“I must follow my conscience. It is my guide.” It’s an oft-repeated phrase that can sometimes be a cliché. People say it when they are determined to do what’s good, but it can also be used incorrectly and end up causing harm, insult, division and antagonism.
What is this thing called “conscience”?
A sense of conscience is one of the most significant separators between the man and the animal world. The word comes from two Latin words scire (to know) and con (with or together). The Greek word for conscience suneidesis is found more than 30 times in the New Testament and literally means “the self that knows with [or observes] itself.” So a conscience is an awareness of what you are.
Conscience is formed as a result of the interaction of factors such as cultural and family values, traditions, education background, religion, upbringing, the influence of friends and peers, personal experience, etc. Consciences vary from culture to culture and age to age.
Paul writes about the gentiles: “When Gentiles who do not have the Law, do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.” (Romans 2:14-15 Romans 2:14-15  For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law to themselves:
 Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
American King James Version×NASB).
The content of one’s conscience boils down to what authority one consciously or unconsciously recognizes, whether it be friends, home, personal opinion or society. Conscience is not infallible and by itself it is not the source of right and wrong.
What one as a Christian needs to ask is whether the voice of conscience that speaks to us is of God and His truth. Will it hold us to the highest ethical standards? Will it result in good outcomes? Often people who act on conscience have hitched themselves with a flawed authority that results in less than desirable outcomes.
A proper conscience will help you make the changes necessary to be a true practicing Christian. One cannot truly repent and come to conversion without a conscience that will restrain one from sinful behavior. Hebrews says, “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? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:14-15 Hebrews 9:14-15  How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
American King James Version×, emphasis added).
With a clean conscience formed by Christ we can reach what God intends that we become. Our lives (consciousness) should be governed by Christ—“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×).
With this support we can truly move forward in all aspects of our lives. A conscience formed in this way is truly a guide by which to live.