Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If we don’t have a clear conscience first with God and then with others, we will experience debilitating consequences in many different ways in our lives.

It can be spiritual, emotional, or even physical consequences of not having a clear conscience.

Leslie: It’s Monday, October 29, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

The last several weeks we’ve been in a series called Seeking Him. Nancy has been going through the characteristics of personal revival. We’ve explored humility, honesty, repentance, grace, and holiness, and it’s been great.

Well, she’s not done!

Nancy: I want to talk this week about what I think is one of the most powerful, practical principles in all of God’s Word, and it has to do with this matter of having a clear conscience.

Actually, this principle, as we talk about it this week, will help us practically apply what we’ve talked about over the past several weeks of this Seeking Him series.

We’ve talked about humility and honesty and repentance and obedience. Those are just nice theological terms until you put them into practice, and this principle of clearing our conscience with God and with others allows us to put those basic theological truths into practice where the rubber meets the road.

We’ve been talking up until this point in the Seeking Him series primarily about our vertical relationship with God, and that’s where revival starts. We’ve been seeking Him. We’ve been dealing with heart attitudes, having a pure heart, a sincere faith, and making sure that our heart attitude toward God is right, that our relationship with God is right.

This week we’re going to turn the corner, and we want to begin to focus a little bit more on horizontal relationships. How does our vertical relationship with God affect our relationships with others?

How does it affect your relationship with your mate, with your children, with your parents, with your roommate, with your coworkers, with your boss, with your church members? Those relationships—I mean, that’s where we really live.

In fact, I’ll tell you this: As you begin to experience genuine revival, seeking the Lord for genuine revival, the place where it will first be seen most obviously is in your relationships with other people, probably the people who live inside the four walls of your own home first, then, other church members and people you work with, etc.

The principle of a clear conscience—someone has described the conscience as the radar of the heart, the radar of the spirit, and you’ve seen those radar screens, and you can tell where the troubled weather has been, where it is, and where it’s headed.

The conscience is the radar system of the heart. It tells us what’s really going on, and when there’s a clear weather report, you have a clear conscience. When you have a guilty conscience, you get some disturbance signals on that radar screen. It tells you that there’s danger.

Paul said in Acts chapter 24, verse 16, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (NIV). The ESV says, “I take pains.” I do my best. I strive always, “to have a conscience that is clear.” Clear weather before God and with men.

The vertical relationship—that’s what we’ve been talking about over these last several weeks—having a clear conscience with God, but he said, “I also want to have a clear conscience with every human being.”

No problems on the radar screen. There is a wonderful illustration of what it means to have a clear conscience in the book of 1 Samuel. First Samuel 12, and let me ask you if you have your Bible to turn there.

This is the story of the prophet Samuel. He’s now an old man, and he has ministered in Israel for many years. He calls the people together to give his farewell address to the nation.

He says to the people in verse one, “Samuel said to all Israel, ‘Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me, and I have made a king over you.’” He had just anointed Saul, the new king of Israel.

“‘And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day.’” Remember, that was literally true, because Samuel had been taken to the temple to live when he was just weaned, just a toddler.

So he had grown up in the temple under Eli’s priesthood. Then Samuel had grown to be God’s priest. He had lived and served a faithful life with the Israelites for all those many decades.

He says in verse three, “Here I am.” This is his farewell address. “Testify against me before the Lord and before His anointed [the king]. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.”

Can you imagine getting everybody you know and everybody who has ever known you, assembling them all together at the end of your life and saying, in public, “I’ve sought to obey you, to serve you, to be a blessing to you, and I just want to ask publicly here, is there anyone I have ever wronged and never made it right?”

“If so, raise your hand right now. Speak up. Here’s the microphone. Say what I’ve done, and I want to make it right.” Can you imagine being able to do that? Now, that doesn’t mean he had never sinned.

I’m not suggesting you can come to the end of your life and have never wronged anyone, but I am saying you could come to the end of your life and I could come to the end of my life, and we could assemble that group, and we could have the joy of saying, “As far as I know, my conscience is clear toward every person in this great assembly.”

