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Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide?

Let Your Conscience Be Ye Your Guide?

      It is likely you’ve heard the advice that forms our title at some point in your life. This is probably because of our familiarity with the Disney character Jiminy Cricket from the 1940 Disney version of Pinocchio.  Interestingly, Pinocchio was written in 1883 by Carlo Collodi, an Italian writer. Jiminy Cricket, in the original book was a ‘talking cricket’ who was killed by Pinocchio, then returned as a ghost in this fictional story.   It is easy to see how Walt Disney could transform Jiminy Cricket into the “conscience” for a wooden boy - turned real.
   While the Disney animated version of this story was ‘innocent’ entertainment and designed for children, the underlying message in the film is misleading. The song: Give a Little Whistle in the film, written by Cliff Edwards and Dickie Jones, has Jiminy provide this advice. “When you get in trouble and you don’t know right from wrong, Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! When you meet temptation and the urge is very strong, Give a little whistle!   Give a little whistle!  Not just a little squeak, Pucker up and blow. And if your whistle’s weak, yell “Jiminy Cricket!” Take the straight and narrow path and if you start to slide, Give a little whistle! Give a little whistle! And always let your conscience be your guide!   And always let your conscience be your guide!
    The real problem with the idea in the film is that Pinocchio had to rely upon another for his conscience. Gal. 6:7-8 makes it clear that each is responsible for his or her actions. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 
   Humans are born with the capacity to think and to develop the capacity to reason. This will determine what their conscience is. Conscience by definition is a cognitive process that elicit emotion and rational associations based on an individual’s moral philosophy or value system.  This is another way to describe the remorse a person feels when they commit an act that conflicts with their moral values.  
     The term ‘conscience’ is not found in the Old Testament, but this does not mean that the idea is not prevalent there.   Man is really no different today than when God created him. When God made Adam of the ‘dust of the earth’, we know he had the capacity to reason. Surely something equipped Adam to state what each animal was when God presented them before him.   Gen. 2:19 makes this abundantly clear. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 
       Man was also created with full ability to fear, feel shame, be angry, and a host of other feelings and emotions as Gen. 3:10; Gen. 4:5; & Gen 4:8 clearly show. We also know from previous events that man had participated in, that man has always been given a choice. This is why the Spirit had the psalmist pen the Words we read in Psa. 119. My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.  The Spirit was having the psalmist remind us that what is in our mind is that which we will follow. This is supported by Prov. 23:6-7, as we are warned of “him that hath an evil eye”, because “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:” In other words, if we think on things that are ‘true; honest; just; pure; lovely; of good report; things of virtue and praise, as Phil. 4:8 directs, these types of things will manifest themselves in our lives.
     Cain’s countenance fell when God’s response to his offering affirmed what Cain already knew (Gen. 4:5) – that Cain had disobeyed God. In Gen. 4:7a God told Cain: If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.  When one does what he/she knows to be wrong, their mind (the conscience) should be deeply affected. But this is not always the case.
     There are at least two situations in which the ‘conscience’ is not a reliable guide. 1) When one is untaught, or improperly taught as the Spirit had the apostle Paul declare in Acts 23:1: “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. A reading of the 22nd chapter clearly shows Paul was speaking of him being properly taught by Ananias and his obedience to the gospel. In Acts 26:9 we find how Paul’s ‘conscience’ guided him before he was properly taught and before he obeyed the gospel. I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 2) When one allows his “heart” (mind or conscience) to become hardened. Both situations are as prevalent today as they have always been. 1Tim. 4:2 speaks of some, who are clearly identified as those who have departed from the faith. Their ‘conscience’ is seared as “with a hot iron;Eph. 4:19 describes such as “being past feeling” and as a result, give themselves over to all sorts of “lasciviousness”. The previous verse states: Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:(Eph 4:18).  
     One cannot enter eternity to be ever with God: 1) not taught properly, and therefore not obeying, or, 2) So “stiff necked” and hardened so they only follow their own will.   Remember the Words of Jer. 10:23 - O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. Don’t depend on your ‘conscience’ to be your guide or save you. It won’t! Also remember the Words of Christ in Jno. 8:32 - And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Let the Word of God (the truth) be your guide.

Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ

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