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Friday, July 13, 2012 | Comments (3)

by John MacArthur

Your conscience is like the nerve endings in your fingertips. Its sensitivity to external stimuli can be damaged by the buildup of callouses or even wounded so badly that it loses feeling altogether. Paul wrote repeatedly about the grave dangers of a calloused conscience (1 Corinthians 8:10), a wounded conscience (1 Corinthians 8:12), and a seared conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).

Psychopaths, serial killers, pathological liars, and other people who seem to lack any moral sense are extreme examples of people who have ruined or desensitized their consciences. But can such people really sin without remorse or scruples? If so, it’s only because they have ravaged their own consciences through immorality and lawlessness. They certainly weren’t born devoid of any conscience. The conscience is an inextricable part of the human soul. Though it may be hardened, cauterized, or numbed into apparent dormancy, the conscience continues to store up evidence that will one day be used as testimony to condemn the guilty soul.

Richard Sibbes pictured the conscience as a court in the council of the human heart. In Sibbes’s imagery, the conscience itself assumes every role in the courtroom drama. It’s a register to record what we have done in exact detail (Jeremiah 17:1). It’s the accuser that lodges a complaint against us when we are guilty, and a defender to side with us in our innocence (Romans 2:15). It acts as a witness, giving testimony for or against us (2 Corinthians 1:12). It’s the judge, condemning or vindicating us (1 John 3:20-21). And it is the executioner, smiting us with grief when our guilt is discovered (1 Samuel 24:5). Sibbes compared the chastisement of a violated conscience to "a flash of hell."1Richard Sibbes, Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chapter 1, in Alexander B. Grosart, ed., Works of Richard Sibbes, 7 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1981 reprint), 3:210-211.

The conscience is privy to all our secret thoughts and motives. It is therefore a more accurate and more formidable witness in the soul’s courtroom than any external observer. Those who gloss over an accusing conscience in favor of a human counselor’s reassurances are playing a deadly game. Ill thoughts and motives may escape the eye of a human counselor, but they cannot escape the eye of conscience. Nor will they escape the eye of an all-knowing God. When such people are summoned to final judgment, their own conscience will be fully aware of every violation and will step forward as a witness against them.

Rampant, unchecked sin can temporarily numb and quiet the witness of your guilt. But only true, biblical justification can permanently quiet the condemnation of your conscience.

Christ’s atonement fully satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness, so forgiveness and mercy are guaranteed to those who receive Christ in humble, repentant faith. We accept the responsibility for our sin and believe that in the death of Christ our sin is forgiven.

But we continue to confess our sin so that the Lord can cleanse our conscience and give us joy. That is how “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse[s] your conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). In other words, our faith communicates to our conscience that we are pardoned through the precious blood of Christ.

A sound conscience therefore goes hand in hand with assurance of salvation (Hebrews 10:22). The steadfast believer must maintain the proper focus of faith in order to have a conscience that is perpetually being cleansed from guilt: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

What a gift it is to be cleansed from a defiled conscience! In the same way that a grieved conscience is a flash of hell, so a pure conscience is a foretaste of glory.

It’s the Christian’s high and holy duty to guard the purity of his regenerated conscience. Don’t let unchecked sin silence, stifle, or desensitize your conscience. Keep it soft and effective through faithful confession and careful self-examination.

(Adapted from The Vanishing Conscience.)


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#1  Posted by Brian Seay  |  Friday, July 13, 2012 at 2:26 AM

Having a calloused and hardened conscience is scary to experience. I have experienced it first-hand by letting my sins go unchecked, silencing it with entertainment and things of this world and allowing my sin to build up one by one. But I have to say it's the grace of God that has opened my eyes to the sins that I have committed and showed me the horror of an unfeeling conscience. Aside from an unfeeling conscience that doesn't see sin for what it truly is, even if it's not unfeeling and you are convicted of sin the conscience is defiled. There are times in which having a defiled conscience has taken away a good night's rest and has bothered me from time to time throughout the day.

I said this many times before, if I had to choose between riches and wealth versus having little money but having a cleansed conscience I would choose the latter. You've heard the saying that money can't buy happiness . . . . well all the money in the world can't give you a clean conscience.

#2  Posted by Georgina Simmons  |  Friday, July 13, 2012 at 6:27 AM

Thanks so much for this amazing writing on the conscience. Its really very simply explained and I especially loved the illustration by Richard Sibbes where he portrays 'the conscience as a court in the council of the human heart', its a power packed example to highlight the need for a pure conscience... I will discuss this with the group of young people (in the age group 17 to 20) that meet up in my house for the weekly prayer meeting as this will be an encouragement and a learning for them... thanks John your resources have been a source of inspiration and learning for me as a individual in my spiritual walk, and to my students who come for the weekly prayer meeting... may God continue to bless you and your ministry...


Coimbatore, India

#5  Posted by David Busscher  |  Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Great Blog.

The consciense is the alarm of the soul, like pain is for the body.

This great blog reminded me of the last 20 minutes of the ''hacking Agag to pieces'' sermon ( search; agag and you will find the sermon).

God used that sermon to open my eyes and pull me out a downward spiral of sin.

I wish Gods blessings on the GTY ministry.