The Scriptures tell us that all men have sinned and stand guilty before God. He proclaims this condemnation not only through His Word, but through the testimony of the conscience—a testimony that can be an irritating whisper in some and an excruciating bellow in others. Martin Luther said, "Although I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt myself to be a sinner before God with a most unquiet conscience. . . .I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners . . . Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience." God used this tormenting conscience in Luther to awaken him to his need of a righteousness outside of himself and to drive him to the Cross.
"Conscience, once awakened by an array of spiritual light, is an awful thing," James Buchanan wrote. As the Holy Spirit shakes our conscience from its slumber, it produces a tenacious testimony of our guilt until we confess and repent before Christ. By the power of the Spirit and the instruction of the Word, the newly active conscience watches for sin and needles us until we confess. Once we have peace with God through Christ, it soothes and comforts as it reminds us that we have forgiveness in Him. The conscience keeps the eye of faith focused on Christ when we are flooded with temptations. When you sin, you know you have an advocate in Christ, and you know you have the freedom to confess and find forgiveness with Him. The unbeliever has no such comfort because his conscience finds no peace in Jesus Christ, only condemnation.
Only by the work of the Holy Spirit can a person's conscience transform from a flood of condemnation into a wellspring of comfort. Only by His power can the mind, the desires, and the will come into harmony in obedience to the will of God. By His Spirit, God applies the work of Christ and awakens the conscience to see the odiousness of sin. By His Spirit, the conscience accepts the judgments of God in faith, understands His law, discerns the motivations of the heart, and executes its duties properly as the sergeant of our souls. The awakened conscience clearly sees sin for what it is, accepts its consequences, finds peace in Christ, and comforts the one who has forgiveness with God.
Write a brief account of how God awakened your conscience. If you were converted as a child, you might not remember. If this is the case, write a brief account of a time in your life when God used your conscience to show you a particular sin. What role did preaching, teaching, other Christians, and the Bible play in your conviction?