Did you know that even criminals justify themselves? Here's what Al Capone of gang-land fame thought of his deeds; "I have spent the best years of my life giving people lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man." Yes, these are the words of one of the most notorious gangsters that the world has known — a man who was responsible for possibly hundreds of people being murdered. His conscience didn't trouble him. He was resentful when he received only a fraction of the punishment he really deserved. His ways were right in his own eyes as the Bible says (Pro. 21:2). This case of Al Capone is not exceptional at all! Now let Warden Lawes of Sing Sing testify of this. He says: "Few of the criminals in Sing Sing regard themselves as bad men... Most of them attempt by a form of reasoning, fallacious or logical, to justify their antisocial acts even to themselves, consequently stoutly maintaining that they should never have been imprisoned at all." (From How to Win Friends and Influence People.) I wonder if we don't look just about as bad in God's sight when we try to justify ourselves when we break the laws that God has set in motion to govern our relations with Him and with our fellow man. Try as we may, we are no more justified than Al Capone. We shall reap what we SOW. See how misleading a man's conscience can be in guiding his conduct? You might ask. "If I do what I think is right, is that not the best I can do or that can be expected of me?"
Conscience Often Misleading
That question can be easily answered. A person's conscience troubles him only when that person has done something that HE THINKS it wrong. What he thinks is wrong may even be right by God's standard, but his conscience troubles him just the same because he has not been taught the truth. Of course we should let our conscience tell us if we have done something we think is wrong. There's no use trying to hide from our consciences. BUT THE IMPORTANT THING IS THAT WE ARE FIRST GUIDED BY THE BIBLE CONCERNING THE STANDARD OF RIGHT AND WRONG — the law of liberty that frees us from sin — the law which shall judge us (James 2:12). We need the same mind in us which was in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2:5). A mind that approaches human conduct from the point of view of God's revelation — not our own human reasoning — a mind that knows the will and laws of God and, consequently, acts in accordance with it. A mind that picks the good from the bad in this dark world by the searchlight of Scripture. The law of God — not our conscience — explains what sin is (I John 3:4). Once we know what sin is, then we can examine ourselves by means of our conscience to see if we are walking according to what we believe is right. That's the purpose of conscience — to prevent your straying from the path which the law designates as right. The New Testament shows in numerous places that we need to keep our conscience clear (Acts 23:1, Rom. 13:5; Heb. 13:18). Once we understand what is right we should let nothing keep us from doing right — that is character. The trouble with "old man world" is that he has been walking according to his conscience — what seems right to him. And what has it brought? Every conceivable kind of suffering. He is an extremely sick man today; in need of a skilled physician. But though there be many political and religious physicians, and though their "medicines' be innumerable, none have any power to heal him. But thanks be to God: He has a plan which shall work — which shall be put into effect at the second coming of Christ. And what does it consist of? Purging evil from the minds of all men by revealing TRUTH. Then there won't be any Al Capones — or Stalins or Hitlers — who will be doing what they think is right. Everyone will KNOW what is right and will learn to practice it.