What Does Conscience Have to Do with It Anyway? :: By Ron Ferguson



The following is a news item from a bone fide Australia Christian group – “The South Australian State Parliament (Australia) is poised to legalize abortion right up to the moment of birth, for effectively any reason. It also sets up exclusion zones to prevent expectant mothers from being offered support that might change their mind about an abortion.”

Abortion is when an unborn fetus is killed inside the mother and removed, or when it is taken from the mother then put to death. In either case, it is the murder of the unborn; murder of a defenseless human being, being denied justice for its own existence. Martin Luther King Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

How can politicians act like that to think it is correct to murder an unborn human being? Do they have any conscience about this? If so, what type of conscience does each one have? The purpose of this article is to share a few thoughts on CONSCIENCE.

As a Christian, if something arose and I was convinced to commit a fraud, or had a liaison with another female, or crashed into the back of an unoccupied car but fled the scene without leaving details or reporting it to police, then what happens? Do I get away with all that?

Firstly, some Christians might say that I am proposing a straw man, as a true Christian can’t do those things? I would disagree, and if you persisted, I would take you to King David and point out rape/adultery and murder. The sad thing is that all Christians are capable of failure to a greater or lesser extent. We all know that Christians fail, and if it becomes public knowledge, then the media and world are down on the person like a ton of bricks, trying to play the hypocritical line.

Christians are capable of sinning just as badly as the non-Christian in the world, but there is vast difference. Sinning, to an unredeemed sinner, is like water off a duck’s back. (More on that later.) Their sins resonate with a fallen sin nature, but they are behaving normally. It is normal for an unconverted person to lie, cheat, falsify, steal, sin sexually, get drunk, and behave in atrocious ways, and most don’t have any conscience about it anymore. We have all seen that, and some reading this probably lived that way before becoming Christians.

However, sinning for a genuine Christian is something different. A Christian who falls and sins has the witness of the Holy Spirit in the new nature to cause conviction, grief and guilt in a Christian’s life. He may carry that guilt around like David did for 9 months. However, there is a moral sense of failure and conviction of sin against the very Lord who owns that person. There is a complete lack of peace in his/her life, for there has come a division between the Lord and His servant. We are different as Christians – we are in God’s family, family members at His table.

Everyone has a conscience. In an earlier article, I wrote on “The Candle of Humanity,” where I pointed out that everyone has a candle as his moral compass, but it fails because we actually need the Light to see our way in the dark and to walk in the way.

The conscience in an unsaved person is either dead or greatly impaired. The conscience in a Christian has been enlivened, and he/she has a much greater sense of right and wrong and of morality.

A Christian in sin is convicted in his spirit and conscience by the Holy Spirit, who empowers the new nature we have in Christ. That conviction will lead to confession and restoration, which is the work of the Holy Spirit; for when He was sent by the Lord Jesus, the Lord said He would convict the world of sin, of righteousness and judgment. There is something very wrong when a professing Christian is away from the Lord year after year because, in that time, the conscience has grown cold, and all links with the Saviour appear to have died.

We must be so sensitive to the guiding and leading of the Holy Spirit.

Conviction and subsequent confession, which must be unreserved, leads to a restored joy and peace, and although it may seem a strange thing to say, some Christians are strengthened by the experience and walk closer to God than they formerly did. Remember what the Lord said to Peter before he denied Him about what he would do after he was restored.


In the great sin of David that was confronted for the first time in his confession in Psalm 51, after the visit of the prophet Nathan, we have a train of important steps. I really feel so sorry for David. My heart goes out to him with all my sympathy. His open sin and confession have been paraded in the Bible for 3,000 years for a gawking world to mock over, but for genuine Christians who have failed, it is the greatest blessing for them to identify with in their sin, and it almost becomes the fallen Christian’s prayer of restoration. David must have battled his conscience every day for those 9 months. We look at that for a while to see some of those steps that we need to make for ourselves in the matter of backsliding, unconfessed sin and restoration:

(NASB) Psalm 51:3 “for I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me.”

Psalm 51:4 “Against You, You only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight so that You are justified when You speak, and blameless when You judge.”

Psalm 51:6 “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.”

Psalm 51:7 “Purify me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Psalm 51:8 “Make me to hear joy and gladness. Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.”

Psalm 51:9 “Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.”

Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:11 “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”

Psalm 51:12 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.”