“And if not, I’m going to humble myself right now. Come and tell me. If I have hurt you, and I didn’t know about it, or I’d forgotten it, or I didn’t deal with it, or I overlooked it, come and tell me, and I want to make it right. I want to make restitution.”

That’s the joy and the power and the principle of a clear conscience. The apostle Paul had a clear conscience, and over and over again in the New Testament, he said, “We have wronged no one. We have corrupted no one. We’ve taken advantage of no one. We’ve put no obstacle in anyone’s way. We have this testimony—the testimony of our conscience, that we have behaved with holiness and godly sincerity.”

What a powerful life message, to be able to say, “I have a clear conscience with God and with every person.”

That is the meaning of a clear conscience—the ability to honestly say, “There is no one, as far as I know, that I have ever sinned against in any way, lied to, stolen from, cheated, gossiped against, wounded, that I’m aware of. There’s no one I’ve wronged in any way ever that I haven’t gone back to that person and sought to make it right, first with God, and then with that individual.”

According to Scripture, you and I cannot be right with God if we’re not right with every other person. It’s easy to think, “Yes, I’ve experienced revival. I’ve been touched by God. I’ve been listening to this Seeking Him series. I’ve been going through this Seeking Him book, and I’ve repented. I’ve humbled myself, and I’m spending hours a day studying God’s Word.”

We just think we’re getting everything right with God, but your husband and your kids would say, “She may be right with God, but she’s not right with us.”

You cannot be right with God and not be right with others. You can’t be right with God and not be right with your mate or your children or your boss or your roommate. In fact, I’ll go a step further.

Did you know that God takes personally every offense that you commit against another believer? When Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus, that bright light from heaven flashed around him.

When Paul fell on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Who was Paul persecuting? The Christians, the churches, but Jesus said to Saul, or Paul, as he later came to be known, “Why are you persecuting Me?”

Remember in Matthew 25 when Jesus said, “As much as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me” (verse 40, KJV). “If you’ve sinned against one of them, you’ve sinned against Me.”

So let me ask you, as we start this wonderful and important study this week, right from the outset, do you have a clear conscience? Is the radar screen of your heart clear today? I don’t mean a year ago or a month ago or ten years ago. Today. Is your conscience clear with God?

Is it clear with every other person? You say, “I’m not sure.” Let me ask you a few questions that will maybe trigger your mind.

Are you right with your mate? How did you leave this morning? Are things clear between you? Are you right with your parents? Your children? Your in-laws? Your roommate? Your employer? Your employees? Fellow-workers? Church members? Every person you know—just think of those categories of people.

Is there anyone you find yourself avoiding eye contact with? Why? Is there anyone you’re afraid to run into because of something you’ve said or something you’ve done; somebody you just wouldn’t want to encounter on the street this afternoon?

Do you have an unreconciled conflict with another person? Is there some offense you’ve covered up, and you hoped no one would find out? Maybe you’ve done something illegal. Maybe you’ve sinned against the law or the government. Do you have any unpaid debts? Things you’ve stolen? Someone you’ve cheated? Something you’ve borrowed, maybe from the workplace, maybe from a friend, and never returned?

People whose reputation you’ve destroyed with your tongue? We’re talking here not just about sins of commission, but sins of omission, maybe people that you ought to have served or blessed or helped in some way, and you haven’t done it because of pride or selfishness or too busy or lack of love.

If we don’t have a clear conscience first with God and then with others, we will experience debilitating consequences in many different ways in our lives. It can be spiritual, emotional, or even physical consequences of not having a clear conscience.

For example, if your conscience is not clear, if you’ve been sloughing off on the job, you’ve been lazy about your work, and other people in the office know it. They’re having to shoulder part of your load. What do you think is going to happen when you go and try to witness to those people about your relationship with Christ?

That’s why Peter says in 1 Peter three, “Make sure that you have a clear conscience so that no one can revile your good behavior in Christ” (verse 16, paraphrased), so the enemy won’t be able to blackmail your mouth shut when you go to witness.

In Psalm 32, after he committed his great sin with Bathsheba, David talks about the physical and the emotional torment that he experienced as a result of keeping silent about his sin.

