Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: So this is a kind of personal question, but do you carry around a lot of guilt? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to experience freedom.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The gospel is the only way to clean up a guilty conscience. First John 1:7 tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

Leslie Basham: It’s October 9, 2019. This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: Is there some choice you’ve made—maybe it’s something you’ve done or something you’ve left undone—and you feel just the heaviness of guilt because of that thing? You’re about to hear some very good news. You can be free! Nancy’s going to show you how as she continues in this series “Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.”

Nancy: In the White House collection, there’s a letter written from a child to President Cleveland in September of 1895, and here’s what that letter says: 

To His Majesty, President Cleveland: Dear President: I’m in a dreadful state of mind; and I thought I would write and tell you all.

About two years ago—as near as I can remember, it is two years—I used two postage stamps that had been used before on letters, perhaps more than twice. I did not realize what I had done until lately. My mind is constantly turning on that subject, and I think of it night and day.

Now, dear President, will you please forgive me? And I promise I will never do it again. Enclosed find the cost of three stamps, and please forgive me, for I was then but thirteen years old, for I am heartily sorry for what I have done. From one of your subjects. (laughter)

Well, that letter is actually a great example of what we’re going to be talking about in this session of Seeking Him. We talked for the first several parts of this series on the vertical relationship we have with God: honesty, humility, repentance, holiness, and making sure that we have a right relationship with God. These are things that affect, first and foremost, the vertical relationship with God.

But now we’ve turned the corner, and we want to talk about our horizontal relationship with others. I want to introduce that section of this study by talking about the importance of having a clear conscience with others, because, you see, according to God’s Word, you can’t be right with God (that’s the vertical) and not be right with others (that’s the horizontal).

Now, the word “conscience” is a word that means “with knowledge”—“con” and “science.” It means just to know what is right and wrong. If you have a conscience, you know the difference between right and wrong. Someone has said that your conscience is the radar of your heart.

If you have a guilty conscience, it’s like those green and red spots on the radar screen. You know there’s trouble brewing; you know there’s a problem. If you have a clear conscience—or a clean conscience—nothing accuses you. There’s no problem. You know that your heart is clear, like the weather being clear above.

Someone else has said, “A guilty conscience keeps more people awake than coffee!” And you can think about this little boy who wrote the letter to the President. He said, “I just think about it night and day.” He’s saying, “It keeps me awake; it bothers me!” That’s the function of our conscience, to let us know when we’ve sinned.

There are some wonderful examples of this in the Scripture. Think of two that relate to David in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel chapter 24 (and there’s much more context that some of you will be familiar with to these stories; I’m not going to tell the whole story . . . But I want you to hear what happened when David did something he shouldn’t have done.

First Samuel 24, verse 4: “Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul's robe.” Saul was the egomaniac on the throne who was in the way of God’s promises being fulfilled that David would be on the throne. And David was tempted—and others encouraged him—-to take matters into his own hands. “Get the kingdom for yourself! At least tweak him a little bit!”

And so David arose on this one occasion when Saul and his men were sleeping, and he just cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. And here’s what’s interesting to me.

Afterward David's heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul's robe (v. 5). 

He didn’t kill Saul; he didn’t ambush Saul and his men with his army of men. He just cut off a corner of his robe, but his “heart struck him.” Some translations say, “His heart smote him” (KJV). That was David’s conscience saying, “You shouldn’t have done this!” 

Second Samuel chapter 24 gives us another illustration. It says in verse 10, “David's heart struck him after he had numbered the people.” You can go back and see why he did this; he didn’t do it for the right reasons. It wasn’t God’s will. 

And David said to the Lord, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done" (v. 10).

So his “heart struck him.” He numbered the people. His conscience told him, “You shouldn’t have done that! You sinned!” And so David acknowledged to the Lord, “You’re right! I have sinned greatly in what I have done!”

Now this says to me that David, who we know is a man after God’s own heart, had a tender, sensitive conscience, and he was responsive. When his conscience struck him, he was sensitive and responsive to say, “I’ve sinned!” So the question is, do you have a sensitive conscience? How sensitive is your conscience?

Or have you gone against it so many times that it no longer bothers you to sin? And that’s what will happen if you ignore your conscience time and time again and don’t respond to that prompt. Your conscience becomes desensitized. So, not only do you have a conscience (you do!), but how sensitive is it? Do you listen to it? Do you respond when God convicts you, by means of His Spirit speaking to your conscience? 

