Conscience and Sin Consciousness

SIN CONSCIOUSNESS

I believe that sin consciousness is real and present in every human being and our consciences have been given to us by God for our benefit; from them we derive a deep craving for goodness, though unable to attain it by ourselves, and a piercing desire to free ourselves from evil, though unable to free ourselves from the bondages of sin by ourselves.  Fundamentally, this is one of the differences between an animal and a human being.

We must understand that our consciences give us an awareness of sin, but they do not, and cannot, illuminate the path of righteousness nor break the bonds of sin that shackle us to the very things our consciences tell us are wrong.

Satan hates everything that calls his work evil.  Therefore, part of his work is setting about to corrupt, twist, and sear our consciences so that they no longer call his work evil, or even so that they call his work good!

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Isaiah 5:20

It is a serious thing to call evil good and good evil.  As brothers who love one another, we should be alarmed as we see our fellow brothers consistently giving approval to evil and calling it good!

This brings me to one of my first points: if we blind ourselves to what is evil, we harken woe upon ourselves and store up bitterness in great vats for days to come!

I feel compelled to address this because of how much discussion I’ve encountered lately regarding whether or not sin consciousness is good or bad.  I don’t believe this is a mere matter of intellectual muse; I believe the effects of this are profound and must absolutely be understood.

In fact, the attitude we’re commanded to take in this world is one of wisdom, not foolishness, because the days are evil.

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”

Ephesians 5:15-16

This passage itself necessitates that we are aware, at least, that the days are evil.  Those who do not believe that we live in a wicked generation are usually lax in their attitudes and do not walk in wisdom because they have no urgency.

In order to examine this closer I am going to look at the teaching that we receive from the grace of God and an example from the Bible itself regarding sin-consciousness in Christians.

TEACHING US TO…

Titus 2:11-15

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.”

Instructing Titus to teach Christians in “the things that are proper for sound doctrine” (v1), Paul exhorted Titus to remember that the Grace of God that brings Salvation has appeared to all men, that is Jesus Christ (1st Peter 1:13), and teaches us to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts”, “live soberly”, “live righteously”, and “to live godly in this present age”.

Our days are evil, as we remember, and whether or not we have an awareness of such things is a matter of “sound doctrine” according to Paul.

In addition to revealing sober, righteous, and Godly living to us, the grace of God also teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.

What if I told you to avoid senescence?  Could you do it?

If you are finished Googling the word senescence you have probably discovered that you cannot, in fact, avoid senescence because senescence is “the gradual decline in physiological function of cells”.  From the moment you are born you are immersed in senescence.  You do not have the power to overcome it.

The same is true of sin: from the moment you are born you are living and breathing in a fallen and corrupted world- according to your own powers, you cannot avoid sin, nor can you deny it.

But we have a teacher who shows us how to deny sin.  By necessity, just as when you read the word “senescence” you probably immediately asked yourself “what’s that”, denying sin necessitates an understanding of what is sin.

Augustine of Hippo (sometimes called “Saint Augustine”) wrote the following remarks:

For what is nearer to Thy ears than a confessing heart, and a life of faith?[1]

– Confessions of Saint Augustine

The Psalmist concurs with Augustine when He writes “17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”- Psalm 51:17

PETER STOOD CONDEMNED…

I think it is now time to turn to an example from the Bible in which one of the apostles themselves sinned and stood condemned before God and had to be made aware of their sin and repent.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.

14But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Galatians 2:11-14

This story is explained in fuller context in Acts 11 to 15 in which we find that Peter had received a vision of the unclean food made sanctified by God and was instructed to have fellowship with the gentiles.  Peter obeyed this and even stood boldly before the circumcision group at one time to defend the gentiles.

However, as we see from this story, Peter became fearful of the circumcision party and withdrew from fellowship with the gentiles.

Was Peter aware of the righteousness of God?  Did he receive teaching and instruction by the grace of God to live soberly, righteously, and godly in his present age?  Yes he did.

Yet Peter still fell to sin and succumbed to the temptation and pressure from the circumcision group.

Paul had to confront him regarding the sin that Peter was already aware that he was committing; that’s right, Peter knew of the sin that he was committing because he himself had confronted it earlier and received confirmation from God through a prophetic vision!

CONSCIENCE AND SIN CONCIOUSNESS IN OUR LIFE

What many Christians rightly deduce is that there is a form of sin consciousness that is not good- this ungodly guilt leads to a separation from God on the basis of doubt in His grace.  This is a wrongful kind of guilty shame that is cleansed from our life by the blood of Christ, and what remains is a pure consciences able to receive the discipline of the Lord and help us hold to the mystery of the faith.

The purpose and function of our consciences in our faith as Christians are absolutely inseparable!

Here are just a few of the teachings regarding the conscience in the Bible:

Romans 13:5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.

Paul said that we should submit to the governing authorities, not only because of their power over us, but also for the sake of our consciences.  When we rebel against governing authorities we sear our consciences towards the ultimate authority of God, and this is most dangerous!

Imagine if our consciences stopped alerting and convicting us; they would cease to be a conscience (for that is the definition of what a conscience is).

2nd Corinthians 1:12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

It is by the testimony of our conscience that we know our conduct in this world was right and godly.  Our consciences are an indispensible reassurance for those who have not walked in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God.

Our consciences would be a poor and faulty reassurance if they were blind to sin and had been seared to the point that they could not ring out alarms when we do wrong!  They would, essentially, be nothing more than a mechanism to render false “face” to us.

1st Timothy 1:19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck,

Notice that Paul said that some of those who have rejected having a good conscience have suffered shipwreck in their faith!  Our consciences are much like our rudders, the Holy Spirit being our wind, and faith being our sails.  Those who have damaged or rejected their consciences are without control of their faith and suffer shipwreck!

I hope you can excuse my clumsy illustration above (it’s certainly not flawless), but there is a very real revelation in Paul’s writing here about how much damage we suffer in our faith if we deny, corrupt, blind, or sear our consciences!

1st Timothy 3:9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

Our consciences, made pure by regeneration in the Holy Spirit, help us hold to the mystery of our faith.  What a blessing that we have consciences that have been made pure by Christ!

They are no longer corrupt, as the consciences of the world have become, “calling good evil and evil good”, but they are now pure and accurately able to call “good, good” and “evil, evil”.

1st Peter 2:19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.

It is on behalf of our consciences towards God that we conduct ourselves with commendable behavior by suffering wrongfully at the hands of the world.

Yes, if you do not have a conscience towards God, you would not suffer wrongfully at the hands of the world.

IN SUMMARY

As in all things, what is pure and right Satan seeks to corrupt and destroy.  Many suffer at the hands of corrupted consciences and have an ungodly consciousness of sin- one that leads them into legalism and a false path of righteousness.

But, if you are regenerated in the Holy Spirit, your conscience has been made pure and your consciousness (awareness) of sin made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we should not be deceived into rejecting our conscience, nor tricked into thinking that God causes our consciences to become blind, and thus risk shipwrecking our faith!  Rather, we should embrace and seek to submit pure consciences before Him each and every day, knowing that if our hearts do not condemn us before God, neither will He (1st John 3:21)!


[1] Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo, & Pusey, E. B. (1996). The confessions of St. Augustine. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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