How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14—NKJV

In the simplest of terms, conscience is co-knowledge (with oneself), joint-knowledge. Within every man is a capacity to record internally and bear witness of his personal breaches of conduct. Precisely when man received this capacity was in the Garden of Eden when he consumed fruit from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The capacity of self critique is fitted-out by exposure to moral compass points gleaned from life. It is never complete, nor infallible, though it does tend to vaguely recognize the rightness of common decency and accountability to the divine. For the Christian it creates a painful sense of guiltiness before the Holy God as opposed to the role of conscience in unregenerate man, “let conscience be your guide.”

The Scriptures reveal several issues with the conscience of man. The conscience can be weak, defiled, accusing, excusing, and offense filled. It is, after all, a record of thoughts, motives and actions critiqued by a set of rules gathered from trusted sources and it freely passes judgment every waking hour. Our conscience is an expert at dredging up the past, mixing a vile concoction of noxious elements of moral failure served to overflowing, and pressed to our lips until we drink every last drop. Conscience is not the residence of sin; it is where the consciousness of sin resides.

How man deals with conscience is a sight to behold. The Bible reveals that the conscience is activated when there is a personal violation of what is understood as moral good and when there is a personal act of moral evil committed. Many will immerse themselves in religious service hoping that by being good they may outweigh the consequences of evil and absolve their offending conscience (what our text calls “dead works” because in the final review it is ineffectual). The sinner is aware of good and evil but unable to escape the consequences of a guilt-stained and defiled conscience. The only way to inactivate a painful conscience is to find some way of redefining good and evil, overwhelming the conscience by multiplying acts of evil, or medicating its effects, all of which the Bible refers to as having the “conscience seared with a hot iron” (cauterized, branded and unable to feel, desensitized).

For the believer, the relationship with conscience comes more into focus. It is not so much a guide as a goad. The conscience records our unworthiness in relationship to the grace of God. The work of Christ’s blood cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7, 9). The offended conscience does not easily release its hold on memory and so our text tells us that our conscience requires “purging” of old ways of coping (or not), as our text states. Hebrews 10:22 says, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” The believer must purposely apply the intercessory advocacy of the blood of the Savior to the evil records of the offending conscience and properly value the powerful, redeeming, cleansing new birth in Jesus Christ. A guilty conscience always requires a fresh look at the cross work of our Savior. It is no wonder that Paul and Peter regularly refer to the joy of a clear conscience (Acts 23:1, 24:16; 1 Timothy 1:5, 3:9; 1 Peter 3:16).

Believer, you need to equip your conscience with God’s standards of moral excellence. You need to live for the Lord valuing a clear conscience. Is there some nagging voice of offended conscience that keeps you from effectively serving the Lord with fullness of joy? Have you applied the claims of the blood of Christ to your conscience? Confess with thanksgiving. Trust and obey.