Psalm 51:13 “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You.”

  1. Admission of sin (full admission, not like Achan who hid some of the wickedness). Verse 3.
  2. Realization and confession that you have sinned against God alone (this is primary – others too are affected, but this must be between the sinner and his Lord). Verse 4.
  3. Recognition that God requires truth, for it is the truth that will set you free (truth in confession is the work of the Holy Spirit). Verse 6.
  4. Asking for cleansing, purification, and washing in the blood of the Lamb (that is the application now to us as Christians). Verse 7.
  5. The request for restored joy and gladness (confession must lead to restoration). Verse 8.
  6. The request that our sins are taken away (as in forgiveness, and that is promised to us most definitely). Verse 9.
  7. Request for cleansing, a clean heart, and righteousness in my life (all that is related to forgiveness and restoration). Verse 10.
  8. Request for restoration of joy (some Christians tend to live in their failures of past sin and can’t properly “let go” even after they have handed it all over to God. They carry the burden of confessed sin around with them). Verse 12.
  9. The aftermath. A child of God who has fallen, then confessed and has been restored is not an outcast, and he and she must get actively involved in God’s work.

One special thing must be said about Verse 11. In our New Testament days, it would be wrong to pray that prayer. A child of God, even in sin, is not thrown away from God; in other words, he does not lose his salvation because of sin. When we as believers are saved, God seals us with the Holy Spirit of promise, and we belong to God. A sinning Christian does “not lose the Holy Spirit” but most certainly grieves the Holy Spirit.


The ability to discern good and evil and to act thereon is closely related to conscience. Adam and Eve were sinless but did not possess sinless perfection. They had choices, for God made them that way and instructed them in the knowledge of parameters. It was to be a simple matter of obedience, for it was the Lord God who made them and built into them the ability to choose to be obedient. They had no conscience as such; they did not judge that this thing is right and that is wrong. They were to follow the path of full fellowship with their Maker, and the basis of that was obedience, not conscience. Adam, in his sinless state, had no conscience, as we will have no conscience in glory.

When tempted by the devil, he said something very vile and disguised to Eve. Genesis 3:4-5 “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely shall not die! for God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'”

Firstly, there was a contradiction of God by saying they would not die, and like so much of Satan, it was all cloaked in double meaning and subtle lies, for our fore-parents that day did die, but they did not die. Satan was correct in part, but it was so evil, so twisted. They did die spiritually, but they did not die physically; at least, it did not appear so, but that very day the seeds of physical death had been sown, and so death had passed on to all the human race since.

Look at the second part of what Satan said, “and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Was that true? Yes, it was, but cloaked in devious intention and half-truths. Satan is a murderer and a liar. In that day of man’s sin, Adam and Eve did have their eyes opened, but they became eyes of fear; and they did know good without the power to do that good; and they knew evil without to ability to avoid it. In other words, through the sin of disobedience, man gained what he had not possessed before – a conscience. Did conscience promote him to God? No, it sent him fleeing and hiding. Their consciences made them cowards! Consciences will never move a person to God, always away from God, for fear of exposure and admission of sin.

From that time onwards, men and women have had a conscience, but it is flawed and corrupted.


Am I fully righteous, holy, purified and redeemed? YES, I am. Am I fully righteous, holy, purified and redeemed? NO, I am not. What am I talking about?

Well, it depends where the perspective is being placed. Consider this verse – 2Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” There you have it; God sees us clothed with the righteousness of Christ, full righteous. We are “saints,” as is every believer in Christ. The word is “holy,” meaning holy and sanctified. That is grace beyond measure. We, evil and putrid sinners, have been given the very righteousness of Christ so that when God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of His Son in us.

That is appropriated righteousness, all because of the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is God’s perspective.

Our old consciences want to condemn us; our old natures want to drag us down; the devil will lay charges at us, so in the long run, we say of ourselves, “I am not righteous, holy and purified because I don’t feel that way. I let the Lord down and sinned. That is our perspective.

There is a beautiful promise in Malachi relating to the Second Coming of the Lord and His relationship to the Jewish Tribulation saints on His return, and it is this one: Mal 3:2-3 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.”

How beautiful is that! The Lord will sit at the smelter of holiness and will smelt every bit of dross and impurity from His precious saints who will enter the earthly Millennium Kingdom.