Now, there are some wonderful biblical examples of what it means to have a clear conscience. I think of Samuel, the Old Testament prophet who, at the end of his long life and ministry, spoke to the people of Israel, he gathered them together.

In 1 Samuel chapter 12 (this was before David came to the throne), Samuel said to the people, “I am old and gray” (v. 2). He was saying, “I have lived a long time; I’ve served a long time.” 

I have walked before you from my youth until this day [a lot of years!]. Here I am; testify against me before the Lord. . . . 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 (vv. 2–3). 

Here’s a man who was not afraid to stand up and say, “My conscience is clear. And if it’s not, you tell me and I’ll make it right.”

You see that same heart in the apostle Paul in the New Testament. In 2 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 12, Paul says, 

The testimony of our conscience is that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you [the world and the church, toward nonbelievers and believers] with godly sincerity and purity (CSB).

“We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one” (2 Cor. 7:2). Now that’s quite a statement for these guys to be able to make! They are public figures. There are a lot of ways they could have offended people, a lot of ways they could have sinned against people.

But here at the end of their lives, or in the fullness of their ministry, they say, “You tell me. Have I sinned against you? I’ll make it right.” I mean, could I say that to the people who know me best? Could you? Is your conscience clear, clean, or does it accuse you.

Maybe it’s about something that took place years ago; maybe it’s about something that seems little or insignificant. You know, it can be little things—two postage stamps—that eat your conscience alive . . .even for years! 

And so, the apostle Paul says in Acts 24:16, “I always take pains.” Tthe NIV says there, “I strive always.” He’s saying, “This is something I work at, I’m diligent about. I’m vigilant about this. “I always take pains to have a clear conscience [two directions; vertically] toward both God and [horizontally, toward] man.”

He’s saying, “I want to be right with God; I want to be right with every human being. The apostle is saying, “I’m eager. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be right with God and with others!” Now, there are a lot of consequences that will take place, sooner or later, in our lives if our conscience is not clear.

The Scripture tells us, in Psalm chapter 32:3 that even our physical and emotional well-being can be affected by the condition of our conscience, if there’s unconfessed sin between us and God or us and another person. David says, “When I kept silent . . .” In the context here it’s, “when I kept silent about my sin, when I kept it buried, when I didn’t want to bring it out into the light, when I kept silent . . .” In this case he’s talking about the great sin of adultery that he committed with Bathsheba.

When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me (vv. 3–4).

It sounds like the little boy who wrote to the President, doesn’t it? “Day and night I couldn’t stop thinking about it.” David says, “Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” Listen, we need lubricant in our joints. Our joints dry out, our bones can dry out. There are physiological things. 

God never intended our bodies to hold up under the weight of unconfessed sin. Now, I’m not saying that if you have aches and pains that means that you don’t have a clear conscience. But I will suggest this. If you have aches and pains that there’s no obvious explanation for, one question you might want to ask is: “Is there something in my conscience that’s not clear? Is God trying to get my attention?” 

Physical and emotional well-being are affected by the condition of our conscience. And then, when we don’t have a clear conscience, we’re going to be afraid and intimidated, or powerless to share the gospel with others, because Satan is going to blackmail your mouth shut!

The people who work with you, the people who live in your family, the people who go to school with you, they know the way that you talk about other people. They know the way that you treat others. They know the way you do your business. If your conscience isn’t clear, if you’ve let sin go unconfessed, you’ve ripped off others, you’ve ripped others with your tongue, they know that. Then you’re going to give them ammunition to oppose the gospel! 

So you’re going to think, There’s no way I can share Jesus with my husband or my son or daughter or my neighbor or the person who works in the cube next to me, because I’ve been a jerk! You know, Satan’s going to say, “There’s no way you can talk about Jesus!”

That’s why Peter, in 1 Peter 3:16, says: 

Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 

If they slander you—which they may—make sure you haven’t given them a reason to speak evil against you.

And not having a clear conscience can actually shipwreck your faith. That’s what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:19: “Holding faith and a good conscience [hold fast to them!]. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.”

When you look around at somebody who grew up in a Christian world, professed Christ, walked with Christ, knew Jesus, knew His Word, and then you see this inexplicable going off the edge, going over the deep end; you ask, “What happened?” 

