2 Steps To A Clear Conscience

Guidelines for Living Daily Devotional

June 3, 2020

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." Acts 23:1

What prompts a person to return something that was stolen years before?  The influential weapon that governs our conduct is called conscience.  On the fifth floor of the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington D. C. is a room which contains thousands of letters.  It contains the files of the federal "Conscience Fund."  This strange gift fund dates back to the year 1811 when an anonymous citizen wrote that he was "suffering the most painful pangs of conscience" because he had stolen from or defrauded the U.S. government.  He eased the pain by remitting $6.  In the 175 years that the fund has been in existence, $5.7 million dollars has been contributed.  However, “The sincerity of some donors' repentance can be uncertain, writes Dave Philipps, “as demonstrated by a received letter reading, ‘Dear Internal Revenue Service, I have not been able to sleep at night because I cheated on last year's income tax. Enclosed find a cashier's check for $1,000. If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the balance.’"[1]

Conscience is a powerful force that guides the conduct of men and women.  The English word conscience comes from the Old French, which in turn came from the Latin word conscientia, meaning "to know with."  Almost every culture known to anthropologists has some word that expresses this "moral oughtness" in a person.

Missionary-anthropologist, Bill Carne, worked among a people group in Western New Guinea whose culture dates to the Stone Age.  When he came to this group in the 1960s, they hadn’t seen metal and cloth.  Clothing, weapons, even knives fashioned from metal were entirely unknown, yet, according to Bill Carne, there were definite customs and morals that were clearly observed, as a matter of conscience handed down from generation to generation.  When it comes to standards, theirs was a strict moral code with clearly defined standards far more conservative than the West, guided by conscience and tribal laws that had never been written.

Amazing isn’t it?  People who had never seen a TV, never talked on a cell phone, and had never seen a book or been inside a classroom of any kind, had clear standards of right and wrong, of what is moral and immoral. Where did they get this?

What we call conscience is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as the part of you

that judges how moral your own actions are and makes you feel guilty about bad things that you have done or things you feel responsible for.  Joe Carter defines it this way: “in the Biblical sense, conscience serves as a witness to what we already know. (Romans 2:15, 9:1) …When we conform to the values of our conscience we feel a sense of pleasure or relief. But when we violate the values of our conscience, it induces anguish or guilt.”[2]

The answer to a troubled conscience is two‑fold:  Confession and restitution.  Ultimately, wrongdoing involves God, for it is He who provides the final pardon, says the Bible.  But the same Book also has good news, for it says, "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).  As you pour out your heart to God, you can find His forgiveness; but remember He also says, "Go and sin no more."  There is an answer to a troubled conscience‑‑and that answer is forgiveness.

The second remedy to a troubled conscience is making restitution for your wrongdoing. That may mean sending a check to the person you once defrauded or cheated along with a sincere apology and request for forgiveness.  Or, it may mean that you ask the one you have wronged how you could make it right.  The relief of a clean conscience can be yours today!

Resource reading: Romans 3:4-26

[1] Philipps, Dave (April 10, 2005). "Would you tip the IRS?". The Gazette.

 

[2] Carter, Joe. “What Is Conscience?” The Gospel Coalition, March 4, 2014. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-is-conscience/.

 


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