Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Rick Lawson was sitting in church and he heard a speaker give this definition of a clear conscience.

Rick Lawson: You can say that you have a clear conscience if there is nobody I’ve ever wronged, ever lied to, stolen from, sinned against in any way that I haven’t gone back to that person and made it right with them and sought God’s forgiveness as well. And he asked for a show of hands of who could say that.

As our heads were bowed there, I knew that I couldn’t raise my hand. In fact, I almost physically felt that somebody had just socked me in the stomach.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, October 30.

Yesterday Nancy began a discussion about what it means to have a clear conscience. That brings up a lot of questions. Do you really have to make everything right, even small things? She’ll address some of those issues continuing in a series called Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I want us today to talk about some questions related to clearing our conscience. One of the first questions that comes up is, “Do I really have to clear my conscience over everything, even postage stamps? Little things, little matters?

Do you know I’ve experienced it and perhaps you have, too, that the enemy can take the littlest offense—now I’m talking about a real offense, not an imagined offense; but a real offense, something you’ve done that was wrong—and he can eat you alive in your conscience until you deal with it.

Sometimes it’s not the enemy. Sometimes it’s God who loves you enough to bring conviction that you need to deal with this. Nothing between my soul and the Savior. That’s the way I want to live.

We’ve talked about the conscience being the radar screen of the soul. I want to have a clear screen, clear weather, to know that there is nothing, nothing, no matter how little. If God is bringing it to my mind, if God is bringing it to your mind, deal with it. Clear your conscience over it.

Then this question; it’s a similar one. What if it was a long time ago? It was years ago. Why bring it back up now? I’ve heard so many people over the years testify, tell stories of something 30 or 40 or 50 years ago that they had done and they had never told anyone, had never cleared their conscience with the people involved. An older women who decades ago, before it was legal, had an abortion . . . A kid stealing something from a hardware store . . . Offenses, small or large, and that person grows up to be an adult and is still thinking about it years later.

No matter how long ago it was, if you still remember it, it’s recent enough to deal with it. I’m not suggesting you go and try to dredge up everything you can remember from your past. I’m just saying, pray, “Lord search my heart. Is there anything I haven’t dealt with, any offense toward You or toward others that I need to make right, even if it was a long time ago?”

I remember years after I got out of college I was sitting in a service and God began to bring to my memory and to convict my heart about a test that I had cheated on in college and a series of reports we had to turn in about the number of hours we practiced. I was a music major, and I had lied on some of those reports.

Years later God put that on my heart, convicted me of it. It shouldn’t have taken me years. That means I didn’t have as sensitive a conscience as I should have had at the time. But years later I had to go back to that school, back to the people involved and say, “I sinned. Would you please forgive me?”

It was so hard. My heart kind of pounds now as I think about it. But the freedom and the joy and the release of knowing your conscience is clear—there’s no joy that compares to it.

I think this is something we often wonder: What if the other person was more wrong than I was? Let me say first of all, chances are the other person is thinking that you were more wrong than they were, human nature being what it is. We tend to project more responsibility on others than on ourselves.

But say they were wrong. This often happens in a marriage, in a family, in a close relationship. You get at each other’s throats. You wrong each other. Someone says something harsh; somebody else comes back. Who started it? You know it all doesn’t matter. But God is not asking you to go and clear the other person’s conscience. God is asking you to clear your conscience. Let God be the Holy Spirit in that person’s life.

Don’t go thinking, “Okay, if I take the first step; I go and tell my husband ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?’ then certainly he will fall on his knees and beg my forgiveness since, in fact, he did start this argument.”

No, that’s not the heart of humility. You go to the cross. Let God deal with your husband or your mother-in-law or whoever the person may be and you clear your conscience.

What about sins of a moral nature? Should those be confessed? Do you seek reconciliation if there’s been an immoral relationship? This is an area where we could do a whole series of programs and perhaps some day we will. But just a few cautions here.

If your sin morally was in your thoughts only and the other person was not aware of it, don’t go to that other person and say, “I’ve had these lustful thoughts toward you.” They weren’t aware of that. Your sin was against God. Take it to God. Ask His forgiveness.

If you sinned morally in behavior or actions or attitudes toward somebody—a flirtatious spirit or dressing immodestly in a way that you are aware created unrighteous desires in somebody you were dating or whatever—go back to the person involved. Don’t go into the moral or immoral details, but get to the root of the issue.

“I have not treated you in a way that was appropriate for a godly woman.” Ask God to help you with the wording that gets to the heart of the matter but doesn’t say inappropriate things.

If there was an immoral relationship—an adulterous affair, an immoral dating relationship in your past—the goal there is not to reestablish the relationship. It’s to go with your mate, if necessary, or, if appropriate, clear your conscience and then know that that person can never come back and say, “You sinned against me, and you didn’t make it right.”

By the way, if a husband or a wife has committed adultery against their partner, that is an offense that does need to be cleared up. You need to clear your conscience with your mate. Now you may need a godly third party to step in and help walk through those difficult waters, to help lead you through that—a pastor or a godly biblical counselor. But you want to make sure on moral issues that your heart is clear.

