How to be Led by the Spirit II The Conscience
by Tom Brown
The soul and the spirit are not the same. This is why Hebrews 4:12 says,
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged
sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it
judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The Word of God can divide soul and spirit. If the soul and spirit
were the same, how could they be divided? Obviously, the soul and spirit are not the same.
Only the Word of God can divide them, and the Word does.
Look at the scripture carefully, and you will see the relationship
between soul and spirit. First, it says the Word divides joints and
marrow. Are joints and marrow the same thing? Absolutely not. Are they
related? Absolutely. Which is more important? The marrow is more
important, because it gives life to the bones. The marrow affects the
health of the joints.
Second, the scripture says the Word judges the thoughts and
attitudes of the heart. Are thoughts the same as attitudes? Not
really, but they are related. Attitudes are definitely more important than
thoughts. Thoughts are important as well.
With these illustrations given in Hebrews 4:12 you begin to see that
the soul and spirit are different, yet interrelated. The more important
part of us is the spirit, yet the soul is also important. They are
related. If your spirit is unhealthy, your soul will become sick.
The Voice of the Body
The spirit has a voice, just as your soul has a voice. Their voices are
similar but different. The body actually has a voice, too.
Before we can actually learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, we
first have to learn to recognize the voice of our own human spirits. We
are not prepared to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit, until we have
identified the voice of our spirits.
Let us first identify the voice of our bodies. The voice of the body is
called feelings. You feel hungry, sleepy, or even desire sex. What
are those feelings? Those feelings are the voice of your body. Whenever
you act on those feelings, you resemble an animal. Animals have those
feelings, too. If you live on that level, you are acting no better than an
Hedonism is the philosophy, which says pleasure is the highest good.
Jude, on the other hand, says:
Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not
understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like
unreasoning animalsóthese are the very things that destroy them."
People who live for pleasure are like unreasoning animals. They
also speak abusively against whatever they do not understand. They
will spew words of hate toward those who preach the gospel. Why? They hate
ministers because the gospel demands a higher level of living. We are not
made in the image of animals, but in the image of God. It is true that our
bodies are made from the same stuff of animals, but God did something
extra for mankind, He breathed His life into us and we became a living
soul. If you live entirely on what "feels good" then you are
acting like an animal.
The worse mistakes people make are when they follow the voice of their
bodies. They do what feels good. If it means to sleep around with multiple
partners, so be it! Then, they have to live with the resultsódiseases,
pregnancy, and emotional trauma. Some take drugs because it feels good.
Drug addicts are listening to their bodies. Their bodies cry out for more
drugs, and so they listen, and take more drugs. Now they are homeless and
joblessóall because they listened to the voice of feelings.
The Voice of the Soul
The soul has a voice as well. The voice of our souls is called reasoning.
Notice Jude says concerning hedonism, "Like unreasoning animals."
Animals do not reason. They live entirely on instinct. But we humans can
reason, because we have souls. The ability to reason separates us from
animals. This is why we have made such progress. We can reason.
The ability to reason is a human characteristic. We can think through
issues. We can even decide that what we feel like doing is something we
should not do. So we sometimes turn down what our bodies wants. When we do
we usually make progress. When we decide to let the voice of feeling
dominate reasoning, we usually spiral downward.
In many instances the voice of reasoning is a good way to go. However,
in matters related to God, it rarely is. You cannot reason God. You simply
have to trust Him. This is why Solomon said, "Trust in the LORD with
all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov 3:5).
Our understanding and reasoning can become clouded. They can hinder us
from really embracing the truth about God.
Solomon continues, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he will
direct thy paths" (v. 6 ASV). You can have your path directed by God
when you acknowledge God. God cannot be limited by our reasoning. He is
bigger than our understanding. There are times in our lives in which God
will direct us to do something that our minds will have difficulty with.
Take Noah for example. It made no sense to build an ark. There had never
been a worldwide flood. Yet, Noah refused to listen to his own reasoning,
and instead he followed the Lord and built an ark.
Sometimes in your life God will tell you to do something which does not
seem reasonable. What are you going to do? Are you going to reason God
out? You better not.
The Voice of the Spirit
This brings us to the final point: the voice of our spirits. The
voice of our spirits is called conscience.
You might find yourself in a position where something feels good
and seems reasonable but your conscience tells you not to do it.
Who are you going to listen to, your body and soul or your spirit? Your
conscience is the safest guide to follow.
Look at Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer
your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godóthis is
your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern
of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you
will be able to test and approve what God's will isóhis good, pleasing
and perfect will.
You still need to deal with the body and mind. Nothing however is
mentioned concerning what to do with the spirit. He tells you to offer
your bodies as living sacrifices. He also tells you to be
transformed by the renewing of your mind. But nothing is mentioned
about your spirits. Why? He does not need to tell you to change your
spirit, because your spirit is born again. The spirit is the part of you,
which has been changed by salvation.
Since the spirit has been regenerated, it becomes the safest guide to
follow. Now a renewed mind is safe as well. The renewed mind will be
able to test and approve what Godís will is. But since so many
believers have not renewed their minds, their spirits is the safest guide.
A Seared Conscience
The conscience is the pain we feel when we do what we believe is wrong.
