How Reliable Is Your Conscience?

God didn’t give you a conscience so that you would disregard it or distrust it

No one’s conscience perfectly matches God’s will in this life. Nevertheless, we believe that you should generally always follow your conscience. “Generally always?” Yes, that’s the general rule, so that’s what we should emphasize.

 

The Importance of Maintaining A Good Conscience

Martin Luther believed that maintaining a good conscience was worth going to prison for and even dying for. That great Reformer discovered in the Bible that God justifies sinners by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. The Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Luther and demanded that he recant his writings, but at Luther’s hearing before the Diet of Worms, he refused to go against his conscience, even if it meant death: “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”[1]

Luther offers a timeless principle: You should maintain a good conscience even if it means you’ll suffer prison or death. It’s that important. And that’s why it’s so important that you learn how your conscience works and how you may need to adjust it. It would be a shame to go to prison or die because you held a conviction based on a misinformed conscience.

Is Your Conscience Perfectly Reliable?

No one’s conscience perfectly matches God’s will in this life. Nevertheless, we believe that you should generally always follow your conscience. “Generally always?” Yes, that’s the general rule, so that’s what we should emphasize. God didn’t give you a conscience so that you would disregard it or distrust it. Romans 14:22b–23 teaches that a person who lives according to their conscience is “blessed.” So the general principle, especially for Christians who have the Holy Spirit and the holy Scripture, is that you should listen to and obey your conscience. As a general rule, you should assume that your conscience is reliable, even if it isn’t perfect. And since conscience is usually right, the Bible says that we should do what our conscience says until we are convinced from Scripture that it needs adjusting.

But your conscience is not identical to the voice of God. That voice in your head is not necessarily what God would say. So how do you cultivate a conscience that aligns with God’s voice?

Read More