Free Communication eBook

9/11: A Study in Misplaced Faith and a Hardened Conscience

911 A Study in Misplaced Faith and a Hardened Conscience

We will never forget the tragedy of 9/11. Many of us remember where we were on that tragic day. I was sitting in my counseling office when the news came. It continues to boggle the mind to think how anyone could be so twisted that they would fly a plane into a building and kill 3,000 innocent lives. But then I think of myself, in my tragic moments of misplaced faith. It’s a scary thing; though none of us will do what those terrorists did, we can go down a regrettable path of misplaced faith.

You may want to read:

We Decide by Faith

Our entire lives move forward in faith. We do what we do because we believe (faith) it is the right thing to do, whether it is a right or wrong decision. Let me share a few examples of actions we take because we believe—at the moment—it’s the best course. I’m not suggesting all these things are the right moral choices, but all decisions come from a heart of believing it’s the right thing to do, even if it’s a momentary lapse of judgment.

  1. It takes faith to choose sinful anger.
  2. It takes faith to look at porn.
  3. It takes faith to commit adultery.
  4. It takes faith to be born again.

Paul said it this way, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23). Now, before your biblically trained mind blows a gasket, let me explain. Paul was not thinking about anger, porn, adultery, or flying planes into buildings. He was discussing secondary issues like eating meat, drinking wine, and celebrating certain days.

Paul was teaching his readers that whatever you do, you must do it from a heart of faith: you must believe that what you are doing is the right thing to do. The essence of all decision-making is that all of your decisions come from a belief system that says it is okay to do what you want to do. Faith to do something, right or wrong, is not the exclusive, hermetically sealed domain of Christians. To believe (faith) and act on that belief is part of what it means to be human.

The Moral Thermostat

But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).

You move forward in faith because you have removed doubt, which releases you to do what you do. The problem is that if you base the “doubt removing process” on erroneous data, you will make the wrong decision. Mercifully, God gave all of us an internal moral thermostat that helps us guard against acting in bad faith. Your conscience is your inner voice that monitors all of your actions.

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them (Romans 2:14-15).

The conscience is one of your soul’s most important aspects because it governs how you think about and responds to good and evil. Your conscience can condemn you, or it can excuse you. What Paul had in view in Romans is a people group who did not know about the Old Testament. They did not have a Bible. They did not know God through special revelation (Romans 10:17).

So they did not accept the Bible’s truth claims, but yet they did possess a moral thermostat that convinced them of right and wrong actions. This truth is one of the most compelling reasons why none of us will have an excuse if we choose to reject Christ (Romans 1:20-21). Regardless of their relationship with Christianity, every individual is born with an internal wiring system that enables them to discern right from wrong.

The Bendable Conscience

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

Paul elevated the importance of the conscience, which is why he did not want any of us to tinker with another person’s conscience unwisely. The conscience is bendable, and if it bends outside biblical parameters, a person will be in moral trouble. We see this moldable idea in Paul’s letter to Timothy. He called this the seared or hardened conscience.

Do you see what happened to those people who had hard consciences? Once their consciences became calloused, they could do all sorts of evil practices because a hardened conscience ceases to condemn you of wrongdoing. A hardened conscience is like a callused hand—it feels no pain. If the conscience is not brought under the clarity and scrutiny of God’s Word (Hebrews 4:12-131 Timothy 3:16-17), in the context of a biblical community (Hebrews 10:24-25), as illuminated by the Spirit of God (John 16:13), it will harden.

Paul knew we had to handle our consciences with the utmost care. That is why he talked about never eating meat in front of a person whose conscience demanded it was wrong to eat meat offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:13). Their belief system had convinced them that eating meat was bad. He aimed to use wise and practical love (1 Corinthians 8:1-2) when engaging those who believed (faith) differently.

Living Flows from Faith

Paul taught how old Jewish traditions trained new believers. He also appealed to the Christians in Ephesus to change some of their ways—practices born out of old belief systems—that kept them enmeshed in a former manner of living (Ephesians 4:22). These young converts still had faith in ideas that were not biblically sound (1 Corinthians 8:1-13). They had misplaced faith, but faith nonetheless.

Faith is about what you believe is right, regardless of how that belief lines up with God’s Word. The man will only fly an airplane into a building because he believes his action is correct. He has (misinformed) faith to do it. He is acting out of and proceeding from a twisted belief system. But what if we make it more practical since none of us are going to fly a plane into a building? Did you know that you act according to your faith each time you choose sinful anger toward someone? You believed it was the right thing to do in that moment of sinful anger (James 1:5-8).

When you’re in your sin-filled anger episode, you have convinced—another word for faith—yourself that you are right, and based on that false belief, you respond accordingly. What you believe—as shown by your anger—and what the Bible teaches are at odds.

  • After choosing sinful anger, the most important thing you could do is recalibrate your beliefs to biblical faith.
  • The worst thing you could do is to validate your conscience through blame-shifting, justifications, or rationalizations.

Direct Message with Rick Thomas

A New Moral Standard

If you do not recalibrate your conscience to the teaching of God’s Word, you will readjust your moral thermostat to a new ethical standard that will begin to condone sinful anger. The man who flew the plane into a building needed to adjust his deceitful belief system to God’s Word rather than a belief system that condoned such brutality. 

He calibrated his conscience to a pagan belief system. It did not seem odd to him to kill 3,000 innocent people or to take his own life. This tragedy begs a few questions for us to ponder and apply.

