Tuesday, September 28, 2010

According to the Thermostat

Not all clear consciences are equal.

I sat listening intently when pastor gave a message on the making of decisions, specifically decisions that involve the making of moral choices (and most do).
When he introduced the place of conscience in the decision-making (and justification) process, I heard something I'd never really considered before. Let me paraphrase: .

The conscience is like a thermostat rather than a compass. It is activated according to what is in the heart; and what is in the heart is a by-produce of what we've been taught (true or not), and have come to believe. A clear conscience does not necessarily mean one is on solid ground. Likewise, a guilty conscience may have nothing to do with reality; a false read can produce false guilt.

Merriam tells us that the conscience is:
  • 1a : the sense of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good
  • 1b : a faculty, power, or principle enjoining good acts
  • 1c : the part of the superego in psychoanalysis that transmits commands and admonitions to the ego

I found the entire body-of-thought fascinating. It helps me to better understand why some people - even believers (even myself) - can justify this or that belief or behavior based on what's been heard from parents, or a teacher, or the world, or the church, or through their own flawed reasoning.

I know what the Bible says, BUT (fill in the justification blank). I see absolutely nothing wrong with (fill in the immoral or unethical blank).

It's no one's business; it's between me (or them) and God alone (this is one of my personal favorites, though it is diametrically opposed to Body-life, and the accountabilities of the believer, one-to-the-other).

Yes, BUT, my family, or church believes (fill in the blank with whatever's contrary to God's word but supported some other way).

You don't actually believe that "God says ...", stuff do you?

I can't believe God can or will forgive me for (fill in the condemnation blank).

It also helps me to better understand how & why & when a day like this comes to be:

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 apparent that people can be totally and genuinely sincere, yet sincerely wrong (I didn't coin this concept, but I wish I had).

Afterall, transformation begins in the heart, and is completed in the mind (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Therefore what I think & believe has a HUGE impact on the making of assessments and decisions.

For the conscience to be truly clear (or convicted), it must be well-informed by truth.

How easy (and dangerous), then, is it to silence any challenge by presenting a clear conscience as evidence of one's position; one's innocence.

How sad (and debilitating) to be sidelined by a guilty conscience that is undeserved.

It occurs to me how often Jesus prefaced His messages with this statement: "I tell you the truth ...". He was also very clear about the substance and source of His truth-telling:

Jesus answered, "I am the way
and the truth
and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.
John 14:6

Jesus said, "If you hold to (obey)
my teaching,
you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free."
John 8:31-32
So now I know a lot more about the thermostat. As long as it's set according to His word (and in context*) I can expect to have a clear (or convicted) conscience. Set according to anything else, it might just be too hot or too cold for my fickle (and easily mislead) heart.
They are not of the world,
even as I (Jesus) am not of it.
Sanctify them by the truth;
your word is truth.
John 17:16-17
* I added this caveat, "in context", because we have all witnessed how the extremes are played out where prosperity, or miracles, or signs & wonders, or political mud-slinging, and many other supposedly scripture-centered stuff is concerned.


Denise said...

Powerful post.

Sonja said...

I'm so glad I saw this first and could add a rich AMEN to what you have written here! Truth to live by, according to God's Word... and you are right on target when you say... "As long as it's set according to His word I can expect to have a clear (or convicted) conscience. Set according to anything else, it might just be too hot or too cold for my fickle (and easily mislead) heart."...

Another excellent word Kathleen!

Thanks for always being real.


Grace on the Narrow Path said...

Great post!!! God bless you.

RCUBEs said...

Often, when I adjust my thermostat, I wonder if I am doing this based on the Instructions. His Word is the Truth! Period. No need to question nor try to explain from our faulty perspectives! You explained it so well with a beautiful analogy!

No wonder...there is a warning that we must be careful not to add or take away from His Instructions! [Revelation 22:18,19].

Nel said...

What a wonderful post and so true! If we are not grounded in His word how can we stay on the path we should be. Thanks for sharing as always what's on your heart!
until next time... nel

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...


What a powerful message! It goes along with the Bible Study Fellowship we are doing on Isaiah.

LisaShaw said...

Amen, Amen and Amen!

Kathleen, I'm on my way over with two cups of hot coffee for us to sit down and chat, pray and dig in the meat of God's word together because you my friend are on a subject that rocks my boat big time. I'm so in agreement with you!!

May I add you left out one that I most commonly here: "God knows my heart..."

I love you and I appreciate that you speak TRUTH from HIS WORD!

Beth E. said...

Makes me think there's more to these hot flashes of mine than I originally thought! ;-)

Seriously...a powerful and thought-provoking post, Kathleen.


elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Rooted and grounded in truth... God's not mine. That is the prayer of my heart. I haven't always operated from that place of understanding, but I so desire to be found there today.

Snuggled and hunkered down in the Word of God. Even so, let your light shine into my ignorance this night, Lord Jesus.


manthano said...

Loved your paraphrase regarding the
conscience being like a thermostat.
But of course that got me to thinking
again. God bless you anyway.

Beth.. One Blessed Nana said...

oh wow, there is so much in here that just shouts! i love the way you dig so deep that you cause me to do some heavy thinking!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kathleen -

A thermostat can break, and Scripture says a conscience can be seared.


Saleslady371 said...

It's all about His Word isn't it. It superceeds my conscience! Great message here, Sassy.

Rebecca said...

Yes! (And how frightening that the SECULAR newscasts yesterday featured the ignorance of Americans re. faith and "religion" -- although some of the questions were about false religions and cults).

When even professing Christians are basically Biblically illiterate, no WONDER the choices people are making are so unguided and dangerous!

Runner Mom said...

I loved Beth E's comment!!! She is just precious! Great post, my friend. Yours always make me ponder and ponder some more.

Mary S. and I talked yesterday and decided that we would hold the next getaway at your house!!!! How does that sound? Just kidding! We truly missed you! It was an awesome and precious time on the mountain.Praying that we can all be together next time!



This is a very interesting and thought provoking post. A conscience is a wonderful gift from God that can keep us out of a lot of trouble if God's Word is allowed to control it. If we allow it to be controlled by our heart we are in big trouble.

Jeremiah 17:9 “ The heart is deceitful above all things,And desperately wicked; Who can know it?