I know I grew up watching Disney’s Pinocchio and remember seeing Jiminy Cricket talk about how he was Pinocchio’s conscience. If only life was so simple and we all had a little cricket telling us what we should or shouldn’t do. It still didn’t work out very well for Pinocchio in the movie of course, as even Jiminy Cricket couldn’t keep him out of trouble. Likewise, for people today, trying to listen to your conscience isn’t going to keep you out of trouble and help you to only make the right decisions. Instead, this Bible study suggests that we all need to fix our conscious and follow the Holy Spirit to make the best decisions. The Bible Study below will help you teach these ideas in your next study.

Bible Study on Conscience is a Poor Guide

We’re often led by conscience in our culture. I’ve got the money, why shouldn’t I buy it? It’s not hurting anybody else, why shouldn’t I do this? So long as we’re ok with something, it’s not illegal, and it doesn’t hurt anyone else, the standards we’ve got from our culture say “go for it.”

Now, we know conscience is a poor guide, but we use it anyway. We know that just because we feel ok about hitting back when we ought to turn the other cheek, that doesn’t make it ok. On the other side of things, we also know that just because someone laid a guilt trip on us that doesn’t mean that the right thing to do is spend time doing whatever they want us to rather than spend time at church or with our families. Or guilt trips about the environment.

The Bible talks a lot about keeping a clear conscience. But does that mean that I am ok to do whatever I like so long as I’ve got a clear conscience? Or does that mean that if something is bothering my conscience it’s definitely the right thing to do? Give some examples.

We need to repair our consciences first, retrain them and refocus them, and then we can rely on them as guides. Heb 10:22.

The conscience is going to OK whatever it’s focused on. The Germans were focused on reclaiming their pride after the Treaty of Versailles, and so a lot of things that were obviously wrong to the rest of the world, like taking part of Chech, seemed right and good to them. So if you’re focused on having that nice car and that nice house, your conscious is probably going to OK you working longer hours than you should (ahem) or if you’re focused on keeping the approval of others, your conscience is not going to bother you like it should when someone asks you to do something you know you probably shouldn’t (as simple as hanging out with the boys when you haven’t seen your wife all week). So change what you’re focused on and that’s the first step to fixing your conscience.

This raises the question, however, how do we do this? By what means are our evil, guilty consciences cleansed and made into the good guides God intended them to be? By refocusing our hearts on God, and by retraining them through the Bible and the Holy Spirit (HS).

There’s a difference between conscience and the leading of the HS, however. You can do some awful things and just feel great about them. It happens all the time. Watch a movie sometime and you’ll see it; heck, watch the right kind of movie and you’ll experience it!

Your conscience is valuable, but it’s not God.

Some people say, it’s nice that you have this ability to hear the HS pastor, that’s what we pay you for, but I don’t think that’s for us rank and file Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth! Present this as a question: Many prophets and disciples heard the voice of the HS and acted in ways that weren’t in accord with their consciences (Peter, Paul, Jeremiah, etc).

Others say, God told me what you should do. Beware! Test such a one!

Intro: (above)

1: Let Conscience be Your Guide:

1 Timothy 3:8-9 8 Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.

Q: How important is keeping a clear conscience here? Does this mean that if your conscience is leading you, you should follow? Does that mean that if something is bothering my conscience it’s definitely the right thing to do?

1 Peter 3:15-16 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Q: What does a clear conscience here indicate? (good behavior) But does that mean that I am ok to do whatever I like so long as I’ve got a clear conscience?

So the Bible says to keep a clear conscience. Big surprise. How do we normally do this? Does that always work out for the best? Ever done anything your conscience was fine with but was really dumb? Or ever been guilt tripped into doing something that wasn’t the best thing you could have been doing by trying to keep a clear conscience? For most of us, conscience is actually a crappy guide. (for all of these verses there’s an assumption, I believe, that these are people whose consciences are renewed, not broken.)

2: Conscience is broken; how do we fix it?