He says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (verses 3-4). Even our joints can become dried out and not be as lubricated as they once were when we have a guilty conscience.

You say, “How does that work?” I don’t know. But I know that our physical well-being is connected to the well-being of our spirit, our emotions, our soul. Our relationship with God and with others can even affect us physically.

You’ve heard how doctors have said that many gastrointestinal disorders and disorders of various types can be affected by the state of our conscience. If we’re not right with God, if we’re bitter, if we’re angry, if we’re unforgiving, if our conscience isn’t clear, it can take a toll on our bodies physically.

In fact, if you don’t have a clear conscience, according to 1 Timothy chapter one, you can actually shipwreck your faith. That’s what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:19, “Holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.”

Paul also says in 1 Timothy chapter one, verse five, that if we don’t have a clear conscience, we’ll have a diminished capacity to love others. He says, “The result of our teaching, the goal of our teaching is love” (paraphrased). This love comes springing forth out of a heart that is pure, a conscience that is clear, and a faith that is genuine.

So it’s very important that we commit ourselves to have a clear conscience with God and with every person.

Jesus highlighted the importance of this in Matthew chapter five, verses 23-24 in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar,” (you’re at church, you’re in quiet time, you’re giving an offering, you’re serving in some way, you’re offering your gift to the Lord) “and there remember that your brother has something against you,” (there’s an unresolved conflict, there’s some way you’ve wronged someone, and you’ve not reconciled it) “leave your gift there before the altar.”

Stop what you’re doing. Stop praying. Stop singing. Stop whatever you’re doing. Now, you may stop in your heart to go to resolve it—you may not literally step out of the service, but He says, “Leave your offering there, and go.”

Then don’t put it off until next year or next month or some other time. Don’t push away the conviction. Leave your offering there. “Go. First be reconciled to your brother.” Be right with him, “and then come offer your gift to Me.”

God says, “I don’t want your gifts. I don’t want your sacrifices. I don’t want your service as long as you have a mate, a child, a friend, an employer, someone you’re not right with. Go be reconciled.”

You can’t be right with God and not be right with others. As I’m talking even at this moment, perhaps you’re thinking of someone, someone has come to mind, a face, a name, maybe more than one person.

You’re recalling occasions where you offended someone, or you’re thinking of people with whom you have or have had a conflict. What should you do? I’m glad you asked, because in the rest of this session, I want to give some real, practical guidelines that I have learned from others over the years about how to obtain and maintain a clear conscience.

Start by making a list. Ask the Lord to show you, “Who do I need to clear my conscience with? Who have I sinned against?” Going as far back as God takes your memory, “Who have I sinned against and not gone back to that person and made it right?”

Then start going. That’s what Jesus says. “Leave your gift there before the altar, and go.” Go. Go to the first one. I suggest you go to the hardest one first, because if you don’t, you may find yourself delaying and putting that one off. You may never get to that one.

If you do the hardest one first, the others won’t seem nearly so difficult after that. I heard one young woman in her early twenties share recently about how she had been challenged to have a clear conscience.She said, I think, there were thirty-some people on her list.

When she was giving this testimony, she said, “I’m just getting to the very last ones on the list.” What do you do when you go to the person? Be honest. Tell them what you’ve done. Confess as specifically and humbly as possible what you’ve done.

“I sinned against God, and I sinned against you” (Luke 15:18, paraphrased). That’s what the prodigal son said when he went home to his dad, isn’t it? “Dad, I’ve sinned against Heaven and against you. My conscience isn’t clear with God or with you. I’ve come home to make it right.”

After you humbly confess what it is that you’ve done, how you’ve sinned, then ask for their forgiveness and seek to be reconciled. That’s the basic idea. Let me give you some practical suggestions that will help you flesh that out.

The wording is so important, and here are some things I would suggest as “do’s and don’t’s.” First of all, do communicate in your wording a humble spirit. Communicate a spirit of humility. You’re not going to blame or defend or rationalize, but just, “I was wrong. Would you please forgive me? I sinned against you.”

Then identify how you have sinned against that person. Be specific about the root issue, not just the fruit on the surface, but the root issue. “God has convicted me that I sinned against you by . . .”

