cares? Here’s why it matters how you live. IT’S JUST YOUR LIFE.
You’re either going to be happy in life or you’re not. MOST PEOPLE I KNOW AREN’T VERY HAPPY IN LIFE. They lost the battle of the soul— they didn’t obey their conscience when they were your age…
Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old & no longer enjoy living.”
The bottom line: There are only two sides to the coin of life: Joy and Joyless. You’ll be one or the other. Joy comes from obedience to God (1 Timothy 6:6). Joylessness comes from disobedience (Psalm 32:1). Which one you’ll be depends on whether or not you obey your conscience.
Let me close with a story that shows how important this is…
Earlier I said that the conscience is your soul’s automatic warning system. Planes have automatic warning systems too.
In 1984 a jet crashed for no apparent reason. The plane was flying in the dark and the pilot was unable to see. That meant he had no sense of where he was and couldn’t get his bearings. But that shouldn’t have mattered, because planes fly in darkness all the time. That’s why they have devices that tell them their altitude: so they don’t fly too low or in the wrong direction.
During the night, air controllers lost contact with the pilot and it was later discovered that the plane had crashed. During the investigation, the cockpit voice recorder was found, and officials made an eerie discovery:
On the recording, they could hear the computerized voice of the airplane, warning him, saying: “Pull Up, Warning… Pull Up.” You see, the pilot was flying too low.
But the pilot, didn’t listen to the voice of warning; he thought the gauges were malfunctioning. On the tape, the pilot is heard several times telling the computer to “Shut up.” Finally, the pilot got tired of listening to the warning and just turned it off.
Minutes later the plane crashed. Everyone died.
What’s the point?
The point is that just like a plane has a warning system that is designed to keep passengers safe, the soul has a warning system designed to keep us safe spiritually, and that system is called the conscience.
But many times, we get tired of listening to our consciences, so we don’t. We tell them to shut up and try to turn them off.
Here’s my challenge: Be conscious of your conscience. It’s something God gave to help you, not to hassle you..
Last week, we began our discussion of the conscience with a definition of what the conscience is, its role is and presence in all people. The conscience is different than the Holy Spirit in Christians. This week we’ll discuss how the conscience actually works.
How Does Your Conscience Work?
Our conscience works in conjunction with our souls, and I’m going to show you how.
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” –1 Thessalonians 5:23-24–
God’s desire for us as Christians is to be Sanctified or made holy, “through and through” or “in every way.” What does that mean? God wants us to be completely committed to Him in every way… in every part of our humanity: body, soul and spirit.
Here’s how that works: don’t miss this!
We win or lose the battle of holiness in our soul. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.”
The soul is the battlefield of good and evil. Well…. what is your soul? Your soul includes your mind, emotions and will (Deuteronomy 4:29; 6:4; etc.). It consists of what you think, what you feel, and what you do. And if we are going to become holy, we’ve got to win that battle in the soul.
If we THINK like God wants us to, FEEL like God wants us to and DECIDE how God wants us to, then we’ll become holy. If we don’t THINK, FEEL and MAKE DECISIONS like God wants, we’ll stay carnal and live unhappy, defeated Christian lives.
The problem: There’s a war going on inside of us!
In our bodies, bodily appetites want us to sin. Our spirit wants us to be holy. And our souls are trapped in the middle, fighting a battle. Here’s how the Apostle Paul explained it in Romans 7:21-23:“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind (in the soul) and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
As you know from personal experience, we want to fight the good fight, but sometimes our soul has a hard time doing the right thing without some help. That’s a reason that God gave us a conscience.
When we’re faced with a decision and the battle begins: Thoughts go through your mind. Feelings go through your emotions. And options are presented to your will and your will makes a choice, good or bad. That’s why God gave us a conscience: To help encourage us to do the right thing. As your will is making a decision, your conscience kicks in to help you.
That’s why every decision you make triggers a response from your conscience: When we consistently make good decisions, our conscience defends us— and we feel joy, self-respect, peace, happiness and dignity. It feels good. It’s what the Bible calls a good/clear conscience (Hebrews 13:18; 1 Peter 3:16-21). When we consistently make bad decisions and violate our internal standard of right and wrong, our conscience accuses us— and we feel a sense of shame, regret, disgrace and fear. Those bad feelings are what God is using to convict us, so we’ll live the way He wants us to. It’s what the Bible calls a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22).
That’s how your conscience works.
“Hello. This is your conscience speaking….”
Just kidding. But if your conscience was speaking to you, what would it say?
Over the next three weeks, I’m going to talk to you about being conscious of your conscience. I want you to consciously think about your conscience.
We’re going to talk about three issues: What your conscience is, how it works, and why it matters.
What Is Your Conscience?
Let me begin by telling you what it is and what it isn’t—
1. Conscience is a “human thing,” it’s not something that plants & animals possess
God only gave human beings a conscience. Only people are capable of ‘moral choices’. You can’t sue a kitty cat or execute a gerbil for doing something wrong. Plants never “feel guilty”. They don’t have a conscience, so they don’t “feel” anything. When my wife’s marigolds died this summer, they weren’t depressed… they were just ‘dead.’ Animals can’t sin. Since my dog Hugo doesn’t have a conscience, he doesn’t FEEL BAD when he leaves my carpet a gift from his lower intestines. Plants and animals just don’t have a conscience, it’s a “human” thing.
2. Though the conscience is a “human thing,” it’s not just a “Christian” thing
Romans 2:14-15 tells us that everyone has a conscience, Christian or not. The conscience is a good thing, but it isn’t the best thing. It isn’t the same thing as the Holy Spirit or voice of God. All people have a conscience, but only Christians have the Holy Spirit too. Those who aren’t Christians only have their conscience, which is helpful, but not nearly as helpful in making right decisions as having God Himself living inside of you. The Holy Spirit works in believers by echoing God’s Will and acting as God’s Voice to Christians… but to Christians only.
Let me give you a simple description of the Conscience (mentioned 30 times in NT). It’s your soul’s “automatic warning system,” like a warning light on your car’s dashboard or on the computer. It’s automatic, like your body’s involuntary actions of breathing and blinking. You don’t have to even think about it… it just reacts to the stimuli it encounters.