“I ponder over your reminders.”—PSALM 119:99.
1. What is one thing that makes us superior to animals?
JEHOVAH gave humans something special. It is our conscience. This is one thing that makes us superior to animals. How do we know that Adam and Eve had a conscience? After they disobeyed God, they hid from him. Their conscience bothered them.
2. How is our conscience like a compass? (See opening picture.)
2 Our conscience is an inner sense of right and wrong that can guide us in life. A person whose conscience is not well-trained is like a ship with a broken compass. Winds and ocean currents can send that ship in the wrong direction. But a compass that works well will help the captain keep the ship on course. In a similar way, if we train our conscience correctly, it can guide us well.
3. What can happen if we do not train our conscience correctly?
3 If our conscience is not trained correctly, it will not warn us against doing what is wrong. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2) It may even convince us that “bad is good.” (Isaiah 5:20) Jesus told his followers: “The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he has offered a sacred service to God.” (John 16:2) That is what those who murdered the disciple Stephen thought. (Acts 6:8, 12; 7:54-60) Throughout history, many religious people have committed evil crimes, such as murder, and claimed they did so for God. But in reality, what they have done is against God’s laws. (Exodus 20:13) Obviously, their conscience has not guided them correctly!
4. How can we make sure that our conscience works properly?
4 So how can we make sure that our conscience works properly? Laws and principles from the Bible are “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) We must study the Bible regularly, think deeply about what it says, and apply it in our life. In this way, we will learn to think more and more as Jehovah thinks. Then we can be sure that our conscience will guide us well. Let us discuss how we can use Jehovah’s laws and principles to train our conscience.
LET GOD’S LAWS TRAIN YOU
5, 6. How do God’s laws help us?
5 If we want God’s laws to help us, we must do more than simply read them or know what they are. We need to love and respect them. The Bible tells us: “Hate what is bad, and love what is good.” (Amos 5:15) But how can we do that? We need to learn to view things the way Jehovah views them. Think of it this way. Imagine that you are not sleeping well, and your doctor instructs you to eat healthier food, get more exercise, and make other changes in your way of life. You follow his advice, and it works! How do you feel about the doctor’s instructions?
6 In a similar way, our Creator has given us laws to protect us from the bad results of sin and to improve our life. For example, the Bible teaches us that we should not lie, cheat, steal, commit immorality, act violently, or have anything to do with demonism. (Read Proverbs 6:16-19; Revelation 21:8) When we experience the good results that come from obeying Jehovah, our love for him and his laws grows.
7. How do Bible accounts help us?
7 We do not need to suffer the consequences of breaking God’s laws in order to learn what is right and what is wrong. We can learn from the mistakes that others made in the past. These examples are recorded in the Bible. Proverbs 1:5 says: “A wise person listens and takes in more instruction.” This instruction comes from God and is the best instruction possible! For example, think of how much David suffered after he disobeyed Jehovah and committed immorality with Bath-sheba. (2 Samuel 12:7-14) When you read that account, ask yourself: ‘How could David have avoided these problems? What would I do in a similar situation? If I was tempted to commit immorality, would I be like David or like Joseph?’ (Genesis 39:11-15) If we think carefully about the terrible results of sin, we will “hate what is bad” more and more.
8, 9. (a) What does our conscience help us to do? (b) How does our conscience work with Jehovah’s principles?
8 We stay far away from things that God hates. But what should we do if we are in a situation for which there is no specific law in the Bible? How will we know what God wants us to do? If we have allowed the Bible to train our conscience, we will make a wise decision.
9 Because Jehovah loves us, he has provided principles that can guide our conscience. He explains: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One guiding you in the way you should walk.” (Isaiah 48:17, 18) When we think deeply about Bible principles and allow them to touch our heart, we can correct and adjust our conscience. This naturally helps us to make wise decisions.
LET GOD’S PRINCIPLES GUIDE YOU
10. What is a principle, and how did Jesus use principles in his teaching?
10 A principle is a basic truth that guides our thinking, helping us to make good decisions. Knowing Jehovah’s principles helps us to understand how he thinks and why he gives us certain laws. Jesus used principles to teach his disciples that attitudes and actions have consequences. For example, he taught that anger can lead to violence and that immoral thoughts can lead to adultery. (Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28) When we allow Jehovah’s principles to guide us, our conscience will be well-trained, and we will make choices that bring honor to God.—1 Corinthians 10:31.
