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Biff, a believer, has been living in sin for many years. Though many people have brought his problems to his attention, he has never repented. Typically, Biff reasons along the lines of justifying, rationalizing, or blaming. Sometimes, he alleviates his troubles. The problem for Biff is that his conscience is not neutral but a reactor to our choices. A conscience will react to how we respond to situations in our lives, whether they are sinful or not. If we do not respond biblically to sin, our conscience will react by laying down a thin hard layer over the top of itself, which is what happened to Biff.
Biff is similar to a person who lays in the sun too long. The skin toughens in reaction to the rays. Whether an unrepentant sinner or a sunbather, the result is the same: our sensitivities are altered in unnatural ways. Depending on how we respond to guilt and conviction, we can soften or harden our inner voice. A tender conscience has a sensitivity to the truth of God’s Word. This person wants to walk in line with the truth, responding promptly and precisely to conviction. The Spirit of God and their inner voice are singing the same tune.
Even a “temporary transgressor” can live in a continual state of love, joy, peace, holiness, and victory if he is a genuine repenter who wants to love God and others more than himself. But if a person chooses to resist repentance, their conscience will take revenge on them. They won’t experience the freedom in Christ’s work on the cross that removes transgressions. This person will strategize a different way to deal with their sin, which will be a futile attempt, only releasing the conscience to take revenge on the captive soul. Let me explain.
When a person is unrepentant, the conscience has no choice but to harden itself. It does this so the transgressor can live with himself. Let me illustrate. If I repeatedly cut my hand, eventually, it will toughen to the point where I will not be able to feel the pain. A healthy body is supposed to react this way as a form of self-preservation. Our God-given consciences will do a similar thing if the transgressor refuses to repent. The conscience is trying to coexist with a person who refuses to stop harming it.
The side-effect is the unrepentant will lose the possibility of having a biblically informed conscience because he desensitized himself to the truth of God’s Word (1 Timothy 4:2). One of sin’s greatest deceptions is how it blinds the mind from perceiving its dangers. It does this by muting the inner voice, a gift God gave to all people—saved or lost—so they could distinguish truth from error (Romans 2:14-15).
A tender conscience is different from a hard one and not the same as a weak conscience. A person with a weak conscience, as described in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, is a person on the opposite end of the spectrum from the hard conscience individual (1 Timothy 4:2). While Biff has rationalized and justified his sin away, the weak conscience person has a longer sin list than God does; many of their “perceived sins” are not sins at all. In 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, the new converts believed eating meat offered to idols was a sin.
Paul said eating that kind of meat was not wrong. He identified their problem as a weak conscience. They needed “conscience retraining” to eat meat offered to idols while not experiencing self-imposed self-condemnation for doing something others said was wrong, but God does not. It was not a big deal to Paul, but it was a big deal for these new, weak Christian converts. Sometimes our families, religious environments, and cultural traditions falsely teach a rigid lifestyle contrary to the Bible. Legalism is rife with a bunch of weak conscience people.
God’s Word should inform every conscience how to live well in His world. Our conscience and the Bible should be in the same place when trying to decipher what is actual sin and what is not while responding accordingly. You will never be freer than when your conscience and God’s Word sing in tune. Unfortunately, Biff has chosen to ignore the conviction he senses, as informed by the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and his friends.
He is using twisted techniques to silence his inner voice, things like justification, rationalization, alleviation, and blaming. Biff thinks because he can’t hear his conscience, he is okay. He is not. Silence is not golden for Biff. God gave him a warning signal, but he has shut it down to where he’s flying blind, the worst of all human conditions: blind to your blindness.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).