It is also the good feeling we get when we do what we believe is right. We
all know those experiences. This is the voice of our spirits.
The conscience is a safe guide; however, it is not an infallible guide.
The reason why it is not infallible is because your spirit, though
complete, is not fully developed. Look at a baby. It is complete with
hands, feet and mouth, yet it canít walk. It canít grab very well and
it canít talk. Eventually it will do all those things, but not now. It
takes time for the baby to develop. The same is true with your spirit.
Your spirit is born again, but it is a baby spirit. The Bible compares
the new birth with the natural birth. Peter says, "Like newborn
babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your
salvation" (1 Pet 2:2). We were born again as baby Christians. As a
result our spirits have a god-like voice but not a mature voice. Sometimes
our spirits canít communicate accurately. Sometimes our conscience,
though sincere, is not correct. The following scripture proves this:
Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences
have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and
order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be
received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it
is received with thanksgiving, (1 Tim 4:2-4)
In this passage Paul mentions consciences which have been seared as
with a hot iron. What is the first thing you experience when you get
burned with a hot iron? You feel pain, donít you!
Paul is showing that sometimes the conscience feels pain when it should
not. The example he gives is about certain foods, which God created to
be received with thanksgiving. There were some people who felt guilty
eating certain foods. Paul is saying they shouldnít feel guilty because
those foods are to be received with thanksgiving. A hot iron can pain the
conscience. The hot iron is a picture of lies.
Today, there is not a religious debate about foods, but there are still
many religious debates that bring about a guilty conscience. For example,
once in a while, I will have a person come to me and say, "Pastor
Brown, I love coming to your church. I love the music and preaching. But I
am having problems with something. I feel guilty about neglecting the
Virgin Mary." Why do they feel guilty? They feel guilty because of
the previous religious lies they heard. Often they want to go back to the
Catholic Church because of the guilt. A hot iron causes their guilt.
How can someone like this overcome the guilt? There is only one way to
overcome the guilt, and Paul mentions what to do. He writes, "Certain
foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who
believe and who know the truth." A person overcomes the faulty
guilt by believing and knowing the truth. The truth will set people
free from a guilty conscience.
If you have had trouble with this, then you need to search the
Scriptures to find out the truth about the Virgin Mary. Once you do, you
will discover that Mary was the woman God chose to give birth to His son,
but she was also in need of salvation, and even, in fact, sinned when she
doubted her Sonís mission.
Oh, how can you say she was a sinner! God needed to purify her
before she conceived. If not then Jesus would have been born a sinner!
Iíve heard this argument before. It is not the soil which determines
the nature of the fruit, but the seed. Maryís womb was the soil; Godís
Word to her was the seed. If you planted orange seeds among an apple
orchard, you will still get orange trees from the seeds. The ground does
not determine the nature of the fruit.
People get mad when I donít make Mary a goddess. They think I donít
respect and honor her. I do honor Mary, but I refuse to worship and
venerate her or pray to her. These people will not make me feel guilty
because I do not venerate Mary. They canít because I believe and know
You will have to do this with many areas in which you feel guilty. You
need to believe and know the truth. The Word of God will determine what
you should feel guilty about and what you should feel good about.
Another thing that happens when you get burn with a hot iron is,
eventually, if you continue to burn yourself, you will burn the nerves.
You will stop feeling pain. This happens to many people when they continue
to act against their conscience. Their conscience tells them it is wrong
to do such and such, yet they continue to do it. Eventually they will stop
feeling guilty. The conscience has been completely seared. The spirit is
of no value. The person is lost. He does not have salvation. This is a
dangerous place to go.
It is so important to listen to your conscience. As long as your
conscience is sincere you are in good shape, even if you should be a
little wrong in your conscience. As Paul writes, "The goal of this
command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a
sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5). So long as your heart is pure and your
faith sincere and your conscience is good you will rarely make mistakes in
following the leading of the Spirit.
Id, Ego, and Superego
Modern psychology is telling us the opposite. It tells us to make
logic, reasoning, and human understanding the supreme goal of mankind. The
father of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, theorized that there were
three main forces in manís life: the id, the ego, and the superego.
The id is the instinctive force, the desire and pleasures of life. The
superego is the subconscious or we call it the conscience. The ego is the
executive force, the mind and reasoning.
Freud believed that unhappiness was a product of the superego
suppressing the desires of the id. Freudís answer was in the ego. The
ego was the rational part of man. He believed it was up to the ego to
decide what was right.
As you might notice, in this philosophy the soul is the supreme head of
man. Thus is born psychology, which is the study and exaltation of the
soul. Today, people are taught to evaluate everything in relationship to
reasoning. If it seems reasonable and your id wants to do it, then do it.
Forget about the voice of the superego. Donít let it rob you of
happiness. Listen to reason.
The Word of God differs with this theory. God says your spirit is the
most important voice, not your soul. Listen to your conscience because
listening to the voice of your body makes you hedonistic; listening to the
voice of your soul makes you human; but listening to the voice of your
spirit makes you like God.
Which is better, to be human or to be godly? Now you understand why
only the sons of God can be led by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:14). The rest
of the world are led by their minds or, worse, by their bodies.
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