11. Partake – The Christian Disciple maintains a Clear Conscience
Paul writing in 1 Timothy 1vv18-19 “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.”
There you are! You are a Disciple of Jesus, repented of your sins and all set to live your life as a Christian disciple and yet… and yet, you still have this continual nagging feeling inside you that you are still guilty! What do you do? Paul writes here that in the quest for living as an authentic Christian Disciple, faith and a clear conscience are essential for victory in our spiritual battle. Faith according to Hebrews 10:38 is belief plus trust plus action. A clear conscience is freedom from guilt (Acts 24:16). Your conscience is the spiritual faculty, which is sensitive to right and wrong and with the help of the Holy Spirit, judges our attitudes and actions. By having a clear conscience, the Christian disciple pacifies guilt and has inner peace (1 John 3:19-21); makes right decisions (Proverbs 14:30); builds right relationships (Hebrews 5:13-14; 10:19,22) and helps give effective service (2 Timothy 1:3)
However, as we know, we have this persistent battle with sin and disobedience. Persistence in disobedience and refusal to heed the conscience leads to the conscience becoming cold, hard and silent according to Paul in 1 Timothy 4v1-2. So what leads to the conscience becoming seared?
- Escape. Attempting to overthrow God’s standards and hide from reality through substance abuse, sexual immorality and perversion etc.
- Compensation. Seeking to balance guilt with an over concern for social or religious activity.
- Preoccupation. There is feverish effort and activity and an inability to rest and relax the mind lest guilt causes further conviction and unrest.
- Self-deception. Here we have a rationalising and justifying behaviour. Unable to live with guilt, the person blames others. Often gives much attention to minor detail and neglects the weightier matters of honesty, judgment and righteousness.
That’s a seared conscience. Then there is a guilty conscience, which arises from a violation of the conscience. This therefore also affects our relationships with God and with other people.
Relationship to God
- To hide as Adam tried to do (Genesis 3:8-9)
- Lack of concern for circumstances and insensitivity towards God and a devaluation of Him (Romans 1:21-25)
Relationship to others
- Deceptive character or putting on masks/images (Romans 1:22-25)
- Shame, embarrassment, Hiding from others (Genesis 3:7)
- Defence mechanisms – Masks, Blame others (Genesis 3:10-12 ; Romans 1:21)
- Deceptive nature (Proverb 12:15; 1 Timothy 4:2)
Both of these relationships types finish with a hardened heart and depraved mind if left unchecked (Romans 1:23-32)
Common symptoms of guilt feelings include exemplary behaviour – docile and well behaved; physical discomfort – fatigue, stress etc. ; depression – difficulty facing life; defeatist attitudes; self-condemnation – heaping blame on others; self-punishment – denial of self to atone for guilt; expectation of disapproval; undue criticism of others – ascribing ones own faults to others; hostility – antagonistic towards others; compensation – easing conscience by good deeds.
Opposed to the guilty conscience is a clear conscience. A clear conscience is the inner joy and peace of spirit, which results from having made all personal wrongs, right with those whom a person has offended. So what steps can you as a Christian disciple take in order to have a clear conscience.
The first thing is that you must confess your sin. It is a good thing to confess your sins to God the moment you realise you have sinned, coming to Him in penitence and praise. For when someone has sinned against God, the Apostle John says that the sin must be confessed (1 John 1:9). Similarly, when a person offends another, they must acknowledge the wrong to the person they offended and ask their forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24). As a Christian disciple you must decide to clear up all offences at all costs. Satan will do everything in his power to hinder you from gaining a clear conscience. You must recognize that any rationalizations are an attempt by satan, the world or your old nature in order to keep you from a clear conscience, and therefore fracturing your relationship with your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
The next thing is to gain an attitude of contriteness. This requires an attitude of brokenness, fully accepting responsibility for your own thoughts, actions and attitudes. This needs to be unconditional, not demanding that others admit their guilt as a condition for us asking. It is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding, things we can do in life to genuinely say, “I was wrong, will you forgive me?” While this is a humbling experience, it is an essential step in gaining right fellowship with God and other people.
For more to think about please do read for your self (James 4:1-11). Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so you can pray over any issues together.
Are there things, which have happened in my past, which, every time I recall, I wish, had never happened?
Are there people I know who dislike me, and could it be because of some offence I have committed against them?
Are there those toward whom my life has failed to be an example of a Christian disciple?
Are there those in authority I have failed to respond correctly to?
As ever, if you have any comments to make on this, please do contact me at http://www.davegroberts.podbean.com. I would love to hear from you and if these are making any difference at all to your continual Christian discipleship! Thank you.