Chances are there was some point somewhere back where they didn’t keep a clear conscience. They let it go, and then they let the next thing go, and they let the next thing go. Before you know it, the public can see the shipwreck of their faith. And everybody goes, “Why? What happened?” If you could go back and do a forensic audit of that person’s soul and see the incremental choices they made, you would see that they didn’t hold fast to a clear conscience.

If your conscience is not clear, if you try to suppress it or hide it or cover it or ignore it, eventually your conscience will become seared and defiled. You’ll lose your sensitivity to the Spirit of God. So a guilty conscience is actually a mercy! It’s a prompt, it’s a light on the dashboard. 

I had a light on the dashboard of my car recently that said, “maintenance required.” I have no idea what’s under the hood. All I know how to do with a car is to turn it on. But somebody who made that car knows that when something goes wrong, this light is showing. Your conscience is the light on the dashboard that says, “There’s something you need to deal with, there’s something that needs to be tended to.”

So you deal with that conscience issue by bringing it into the light, by humbling yourself, by asking forgiveness from God and anyone else that you may have sinned against. So Jesus says to us in Matthew 5:23–24: 

If you are offering your gift at the altar [you’re in a worship service; you’re serving the Lord; you’re doing your Christian thing] and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar [Stop! Don’t pass go. Don’t collect two-hundred dollars. Stop!] and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

God’s not interested in your offerings, your service, the things you can do for Him if you’re dealing sinfully with the people in your life. Maybe it’s the people inside the four walls of your home where nobody else sees and knows. Your conscience isn’t clear, and God says, “Don’t try and act like you’re worshipping Me. Don’t try and bring me all your stuff. I don’t need your stuff! I want you! I want your heart to be pure.”

When the prodigal son returned back to his dad, do you remember what he said? The first words out of his mouth, he said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven [vertical] and [against] you [that’s the horizontal]” (Luke 15:21).

Paul says, “I’m striving always to have a conscience that is clear with God and with every person.” So, do you have a clear conscience? You probably don’t need my help in answering that question because the Holy Spirit is speaking to you as we’re talking about this subject. And if He’s not, then just ask Him to search your heart.

Say, “Lord, show me. Is there something in my conscience that needs to be dealt with?” 

  • Maybe with a mate or parents or children or a roommate, an employer, an employee, a fellow worker, neighbors. Is your conscience clear with all of these?
  • Maybe there’s someone you find yourself avoiding, not speaking to when you go to church.
  • Maybe it’s someone you’re afraid to run into because of something that you’ve said or done and you’ve not gone back and made it right. 
  • Do you have an unreconciled conflict with another person, and you’ve just kept trying to sweep it under the carpet? Is there some offense that you’ve covered up and hoped no one would find out about?
  • Maybe it’s an unpaid debt or something you’ve stolen or someone you’ve cheated, something you’ve borrowed and never returned, maybe something illegal that you’ve done.
  • Is there someone whose reputation you’ve destroyed with your tongue? 
  • Maybe you’ve been lazy or disrespectful or rude or deceptive or resisted the authority of a boss or a parent or a mate.

I want to encourage you to commit to obtain a clear conscience. Do whatever it takes to make right the wrongs of the past, and then to maintain a clear conscience. Don’t let those things pile up. Don’t have to look back years and say something like this kid did with the stamps, “Two years ago I sinned.” No, deal with it then. Deal with it when God convicts you.

Deal with your past and then, moving forward, keep a clear conscience—big things and little things. Maybe something the Holy Spirit is prompting you about right now. Now, you may not be able to get up at this moment and go deal with that, but would you purpose in your heart, “I’m going to get it right!”

“I’m going to go to that person. I’m going to confess what I’ve done. I’m going to seek their forgiveness and ask God to give me a clear conscience with Him and with every person.” The book of Hebrews talks about the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross, the gospel. 

The writer says in Hebrews 10:22: 

Let us draw near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience. 

Listen, the gospel is the only way to clean up a guilty conscience. FIrst John 1:7 tells us that “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”

So just confessing this isn’t going to clean your heart; it’s the blood of Christ, it’s faith in His sacrifice. He paid the debt for that sin, but you’ve got to be willing to bring it into the light, to acknowledge it, to confess it and—where needed—to seek forgiveness.

This Seeking Him study has been out for a number of years, and I went back on my computer the other day to some files where I’ve just kept stories people have written me about how they put this principle into practice, about obtaining and maintaining a clear conscience. It was in response to this very Seeking Him study.

