I hate going to the dentist. I hate the smell of the chemicals when I walk in the door. I hate to sit in the chair and wait for the dentist as a convict on death row would wait for an executioner. Most of all, I hate the pain. I really hate the pain. The dental assistant will usually come in before the ordeal begins and give me a shot to deaden the nerves around the offending tooth. I’ve learned that their definition of “this won’t hurt a bit” and mine are quite different. Though I hate the shot, I could not imagine the pain of the dentist’s drill without the Novocain.
No one, except someone who is mentally unstable, enjoys pain. We seek to avoid emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual pain if possible. Some pain is good. Body pains can warn us of serious internal problems that need medical attention. A slap on a child’s bottom for almost sticking a bobby pin into an electrical outlet is preferable to the child “plugging himself in.” (Trust me on this one~) Spiritual conflict, or a pained conscience, can help us choose good behaviors over bad.
God gave us a conscience as a decision making aid. When we do what is right, our conscience will approve our actions. When we sin, our conscience is pricked, we feel uncomfortable, and, hopefully, are motivated to correct our sin. A bothered conscience has stolen many hours of sleep. The conscience will sometimes relentlessly torture us if we feel we have grossly violated our core beliefs. This is good.
We should not want to have a troubled conscience; on the contrary, we ought to live so that our conscience is relatively quiet. When we do what we know we should do, our conscience gives us no argument. Though the conscience is very important, it cannot be (with all due respect to Jiminy Cricket) our only guide.
The conscience is good only when the Word of God has trained it. The Bible is the standard of right and wrong. As we study the Bible and learn its precepts, principles, and the example of Jesus, we train our conscience how to judge right and wrong correctly. Often the conscience will call to mind specific scriptures that we have violated when we sin, or will commend us with scripture when we have done what we should.
However, the conscience does not dominate our thoughts. We can ignore its warning rendering it ineffective. When I lived in Florida, it was nothing to see people ignore hurricane warnings when a storm was just off the coast. Many die in tornados and hurricanes because they do not listen to the warnings. We can hear alarms but choose not to react. People may, through selfish desire, ignore their conscience and continue in sin until finally the conscience is silent.
Paul warned of these people in 1 Timothy 4:2 whose conscience had been “seared with a hot iron.” If you sear your flesh with a hot iron, the nerves in that area will die. You can stick the skin with pins but will feel nothing. These false teachers continue in sin until their consciences, seared by disobedience, cease to be effective.
Others sear their conscience through ignorance. In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul warns that those who persist in ignorance of God’s will “lose feeling” and indulge in lewd behavior. Neither the holiness of godly living nor the common sense of avoiding a self-destructive life motivates them.