Is your conscience evil?

Mine is. At least sometimes. The letter to the Hebrews encourages us to “draw near [to Papa] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Heb 10.22 – KJV). Apparently, an evil conscience is a problem we all have, but from which Jesus has provided an escape.

Now, a conscience is not an innately bad thing; in fact, it’s quite a good thing. Reality is full of boundaries, and my conscience is my sense that I have crossed one, that I have violated reality, that I have treated someone in a way that is not appropriate to who and what they are. The conscience, in this sense, is what psychologists call “healthy shame.” It’s a whole-body feeling that says “I don’t like what I just did.” Not feeling healthy shame is the mental illness that afflicts sociopaths.

But my shame can become unhealthy when, instead of evaluating my behaviors, I start evaluating ME. I stop saying “That behavior is not acceptable,” and I start saying “I am not acceptable.” Big difference. Psychologists call this “toxic shame.” Toxic shame is the sense of being fundamentally flawed and beyond hope of repair. And if I believe I am bad, I will repeated “prove” that belief by doing bad things.

This is the evil conscience in action. It starts with my fallen humanity, with Adam’s delusion ringing in my ears: “I am unacceptable and must therefore hide in the bushes.” I proceed to filter my whole life though that belief. When I do something hurtful, it is proof of my belief. When I do something good, I find a way to explain it away as an irrelevant anomaly. If someone hates me, I accept it as further evidence that I am bad. If someone loves me, I think “If they only knew the real me…”

I hope this kind of thinking sounds utterly foreign to you.  I pray that is the case.  But if my description of this problem rings true for you (as it does for me), hear the gospel now:

By the will of God, you “have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10.10). Jesus did the work of making you holy, and then “he sat down” because the work was DONE (10.12). He did the work of making you perfect forever (10.14), and then he stopped working. Your evil conscience will make it hard for you to believe this, but he has already washed you clean of the dirt you’ve gotten on yourself by whatever foolish choices you’ve made in life (10.22b). This is the truth, whether you believe it or not. Therefore, join with Jesus in the work of aligning your heart with this truth (10.22a), through the daily hard work of accepting the truth and rejecting lies. In this process, you will be filled with the assurance of faith that draws you ever-deeper into the life of the Father, Son and Spirit.

2 comments so far

  1. John Geerlings on

    Hi John

    Thanks for opening this up. I am like you whose conscience will initially scream out “You do not have what God says you have, just look at yourself” Depending on the situation in time the Holy Spirit speaks gently and does remind me who I am in Jesus. My mind is like a compost heap all plugged that needs some serious Drano to renovate its proper function.

    The great hope in all of us is that we DO have the mind of Christ otherwise we would never ever change our mind from our own symphonic composition that we have accepted. He has become wisdom for us, right standing, holiness and redemption. He is the only man whose conscience is quite clear and resolute about this. I just need to learn to trust and rest in this awesome reality. jg

  2. Paul Kurts on

    Hi everyone,

    My latest post goes along with what John writes here. Did Jesus come to try and get us to stop sinning? Check out my latest post to my blog at

    Paul Kurts
    Madison, AL

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