Let me just share a few of those with you. They’re different kinds of illustrations. They may not at all be similar to the thing God’s speaking to you about, but maybe God will use it to just show you how this works, what it looks like.

A woman wrote and shared with me that God had been dealing with her for years about intentionally omitting some facts about her drug use and drug addiction on her application to seminary. She was afraid she might not get in if she told the truth, so she didn’t.

After graduation she felt more guilty as she began to include her education, her schooling, on her job applications. And then she went through the Seeking Him study. She came to this topic of clear conscience and she said, 

I felt so convicted after reading the testimonies of others who came clean and experienced internal relief and consequent grace.

She knew that what she needed to do was write a letter to the school where she’d lied on her application, confess her sin, and seek their forgiveness humbly. But of course she was concerned. If she sent this letter, would they revoke her degree? Finally, she said, “I gave in to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, whom I’m sure was tired of my grieving Him.” 

Two weeks later, she finally heard back from the president of the school. She said, “It was a grace-filled day, indeed!” (Notice, “grace” God gives to the humble. She humbled herself, God gave her grace.) 

He assured me that my standing with the college was intact. He also said the humility and honesty he sensed in my words played an important part in his decision.

You’re not going to get a clear conscience if you’re not willing to walk in humility and honesty. We’ve talked about those qualities in this series. And this is where the rubber meets the road on those qualities. Humility . . . what does that look like? One of the things it looks like is going back and clearing your conscience when you’ve sinned against someone.

Another man wrote a really precious email; I wish I could read the whole thing, but it was long. Let me just summarize it. He was convicted about an event that had taken place when he was a teenager, where he stole a bunch of quarters from a coin bin that wasn’t locked at a car wash. He’d never told anyone.

But when he went through this study, God began to convict him of this. He told his wife first. They prayed together. Finally, he went to the car wash and told his story to an attendant there. He asked who the owner was, so he could contact the owner. Of course, the attendant was amazed at this story, but this man got the owner’s address. 

He wrote a letter, confessed what he had done, shared what God had been doing in his heart and how he wanted to be right with God and others. He enclosed a check for $300, which he figured was the amount that he owed—maybe with interest, I don’t know—after all those years.

And then he talked about how it was a long, hard week of waiting for the response from the owner of this carwash. He didn’t even know if he’d get a response or if he might get a lawsuit in the mail, or what! But he said, “No matter what the consequences might be, I know I will have honored my God.”

Finally, he received a response from the owner, who thanked him for returning the money. This man had been in business for thirty-two years. He had owned over seven-hundred car washes. And he told the man who had written the letter that he had met thousands of people, tens of thousands of people through this business, but had never received this kind of letter!

The owner said, 

Your letter was like a breath of fresh air to me! To think that you were led to return the money and seek forgiveness for a childish prank twenty-two years in the past blew me away! Thank you for listening to your heart and contacting me. Obviously, you are forgiven and appreciated! 

And the owner enclosed the $300 that the man sent him and added $200 more and said, “Please give it to your church.” Now that might be some kind of fund-raising approach for churches! 

Somebody else, a woman, wrote: 

Last week you spoke of clearing the conscience and making things right with those we have wronged.

You challenged us to listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and to act upon that conviction. I wept even before you were finished speaking as I knew God was calling me to go to my very best friend and ask for her forgiveness for a lie I had told her over nine years ago. I thought about it all day long: how I would do it, how I knew God was the one calling me to do this.

I clung to the promises you shared about the freeing, cleansing power that being right before God and my friend would provide. That night, nearly drowning in tears of sorrow and remorse [humility, right?], I emailed my friend (who lived far away), told her I needed to ask her forgiveness.

I had lied to her about whether I had been pure when I got married, for fear of losing her friendship. I was ashamed of myself and thought she’d be disgusted with me for my sexual sin if she knew the truth and that she would think I was too sinful to hang out with any longer. So I lied.

For more than nine long years Satan had tormented me with this lie that I’d told, telling me that confessing to her would hurt her too deeply. 

Well, finally, she got a response back from her friend and she says, 

She, too, wept, but out of compassion for the pain this lie had caused me; for not expressing her love to me enough that I would know that her love was unconditional, no matter what; and because she knew how powerfully God was working in my life to convict me to ask her for forgiveness. She wept also because of my sin, but everything she had to say was love, love, and more love! [Exactly the opposite of what this woman had feared would be the result, right?]