Q: Why is conscience such a bad guide?

Solution 1: refocus (more Hebrews?)

Hebrews 10:22 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Q: What does this verse say about our conscience? How do we fix it?

1 John 3:18-20 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

Q: what does this tell you about a good conscience? How do you get one? (2 ways, do what’s right and rely on God, who is greater than our hearts) (do what’s right and let that act as proof to your heart that you’re redeemed)

Solution 2: retrain using the Bible; 2 Tim 3:16

1 Corinthians 10:25-27 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” 27 If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience.

Q: What does this tell you about conscience? If your heart tells you something different than the Bible, what should you do?

2 Timothy 3:15-17 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Q: What does this say about how to be guided?

Solution 3: retrain using the HS

Isaiah 48:17 17 This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

John 10:4 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

Abraham, Paul, Moses each went in a way their consciences wouldn’t have led them because God sent them that way. Mt. Moriah, the road to Damascus (where Paul thought he was doing God a favor), back to Egypt after decades, each of these was a good decision that wouldn’t have been reached by following conscience. You can’t figure this out, but you have to be given it then train it.

; establish this is for all God’s children, show the difference between this and conscience (and the superiority) and offer 1 next step (start doing what you hear).

Doing what God tells you to, and letting that be your internal judge, seems good to me. I’ll be honest, this is new material for me and it’s difficult.

Hebrews 5:13 – 6:1 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

What do we mean when we say “let your conscious be your guide?” What do we mean by “conscious”? What is that? (it’s a little voice inside your head that tells you if what you’re doing is right or wrong, or at least that’s our cultural conception)

So conscious is that little voice inside you that guides you. Sound familiar? This gets us to being led by the Holy Spirit, and to what extent this is a good idea.

I should probably mention (though don’t have to) that we sometimes use this leading by the HS as a cop out of the hard work of making a difficult decision, baptizing our laziness or our fear. We also sometimes are deceived (2 Cor 11) into making really dumb choices. There’s a time to follow your feelings as encouragement from God and a time to reject them as evil. Knowing when is the rub (or knowing how to connect with them).

What’s the controversy? The one I see is the argument about feelings and to what extent we should listen to them. I assume that others want to say, listen to the Bible. .

I think there’s a controversy in the church about feelings and being guided by our feelings. This is just another term for conscious. Some would say your feelings are not at all trustworthy, and some would say that God primarily speaks to us through our feelings (after all, God told Abraham something contradictory to the scriptures, assuming he knew of what came before him in Gen 9)

Feelings are a great guide if your heart is 100% focused on God, otherwise they’re a great guide to whatever your heart is focused on.

What does the Bible say about this? There’s all of the led by the voice of God passages, I think there are a few places where it talks about our consciouses being seared, which to me means scarred so that they’re unfeeling, and then I could wrap it up on the “so long as it doesn’t contradict the Bible” bit, although I don’t actually believe that, given the example of Abraham.

Possible bible verses:

That one in Paul: I don’t know of anything aginst myself but am not thereby cleared.

1 Cor 8 (similar to Rom 14) – basically conscience is a poor guide because there’s no need for one, lol. A “weak” conscience is one that sees sin where none exists.

Wounding another’s conscience is considered a sin

1 Cor 10:25ff, don’t listen to your conscience in matters where you know what the Bible says. If the Bible says it’s ok, it’s ok. Is the opposite also true? Probably: if you know that the Bible says it’s wrong, it’s still wrong no matter what your conscience says.

1 Timothy 1:19 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.

This says that keeping a good conscience is paramount to keeping the faith. I think what this means is basically not muscling ahead when you feel that what you’re doing is wrong, even if your head says it’s ok.

What clears the conscience?

Hebrews 9:9 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.

Jesus does.

God leading us:

Psalm 143:10 10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Isaiah 48:17 17 This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

Galatians 5:18 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law (what does that mean?)

Ephesians 4:30 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Romans 14:23 23 But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

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