One way people find me is Googling a topic or issue that I've posted on. And the topic that has most regularly re-appeared over the past two years has to do with this question: what's the difference between our conscience and the Holy Spirit?
Given that my weeks last week and this are ridiculously full and further given that blog readership turns over more regularly than employees at your local 7-Eleven, I thought I'd spare myself (and you, good reader!) the pain of trying to gin something up and re-post this.
Last week I was meeting with a student and a book we were reading prompted this great question: what's the difference between our conscience and the Holy Spirit?
After some delay tactics followed up by some verbal processing, I came to something of a conclusion. Our consciences are just like our wills, imaginations, minds or emotions. Everyone has one. All of them are fallen or broken to some extent. Some people feel guilty about stuff they shouldn't feel guilty about (the over-active conscience) and some people don't feel guilty at all about stuff they should feel guilty about.
So the work of the Holy Spirit is to redeem our conscience so that it partners with the work of the God to bring true conviction where needed. The Spirit works to heal the broken conscience so that we ultimately might judge ourselves rightly.
I think practically speaking this means that we should pray for the healing work of the Spirit to touch our conscience and to align it with the formative work of Christ in making us whole people. Not every pang of guilt is from God. But a peaceful night's sleep isn't necessarily reflective of our true standing before God, either. Our basic temperament and upbringings are the factors that shape our conscience as we have them in our natural state.
Fortunately, neither one of those factors has to have the last word on any part of us. That's part and parcel of the good news of the healing and transformational work of Christ.