  1. How are we similar to him?
  2. In what ways have we convinced (faith) ourselves that our actions are correct?
  3. How many times have we justified what we did?

On a few occasions, when I have vented anger toward my wife, I immediately started the process of “recalibrating my conscience” to an alternate belief system (my way versus the Bible’s way) by justifying my actions. This recalibration process “permits me” to blame my actions on her or some other innocent scapegoat. 

Perfect Sweet Spot

Initially, my conscience would blare at me, telling me to stop being angry at my wife. A biblically informed conscience should do this, which is the beauty of God’s Word when illuminated by the Spirit. The perfect sweet spot is when (1) your conscience, (2) your belief system, and (3) God’s Word is aligned.

If I had chosen to make my conscience incongruent to God’s Word, my conscience would have flexed and adapted to my new morality. This new morality would then permit me to be angry, believing it was okay to be mad without remorse or repentance.

If you do not bring your conscience under the Word’s surveillance, it will drift from the truth while adapting itself to a new “word” and then seal itself (harden) into that new belief system. At that point, you will act according to your newly minted, albeit evil, belief system.

The Hardening Process

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:7-8).

The misguided Muslim, who wants to kill people, has a different kind of faith. It is a faith steeped in hatred for anyone who is not like him. His conscience does not condemn him because he has saturated his conscience in an evil belief system. We see this idea in our country every day.

  1. Those who hate blacks are like this Muslim.
  2. Those who hate whites are like this Muslim.
  3. Those who hate gays are like this Muslim.
  4. Those who hate Christians are like this Muslim.
  5. Those who hate their spouses (abuse) are like this Muslim.

This kind of faith is born out of sinful cravings of the heart (James 4:1-3). People like this blind themselves to the truth by embracing another truth while affirming their actions as right. Their rightness and the Bible’s rightness are at odds, but they are “free” to do as they please because their consciences do not condemn them.

Dangerously Silencing Conscience

This concept is what happens to the porn addict. Perhaps the first time he did porn, he felt a twinge of guilt. Maybe he repented or tried to repent, but he was unwilling to go all the way by letting others know about his sin. Rather than exposing his sin’s complexity and depth to more light (1 John 1:7-10), he went through a private repentance process that did not altogether pull his conscience in line with God’s Word.

This half-hearted process allowed his conscience to adjust just enough to harden a bit. After looking at porn and masturbating a few more times, the condemnation began to subside. Perhaps he convinced himself by the intellectually dishonest argument that it was okay to masturbate. Or, maybe he blamed his wife because she was not willing to have sex with him.

Whatever his reasons were, they all served the same purpose: to harden his conscience to the point where he could look at porn, masturbate, and not feel bad about what he was doing. He built a new belief system. He was now “free and clear” to do porn because of his unique and adjusted faith. His moral thermostat went utterly off the biblical grid, and he could not or would not (probably a combination of both) see the truth. An addict is a man that is in full-tilt self-deception.

Communal Restoration

If you are that person who does not feel deep conviction and personal brokenness over your sin (see Psalm 32 and 51), one of the most productive things that you could do is let others know about your sin. Your conscience is too distorted to see the depth of what is happening to you. Sin has caught you (Galatians 6:1).

Your problem is more than behavioral sinning. The deeper sin that I’m talking about is the deception that is going on inside of you. Your deceit is more complicated than the behavioral sin committed. There is probably nothing more frightening than living life while blind to the deceptiveness of the heart.

My appeal to you is not to play around with this. Paul had a high view of conscience. There is a reason his language sounded hyperbolic in 1 Corinthians 8:13. To fool around with the conscience is a matter of life and death. Your conscience is your highest level of morality, and if it is not in line with the Word of God, you may be able to live with yourself because you have readjusted it, but others will have a hard time living with you.

Call to Action

  1. Reveal the truth about yourself to others. Let others speak into your life. Let others help you readjust your conscience to biblical norms and clarity.
  2. Ask others to tell you how they see you. We all live with acceptable amounts of self-deception.

The Hard Progression

One of my Mastermind Students read this article and responded by giving me this instructive step-by-step analysis of how we can warp our consciences and put things back on track.

  1. I have a good desire for intimacy.
  2. If I do not get my desire met on my terms, it turns into an evil desire.
  3. I see a shapely figure that looks appealing.
  4. I choose to gaze and lust after her.
  5. My conscience tells me that I am morally wrong.
  6. I justify actions.
  7. In time, a hardening process of my conscience begins.
  8. Through justifying my actions, I become convinced that I am doing nothing wrong and continue in my sin.
  9. If I do not recalibrate my conscience, I will continue in my sin.
  10. I am now operating out of a new, though false, belief system.
  11. I read my Bible and feel conviction.
  12. My conscience begins to recalibrate by responding correctly to God.
  13. I confess my sins and begin the repentance process.
  14. I’m now turning from my sin.
  15. I continue the process of putting off old habits while hoping to put on new habits (Ephesians 4:22-24).
  16. I must continually be in the Word of God to have a biblically informed conscience.
  17. I must have ongoing care and accountability to keep from being deceived like this again.

MM Info Course (2)

Need More Help?

  1. If you want to learn more from us, you may go to our Topical Index to find all of our articles. They are free. Please spend time studying the ones that interest you.
  2. If you want to talk to us, we have free forums for anyone and private forums for those who support this ministry financially. If you would like us to help us keep our resources free, please consider supporting us here.

Our most vital need is for financial supporters. If you can help us, will you? We are doing more, and people are asking for more. To keep up, we must hire more while developing the resources to meet the demand.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email