I pray God will use this liberating experience to help me minister for His kingdom. The difficulty of getting right with God and others was totally worth it!!!!! 

I’ll never forget the day that a woman came to see me as a result of going through this Seeking Him study. She said to me, 

There’s something I know I need to confess to my husband, and I’m just not sure how to go about it. Can you help me? 

Many years earlier, she shared, she had been unfaithful to her husband; she’d had an adulterous affair.

She never told a soul. She had lied about it to her husband back in those days when he suspected something. She assured him it was nothing. She had planned to go to her grave never revealing this sin. And, as she said, “living in a mediocre marriage. I just didn’t want to rock the boat.”

But now the conviction of the Spirit upon her heart was so intense, she couldn’t go on! I held this woman in my arms as we wept and prayed together. We talked about how she might approach this with her husband, because she’d been thinking about this for a long time.This was going to hit him like a ton of bricks!

And let me say, if you’re going to confess something like that in the context of a marriage, it can be a really wise thing to get a third party involved to help you think about how you might do this in the most meaningful way. That night, she confessed her sin to her husband. I’m not going to lie: it was really hard!

It was extremely painful, a blow to this marriage. It was an extremely painful process that took awhile. But I’ve watched God do an amazing work in that couple’s marriage and in that woman’s life in opening lines of communication, restoring trust, giving her and her husband a deeper love and oneness than they ever thought before they could experience.

It just got really quiet in here! I know the Holy Spirit is speaking to our hearts, to our consciences. You know, I love this verse in 1 Timothy 1:5 that says, 

The goal of our instruction is love that comes from [flowing out of] a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (CSB). 

I’ve seen people confess to stealing from the IRS, pay back-tithes to their church, turn themselves into the law for crimes they had never before confessed. In one case, there was a husband who was a fugitive from the law in Canada (he lived in the States). He eventually turned himself in.

He went to prison for a time, but he said, “I’d rather be in prison with a clear conscience than to be out of prison with a guilty conscience.” God did an amazing work in that man’s life and his wife’s life, in that couple.

I remember some time ago having a conversation with a friend and talking about that quote by Jim Elliot, Elisabeth Elliott’s husband, the one martyred as a missionary in Ecuador. Jim Elliott said, “When you die, be sure you have nothing to do but die.” No unfinished business. And as my friend and I were talking about this, he said, “Wow. I’ve got a lot to do!”

Do you have work to do? Let me just say, God will pour grace on the humble. You take a step of obedience. Would you commit in your heart, “Lord, by Your grace I want to get a clear conscience—toward You and toward all others—whatever it takes. I’ll humble myself. I’ll go back. I’ll confess my sin. I’ll seek forgiveness. I don’t want to just obtain a clear conscience, I want to maintain a conscience that is clear with You and all others.”

Oh, Father, I just believe that You’re speaking to our hearts. You’re convicting. You’re working in our consciences. Some may wonder, Is that the Holy Spirit or the devil telling me that? We know that Your Spirit deals with us in specifics, not generalities, and He doesn’t condemn us. He appeals to us to obey and to get grace. 

So I pray that we would obey whatever You’re saying to us, and that we’d have the joy of knowing that our sins are forgiven, that our conscience is clear with You and with every person. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Dannah: I think today is going to be the start of a new season of freedom for a lot of listeners. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us how to clear our conscience, by God’s grace. She writes more on this topic in her workbook Seeking Him

If today’s teaching has pierced your heart—either with conviction or hope or maybe a mingling of both—don’t let this moment go! Get free. Let Nancy help you through the pages of this book. We’d like to send it to you. It’s our gift when you donate any amount to keep Revive Our Hearts programs like this coming to you each weekday.

When you get the workbook, we’re hoping you’ll ask about Nancy’s teaching on DVD. It’s a new set of recordings she made earlier this year, and there’s more information at our website or when you call us. Our number is 1–800–569–5959, and our web address is ReviveOurHearts.com. Again, ask for your copy of the Seeking Him workbook when you contact us to make your donation.

Today’s program reminds us how much freedom comes when we ask for forgiveness. Tomorrow we’re going to see how freedom also comes when we grant forgiveness to those who have hurt us. I’m Danna Gresh. I hope you’ll be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to walk in freedom. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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