You say, “They already know it.” You need to humble yourself and say it so they know what it is that you’re asking forgiveness for. And then, as I’ve said, ask for forgiveness.

“Could you find it in your heart to forgive me?” You’re not saying you deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is undeserved, but you’re putting yourself at their mercy and saying, “Could you forgive me? I want our relationship to be restored.”

Then give them an opportunity to respond. As we’re going to see in tomorrow’s session, when we talk about some specific questions relating to having a clear conscience, they may or may not be ready to respond at that moment, but give them an opportunity to respond.

Don’t blame the other person, as we’ve said, but take full responsibility for your offense. Your purpose in going is not to clear up their conscience. It’s to clear yours. This may be in a matter with your husband or your child, and they were perhaps as wrong or more wrong than you in the situation from your perspective.

That’s not your concern at this moment. Your concern is to go and not make excuses, not make accusations. “I’m so sorry I’ve been such a terrible wife to you, but if you hadn’t been such a jerk of a husband, I would never have acted that way!” No, that’s not the idea. That’s pride.

Humility takes the place of the wrong one and says, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Don’t apologize. “I’m sorry.” They say, “Yes, I know you’re sorry. You’re a sorry person.” If you want forgiveness, ask for it. Don’t rationalize what you did. Don’t defend what you did.

Don’t tell them ten reasons you would have done it differently if they had behaved differently. And just another practical suggestion here, and there’s no biblical absolute about this, but I suggest that you not do this in a letter or an email.

It’s hard to communicate your heart that way, and things can be misunderstood. Ideally, you want to look in someone’s eyes. You want them to be able to see and sense your countenance, your spirit.

If you need to make a phone call, perhaps do that, but I suggest that these are not the kinds of things that generally should be documented in emails or letters. And then the scope of confession—just a statement about that.

How many people should you confess what to? The scope of your confession should be as large, but only as large, as the scope of your sin. So if your sin was just against God—I don’t mean just—but if there was no one else that the sin was against, then you confess it directly and only to God.

If your sin was against another person, then you confess first to God, and then you go to that person and confess. If there was a group of people who were affected by your sin, for example, in your whole workplace, your whole office knows how you talked to the boss, or the lack of a servant’s heart that you’ve had, or the critical, gossiping tongue that you’ve had.

Maybe your whole church is aware that you have been involved or were involved in an immoral relationship, or there’s something that has affected a larger group of people. It will often be the case that your whole family will have been affected by your sin.

If you’re a wife, you’re a mom, or you’re growing up in a home, we live with each other. We see what we’re like. There will be times, as a family member, that you need to gather your family together and say, “I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against you,” to the family, to the church if you need to say it publicly, to your workplace, to some group of people, if multiple people have been affected.

Say, “I’ve sinned against God. I’ve sinned against you. I’ve come to ask, would you please forgive me.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been inviting you to experience the freedom and joy of having a clear conscience. Being free from the past is part of what it means to experience personal revival.

That’s the focus of our current series, Seeking Him. It’s a study of the characteristics of revival. So much good information gets conveyed during a 30-minute radio broadcast, but there’s still so much more you could learn about this topic.

That’s why I’d encourage you to get a copy of the workbook that accompanies this series. It’s called Seeking Him, co-written by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It will walk you through the characteristics of revival during your daily quiet time.

Going through the material this way allows you to stop and ponder what God is saying, or you can reread or take extra time to apply God’s Word to your life. A listener from Texas was deeply moved by the week on honesty during our Seeking Him radio series.

She wrote, “Today, I’m praying for His grace to help me in this area and would appreciate your prayers, as well. I’m planning on starting a Bible study with women at my church using the Seeking Him workbook and DVD.”

We’re so thankful for those who not only allow God to speak to them through Revive Our Hearts, but who also share it with others. Would you consider hosting a small group and going through the Seeking Him workbook together?

Nancy has also taught the Seeking Him material on DVD which you can use in your small group to begin the discussion. For more details on the workbooks or DVD, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

When we talk about having a clear conscience, it can get a little overwhelming. Nancy will be back tomorrow to help us think through the question, “Do I have to clear my conscience over everything?”

Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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