God created us all with a conscience. In fact in a very real sense, particularly for those who are Jesus followers, your conscience is the voice of God. But we need to be careful because the Bible tells us we are able to harden our hearts (picture a dried up, hard old orange). When that happens we are unable to recognize that voice, or maybe twist it to say what we want hear. The Bible says by letting go of a good conscience we can shipwreck faith. So how do we guard against that? Let me tell you what I’ve learned from experience.
My second job out of college was head wrangler at a Bible Camp north of Edmonton. I ran the horsemanship program there. To save on always having to adjust my stirrups I chose a saddle to use from the ones they had there. Almost no one else who’s ever sat in the one I picked has found it very comfortable, but it fit me well and so became the one I always used.
When we moved on from that camp I looked at that saddle and thought, boy I’m really going to need a saddle. No one else likes this one and I’ve used it so long and it’s broke in to fit me it’s essentially mine anyway. Besides, I deserve it. They didn’t pay me very well and I’ve earned it. So I packed it in with our things.
About 18 months and two moves later I was preparing a sermon, and I don’t even remember what the topic was, but in the process my conscience (God) convicted me that I had stolen that saddle and I needed to make it right before I preached the sermon. I called the camp and confessed to the director. He was very gracious and forgave me and even gifted the saddle to me.
From that experience I’ve learned a couple of cues that will warn you that you may be on course for a shipwreck.
When you start to convince yourself you really need this or that you must have your way; when you tell yourself you’re owed or you deserve it; or when you blame someone else for this need your conscience is likely beginning to dry and wither and harden. At that moment stop! Stop and ask God to soften your heart.
One more key thought: A clear conscience is not gained by just not sinning anymore but only by dealing appropriately when you do sin. And that begins with confession to God and forgiveness through Jesus’ blood shed for you.