They will be purified more perfectly than any purification of man that purifies metal today. They will be 100% righteous, 100% holy, 100% purified, and 100% redeemed.

What the Lord Messiah will do for His people, the Jews, in a day to come, is what the Holy Spirit is doing for us today. For some of us, it is a very slow, laborious work because the old metal is just so hard with ingrained impurities and resists purification, but God works on us to bring us closer to the standard we ought to be. Our Lord Jesus sits and refines us, but how willing is the old metal to be refined? The Lord is the refiner’s fire. However, a day is coming, and when we depart this scene, the total work of purification will be complete in every one of us, and we emerge from God’s refiner’s fire in perfect righteousness, holiness and purification. Yes, we are that already in God’s sight, but not in ours. Every blot and imperfection will be removed from us. What grace to bestow on us the very righteousness of God. Even so, COME, LORD JESUS!


In the first letter of John, there is a magnificent truth – 1John 1 v 7 “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1John 1 v 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1John 1 v 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

As I said earlier, the Holy Spirit works on the conscience of a Christian to bring about confession and forgiveness and restoration. Let us explore that.

Before the key verse 9, we must place that verse in context. Verse 10 follows after verse 9, but verse 9 hangs on verse 8, and verses 8, 9 and 10 rely on the truth of verse 7. So we will look at verse 7 now – 1John 1 v 7 “but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

John has a lot to say in his letter about light and darkness, and about walking in the light. A thief won’t walk in the light. A person of criminal intent avoids the light. A cockroach loves the dark, and when you put a light on, it scuttles away to find a dark place. Sinners are like cockroaches. A Christian who is living in sin, or who has unconfessed sin in his or her life (because he/she resists the action of the Holy Spirit on the conscience), is not at all anxious to come into the light and be happy there. The light exposes what is wrong; it highlights what is wrong.

The sinful human heart does not like exposure, and most sins are kept hidden. In that regard, a sinning Christian will carry around a bag of guilt everywhere … until the light points at that sin and directs the carnal Christian to the remedy. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin and of righteousness, and of judgment. The Lord told us that in John’s gospel. The sin in a Christian’s life must face conviction, to have that sin judged, that is, as in being forgiven by God. The Holy Spirit’s work in a Christian’s life is a precious one. He is with us forever. Who would contemplate entertaining the Holy Spirit in a filthy room? Yet too many Christians do so because they love their sin or are too proud to humble themselves before God to have that sin forgiven.

This concept was mentioned earlier, but we look at it again a bit differently. We all know the expression, “water off a duck’s back.” Sin to the non-Christian is like water off a duck’s back. When it comes to sin, Christians must be like chickens and not like ducks.

This is what I mean. When it rains, a little chicken gets wet and all bedraggled, but a duck disregards the rain. For the non-Christian, that person can lie and deceive and get drunk and anything else you want to suggest, but does not have any real consciousness of sin.

It does not worry their consciences one little bit. That is a soul that is hard and cold to the requirements of God. On the other hand, when a Christian sins, there is usually a barb of conviction that enters the soul, an awareness of guilt that clouds the person’s spirit and soul. That is because a Christian is a new creation in Jesus Christ and has a new awareness and new values. Sin then becomes an affront to that new life, hence the uneasiness and guilt and feeling wrong when sin occurs in a Christian walk. That is why a Christian with sin is like that poor disheveled, unkempt chicken in the rain. A chicken caught in the rain is like a Christian caught up in sin. The duck could not care less about the rain; a chicken does.

Now, let us look in more detail at 1John 1:9. This verse contains many of the majestic words of the Christian faith. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The verse begins with an “If,” meaning you can be the most miserable person walking around with a guilty sin-conscience until the Holy Spirit makes you aware of the “IF.” Then the “IF” leads to conviction, and conviction to confession, and confession to forgiveness, and forgiveness to cleansing. Well, the procedure is quite straightforward. Genuine confession grants forgiveness and then cleansing.

However, there is a serious foundation behind how this happens.

If you can follow this, it does speak about the great character of our God. Note the wording just before the middle of verse 9: “If we confess our sins,” “He is faithful and righteous…” (NASB). The condition that our sins are forgiven us relies on the premise that the Lord is faithful and righteous. The KJV says “faithful and just.”

Then we have a conscience that does not condemn. We need a tender conscience, one that is quickly irritated by sin so we can run off to the Lord for full cleansing. Amen.