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Keep your conscience clean

Some things are just gross, and talking about them is not a pleasant job. Nevertheless, sometimes a point is best made by using that which is gross to illuminate that which is pure. It is in with that in mind I write this chapter…

Suppose you had a friend who has the nasty habit of stomping around in human excrement for a while in such a way that it sticks to him. And then, without bothering to clean himself up, he comes to your home to visit with you. How would you feel?

That’s exactly how God feels when Christians sin and go about without repenting and seeking forgiveness for their sin.

Some people think that when we are born again all our sin (past sin, present sin, and future sin) is cleansed, and we never need to repent again or ask God to forgive us again. However, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, after telling them to ask for their daily bread (indicating that the prayer was to be said daily) He asked them to ask God to forgive their sins. This shows that Jesus expected us to repent and seek forgiveness at least once a day.

When we sin we dirty our conscience. Spiritually, speaking, it is as if we stepped into the filth of human excrement. We can’t just step out and walk around after that. We need to clean ourselves first. There are consequences if we don’t.

You see, our conscience is a very important component of our spiritual make up, and it is important to understand what it is, how it functions, and what to do with it. This is because we can backslide severely, and even ruin our faith, if we don’t keep a good conscience.

1 Tm 1:19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.

In 1 Tm 1:19, Paul observed that some people rejected the idea that one needed to keep a clean conscience. He further observed that when they did that, the inevitable result was that they lost their faith and ended up in hell.

For this reason Paul made sure that he kept a good conscience.

Heb 13:18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.

The end result was that at the end of his life he could say that he fought the good fight and kept the faith.

2 Tm 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;

One aspect of the good fight is the fight to keep a clear conscience. We too need to fight to keep a clear conscience so that like Paul, at the end of our lives, we can say that we have kept the faith.

There is another reason why it is important to keep a good conscience, and it has to do with God answering prayer concerning us. When we ask people to pray for us, we ourselves must also make sure that our conscience is a good conscience. Otherwise, there is no point in others praying for us.

Heb 13:18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.

People sometimes pray and get no answer. Then they ask other people (perhaps godly men or women) to pray for them and still nothing happens. Why is that so? Has the devil succeeded in jamming God’s wireless Internet connection? Surely not! What then is the reason? The answer may lie here: there is no point in other people praying for us if we ourselves do not have a good conscience.

To summarize: we need to keep our conscience clean so that righteous people can pray for us effectively and so that we can keep the faith.

What is the conscience and what is its role?

Our conscience tells us whether we are doing wrong or right. That is, it is an inbuilt arbiter of the moral Law of God.

Rom 2:15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,

Our conscience speaks to us by inserting thoughts into our mind. It accuses us (saying that what we thought or did was wrong) or defends us (saying that what we thought or did was right).

Our conscience is good when there is nothing wrong that it can accuse us of. This happens when every wrong thing that we have done is taken care of i.e. every sin is forgiven, and every wrong thing that needs to be set right is set right. When our conscience is clear God is for us and not against us.

There are just two states that our conscience can be in: good or bad.

The Bible uses various terms to describe a good conscience: good conscience = clear conscience = clean conscience = perfect conscience.

The Bible uses various terms to describe a bad conscience: bad conscience = defiled conscience = accusing conscience = weak conscience = wounded conscience = bothering conscience = evil conscience.

When our conscience is bad God has got something against us.

What does it take to keep a clean conscience?

Keeping a good conscience is a two-step process. The first step in keeping a good conscience is like desiring to draw a straight line as straight as possible. The second step is to fix the crookedness in the line that we actually end up drawing.

The author of Hebrews puts step one in this way: a good conscience is one that desires to conduct itself honorably in all things.

Heb 13:18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things.

As Paul went about in life, he desired to conduct himself honorably in all things. That is, Paul wanted to do the right thing every time.

This is the first step – to desire to do the right thing every time. To say it another way, to keep a good conscience you need to desire to not do anything wrong at any time.

Water baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience.

1 Pet 3:21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

In water baptism we are asking God to bring us to a state where we always do what our conscience says is the correct thing to do. It is saying, "O God, I don’t want to sin anymore. Please help me to not sin anymore."

The second step is to handle situations where the line was not drawn perfectly straight. That is, when we think or say or do things in a manner that is offensive to God we need to repent and retract and make restitution.

Mt 5:23-24 23 "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering."

For example, suppose you were tempted to despise someone and you gave in to it. At that point, your conscience is defiled. You need to repent of it by acknowledging that you just sinned and asking God to forgive your sin.

If we have an impure heart (a heart that makes generalizations about people’s behavior) then our conscience bothers us continually because our entire attitude is wrong.

Tit 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.

In such cases we need to continually repent and take strong action to change our attitude.

For another example, suppose you told someone a lie about someone else. At that point, your conscience is defiled. You need to repent of it by acknowledging that you just sinned and asking God to forgive your sin. You also need to retract your statement, letting the person know that you told a lie, if and when God prompts you to do so.

For a third example, suppose you stole something from a person or an organization. At that point, your conscience is defiled. You need to repent of it by acknowledging that you just sinned and asking God to forgive your sin. You also need to make restitution to that person or organization if and when God prompts you to do so.

Additionally, in order to keep a good conscience in God’s sight, we must accept suffering that we do not deserve.

1 Pet 3:16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

So here is a situation: you’ve done nothing wrong (yet). Then you hear that someone spoke evil of you to your friend. You then go and speak evil of the person who spoke evil of you. Now you’ve done something wrong and acquired a bad conscience. For the sake of keeping a good conscience God expects you to bear up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. So you’ve got to do the three Rs: repent, retract and restitute.

1 Pet 2:19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.

When others sin against us we should not return evil for evil, and if we have done so, we must set it right so that our conscience is kept good.

It is that simple, and yet very difficult. Why? It is because of our pride. However, the value of having a good conscience is enormous, and the price to have a good conscience is worth paying.

How sensitive is your conscience? There was a time when David had a very sensitive conscience – which is one of the reasons why he was a man after God’s own heart.

1 Sam 24:5 It came about afterward that David's conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul's {robe.}

Saul did a lot of evil to David, and David could have justified his behavior above. But when God prompted him to repent and retract what he did to Saul, David did so.

Isn’t it amazing that so much about keeping a good conscience is with respect to how we deal with other human beings?

Don’t automatically think that you have always had a perfectly good conscience.

This was what Paul said before.

Ac 23:1 Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, "Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day."

But then he sinned by wishing God’s judgment upon the ruler of the people.

Later, he was not so confident – instead of saying that he continually lived with a good conscience he just said that he tried to live with a good conscience.

Ac 24:16 "In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.

So then, life your life trying to do what is right. And when you stumble into sin, don’t just step out and continue walking. Clean your conscience first. Do this by apologizing to, and asking forgiveness from, those you’ve sinned against, and by making restitution to those from whom you stolen, and by asking God to forgive you as well. Do this at least once a day, as best you can, with meaning, and with a heart of repentance. If you do this, you will find yourself walking with God, and you will find your prayers being heard, and as the years go by, your faith will continue strong.

Copyright (c) 2007-2026, Rosario (Ross) D'Souza. All Rights Reserved
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