•••by Russell Young
The Word of God often speaks of the need to be led by the Spirit in order for a person to be eternally saved. How does the Spirit lead? The answer is that God uses a person’s conscience to guide him or her. The conscience is really God consciousness within the believer. Where the conscious is strong, that person has a strong awareness of the presence of God. Where it is weak, the bearer has only a weak or limited knowledge of God’s presence.
Following the believer’s confession of faith and of Christ’s lordship, the new believer is given the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead in obedience to the Word and will of God. Regarding the Spirit Christ said, “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (Jn 16:7-8, NIV) Conviction takes place through a person’s conscience, and the conviction of the world of sin applies to all sinful activity-its practice in the lost and its practice in God’s children.
A person’s conscience is his moral consciousness. And the writer of Hebrews has recorded that it is the Spirit that cleanses our conscience or moral consciousness from interest in performing those acts which lead to death. (Heb 9:14) The result should be that a person’s awareness or consciousness of those immoral acts which might tempt him or her should alert them concerning the danger before them. The Old Covenant Israelites did not enjoy the privilege of the Counselor to guide them but had to rely upon the law and their own sinful nature in order to live righteously. They could not do it. The conscience not only alerts the believer of dangerous temptations but also disturbs him or her when sin has occurred so that the sinner, including the believer, might repent and seek forgiveness for cleansing by the blood of Christ. (1 Jn 1:9)
The Holy Spirit uses the conscience to reveal dissonance between God’s Word and will and the believer’s heart and practices. Paul was able to boast that he kept his conscience clear. “Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.” (2 Cor 1:12, NIV) John stated, “If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God…because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (1 Jn 3:21-22, NIV)
The Holy Spirit is active in the lives of believers. He enlightens them to sin and alarms them when it occurs. Without his ministry in this regard, transformation into a holy mind and the development of righteous practices could not occur. When the conscience is troubled a person can know that he or she is acting outside, or about to act outside, the will of God. The conscience is the warning bell.
The Spirit, or warning bell, can be quenched, however. (1 Thess 5:19) That is, by consciously and repeatedly ignoring the Spirit’s alerts the heart will become hardened to the issue involved and the alert will no longer be heard. The development of a sensitive Spirit or strong God consciousness is the most important tool the believer has to aid in living a righteous life.
Repeated quenching of the Spirit can lead to the conscience becoming seared; that is, a person’s conscience will no longer work to reveal sin and he or she will a become hypocritical liar. “The Spirit clearly says that in the later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teaching comes through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as by a hot iron.” (1 Tim 4:1-2, NIV) A seared conscience leads to powerlessness, and to an unholy walk and possibly to the abandonment of faith. Special care should be taken not to sear the conscience concerning “pet” sins. The sins that a person has a tendency to rationalize or excuse. The believer is to be careful to follow the Spirit’s leading if he or she is to remain faithful and develop the holiness that leads to eternal salvation. (Heb. 12:14)
In respect to the Spirit’s leading, it must be remembered that each person is God’s masterpiece or workmanship. (Eph 2:10) He is working to make them a sacrifice acceptable for God’s kingdom. (Rom 15:16) Christ said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.” (Jn 10:27, NIV) The Lord’s sheep or children will listen to and follow him, and when they do they will be conformed to the likeness of his Son. (Rom 8:29)
The Spirit uses the Word of God to enlighten the believer in regard to sin and righteous living and the Spirit instructs the conscience. Those who neglect to bathe themselves in God’s Word will be unable to effectively fight the battle against sin and to achieve his or her necessary transformation. In his study the believer has a responsibility and the privilege of knowing the heart of God on all manner of issues. The conscience is God’s operative tool consequently, the believer should develop and protect it.