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Thursday, April 30, 2009

CLEAR CONSCIENCE: the freedom of a blameless heart

Guilt is the emotional and spiritual weight of unresolved sin. It is the pain we carry when things are not right between us and God or us and other people. Guilt warns us something is wrong and needs adjustment.

God, as usual, has a remedy for this problem. It is expressed through the apostle Paul in Acts 24:16—So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.

A clear conscience before God brings us freedom from the burden of unresolved sin! What is a clear conscience? The inner knowledge that there is no WRONG I've done to God or man that I have not SOUGHT, as far as it lies within me, to make RIGHT!

There are two directions, Paul says, where we must be right: vertically and horizontally.

We must maintain a clear conscience BEFORE GOD. How do we maintain a clear conscience before God? By honest, humble, immediate, complete confession of our sins before Him.

Confession means to “say the same thing as.” It means that we do not try to cover or hide our guilt, or blame others . . . but we humbly admit our sin before the Lord. We see it like God sees it, say about it what God says about it, and deal with it as God deals with it.

We must also maintain a clear conscience BEFORE MAN. Jesus, when setting out the manifesto of His new kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount, addressed this: Matthew 5:23-24—Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

He is speaking of things I have done, or that others think I have done, that have harmed them or hindered my relationship with them. For instance, have you ever yelled at your wife or children? Said or done anything that hurt someone else? Gossiped, criticized, or slandered someone before others? Blown up in a meeting? Intimidated someone, or said something that delicately put them down? Stolen from, been dishonest with, or lied to someone? Mistreated, ignored, or snubbed another? Exalted yourself at someone else’s expense?

God says we are not to ignore this, cover it, or hide it. We are to deal with our sin before them and seek their forgiveness and be reconciled with them, as far as is possible by His grace.

Why is this so important? God wants to lift the load of guilt. You can’t walk with Him if you’re not right with His children. He wants to illustrate the realities of His new kingdom. This reality magnifies God’s reputation.

So, how do we go about clearing our conscience with others? This can best be addressed by answering ten commonly-asked questions about gaining a clear conscience.

1. Q: With whom should I clear my conscience?
A: My confession should be as public, or private, as my sin.
A good rule of thumb is that my confession should be as public as my sin.

2. Q: What should I say?
A: Use the language of the Bible.
The prodigal son said, “I have sinned against both heaven and you.” This doesn’t need to be complicated, simply say, “What I did/said was wrong toward you. I’m sorry for this and how it’s harmed you. Would you please forgive me?”

3. Q: What if it happened a long time ago?
A: Why do you still remember it with such guilt and conviction?
If you have never resolved it God’s way, God is bringing it to your mind in order to release you from a load that has affected you beyond measure!

4. Q: What if I can’t locate them?
A: Ask God to help you find them.
Admit to God your willingness, and take every responsible step to locate them. If you cannot find them, leave it in the hands of God and move forward. He knows your heart.

5. Q: What if they’ve died?
A: Make your confession to God.
Ask God to forgive you, and resolve to never again let that happen with anyone else!

6. Q: What if it’s just a small thing?
A: Understand the enemy’s tactics.
A small stone in the shoe can cripple a soldier. A broken toe can sideline a football player.

7. Q: What if it costs money?
A: How much is a clear conscience worth to you?
Zacchaeus returned four-fold what he had stolen from people. There is nothing more important than being right with God. The question is, how far are you willing to go to have a clear conscience, to be right with God and man? How much is that worth to you?

8. Q: What if they won’t forgive me?
A: That’s their responsibility, not yours.
Be understanding, and leave the issue in God’s hands. You do the right thing, and then let the other party deal with their responses before God.

9. Q: What if someone has something against me that’s not legitimate?
A: It’s still your responsibility to seek reconciliation.
This may be something you have done to them, or merely a perception they have. You do not have to accept responsibility for something you haven’t done. You might say, “It’s obvious that there is something between us. Let’s talk about it so it can get cleared up for both of us.”

10. Q: Can’t I do this later?
A: Delayed obedience is no obedience at all.
What is one of Satan’s greatest tactics? To tempt you to delay—and delayed obedience is not obedience at all.

QUESTION: Is there anyone that has something against you that you have not sought, to the best of your ability, to make right? A clear conscience, the freedom of a blameless heart there means that there is nothing between you and God and nothing between you and anyone else.

1 comment:

Mrs. McFadden said...

If I have confessed my sin to God and others, should that sin be dredged up later by a leader in our church? Should the sin prevent me from leading a bible study or sunday school? I have no problem discussing my past, am I proud of my past sin, absolutely not, but I am guilt free because I have been washed clean by the grace of God. Should then I be judged by my peers?