11. How can one conscience be different from another?
11 Even when Christians train their conscience using the Bible, they can still come to different conclusions on certain subjects. An example of this could be whether to drink alcohol. The Bible does not say that it is wrong to drink alcohol, but it does warn us that we should not drink too much or get drunk. (Proverbs 20:1; 1 Timothy 3:8) Does this mean that as long as a Christian does not drink too much, he does not need to think about anything else when he makes his decision? No. Even if his own conscience allows him to drink alcohol, he still needs to think about the conscience of others.
12. How can the words at Romans 14:21 help us to respect the conscience of others?
12 Paul showed that we need to respect the conscience of others when he wrote: “It is best not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.” (Romans 14:21) So even though we have the right to drink alcohol, we would be willing to sacrifice that right if we knew that drinking it would bother the conscience of another Christian. Perhaps a brother was addicted to alcohol before he learned the truth and has decided not to drink at all. We would not want to do anything that would cause him to return to his old habits. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) If that brother was a guest in our home, would we try to make him drink alcohol, even though he refused it? Of course not!
Are you willing to make a personal sacrifice to help others?
13. How did Timothy respect the conscience of others in order to help them accept the good news?
13 When Timothy was a young man, he agreed to get circumcised even though this was painful. He knew that circumcision was important to the Jews to whom he was going to preach. Timothy, like Paul, did not want to offend anyone. (Acts 16:3; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Are you also willing to make a personal sacrifice to help others?
“PRESS ON TO MATURITY”
14, 15. (a) How do we become mature? (b) How do mature Christians treat others?
14 We should all want to move “beyond the primary doctrine about the Christ” and “press on to maturity.” (Hebrews 6:1) We do not become mature Christians just because we have been in the truth for many years. It takes effort to become mature. We need to keep growing in our knowledge and understanding. So we need to read the Bible every day. (Psalm 1:1-3) As you read the Bible daily, you will better understand Jehovah’s laws and principles.
15 What is the most important law for Christians? It is the law of love. Jesus told his disciples: “By this all will know that you are my disciples—if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Love is called “the royal law” and “the law’s fulfillment.” (James 2:8; Romans 13:10) We are not surprised that love is so important, because the Bible says that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) For God, love is more than just a feeling. He proves his love by his actions. John wrote: “By this the love of God was revealed in our case, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might gain life through him.” (1 John 4:9) When we show love for Jehovah, Jesus, our brothers, and other people, we prove that we are mature Christians.—Matthew 22:37-39.
16. As we become mature Christians, why do we value principles more and more?
16 As we become mature Christians, we value principles more and more. Laws usually apply to a specific situation, but principles apply to many different situations. For example, a young child does not understand how dangerous it is to make friends with bad people, so his parents need to make rules to protect him. (1 Corinthians 15:33) But as that child becomes mature, he learns how to reason on Bible principles. These principles will help him to choose good friends. (Read 1 Corinthians 13:11; 14:20.) The more we reason on Bible principles, the more reliable our conscience becomes. We understand more clearly what God would like us to do in any situation.
17. Why can we say that we have everything we need to make wise decisions?
17 We have everything we need to make decisions that please Jehovah. In the Bible, we find laws and principles that help us to become “fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Bible principles help us to understand how Jehovah thinks. But it takes effort to find them. (Ephesians 5:17) To help us, we have the Watch Tower Publications Index, the Research Guide for Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watchtower Library, the Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY, and the JW Library app. When we use these tools, we will benefit from our personal and family study.
A BIBLE-TRAINED CONSCIENCE BRINGS BLESSINGS
18. What happens when we apply Jehovah’s laws and principles in our life?
18 Our life improves so much when we apply Jehovah’s laws and principles! Psalm 119:97-100 says: “How I do love your law! I ponder over it all day long. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, because it is with me forever. I have more insight than all my teachers, because I ponder over your reminders. I act with more understanding than older men, because I observe your orders.” When we take time to think deeply about God’s laws and principles, we will act with more wisdom and understanding. And when we use his laws and principles to train our conscience, we will reach “the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.”—Ephesians 4:13.