Here’s another question you may be wondering. What if it will cost me money to clear my conscience? What if I’ve done something that involves stealing or there’s a cost involved. There are numerous passages throughout the Old and New Testament that talk about the importance of making restitution.

Exodus 22:1, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.”

You remember the story of Zacchaeus in Luke chapter 19, verse eight. He said when he was repentant, “Lord whoever I’ve wronged, whoever I’ve stolen from or cheated against, I will repay them what I have stolen” (paraphrased).

I remember hearing the testimony of a woman when we were in a revival crusade in the state of Iowa. She had actually burned her trailer to the ground in order to collect the insurance money. And she had to go back to the insurance company, confess what she had done, knowing that the consequences could be enormous. But she said, “I’ve got to have a clear conscience.”

I had a woman come to me in recent years who was then the little girl of that woman. Now she’s a grown-up woman herself. She said, “I was the little girl, the daughter of that woman who burned her trailer to the ground.”

She said, “I grew up in that home where my mom,” (her mom was a single mom) “out of desperation burned that trailer to the ground.” She said she had watched her mom pay back that debt over those years.

And now here was that daughter grown into an adult woman, loving the Lord, seeking the Lord. Her mom had no idea what kind of impact it would leave on her daughter’s life, her little girl’s life, to see a mom who wanted to have a clear conscience with God and with every person.

And that leads to this question: What if I have broken the law? I may go to jail. What I’ve done is illegal.

I remember hearing the testimony of a man. We were in another revival crusade in Covington, Indiana, and a man came who was in that church and actually at that time was a fugitive from the law in Canada. He was there in Covington, Indiana, and God began to deal with his conscience and he said, “I’ve got to be right with God. I’ve got to make this right, whatever the cost.”

He turned himself in to the authorities and actually did go to jail for, as I recall, a number of years. There are consequences for sin. And being repentant and clearing our conscience doesn’t mean we don’t experience those consequences anymore. There may be consequences to experience.

You commit adultery; you’re going to have consequences in your marriage. And those consequences may not go away, but you can still have a clear conscience.

What if they won’t forgive me? This sometimes happens in relationships where there’s a whole history of difficulty in the relationship. Let me suggest a few reasons they may not be willing to forgive you.

  • First, they may not sense that you are truly repentant. They may still be sensing in you a proud or blaming or defensive spirit. So make sure your heart is right.
  • They may need time to process, depending on the nature of the offenses. It probably took you time to come to the point of dealing with this. Give God time to work in that person’s heart.
  • They may be balancing guilt and blame. You know those scales. As long as you were both wrong they could lighten their sense of guilt by putting blame on you, but when you come and clear your conscience, they can’t blame you anymore and now they’re left holding the guilt. So God may be working in their conscience as they try to balance those scales of guilt and blame.

Ultimately, whether they forgive you or not is not your responsibility. Leave that in God’s hands. God has worked in your heart to bring you to that point. Let God work in that person’s heart and remember you don’t deserve to be forgiven.

Forgiveness is not a right. You deserve God’s judgment and wrath. When you go and ask for forgiveness, you’re not saying, "You owe me forgiveness,” you’re saying, “Could you have mercy on me as God has had mercy on me?”

Over the next two days, we’re going to hear the story of a man who put this principle of a clear conscience into practice and ultimately found the entire nation reading his story on the second page of USA Today. You want to be sure to hear that story.

But in the meantime—and by the way don’t let that scare you; when you clear your conscience it doesn’t mean it will end up on the second page of USA Today. But as you commit yourself to clear your conscience, you will find that radar screen of your heart is clear with God and with all others.

So I want to challenge you if you haven’t done so already to make a list, whoever God puts on your heart that you are not right with—somebody from the past or a present relationship.

  • Make a list.
  • Then commit yourself to start clearing your conscience.
  • Go to them one at a time.
  • Seek forgiveness.

Then once you’ve obtained a clear conscience and your obedience is up to date, begin the lifelong practice of maintaining a clear conscience. Hopefully you should never get to the point again for the rest of your Christian life where you’ve got a long list of people you need to go to.

When you sin against someone, if your heart is tender and responsive toward God, God will convict you to go back. If it’s with your mate, don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Make it right. Humble yourself. Go seek forgiveness. Your son, your daughter, your parents, your boss, whatever. Keep your conscience clear. There is no greater joy.

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss explaining why it’s important to maintain a clear conscience. Rick Lawson has experienced the joy of clearing his conscience. He’s here to talk with Nancy about it.

A Heavy Conscience: Rick Lawson's Story
Nancy: Rick, thank you so much for joining us by way of phone today from Kansas City from one of our BOTT radio network stations. Thank so much for joining us here on Revive Our Hearts.

Rick Lawson: My pleasure, Nancy.

Nancy: Rick, you’re an electrical engineer and we first connected through the ministry of Life Action Ministries, which is the ministry I have served with. It was in the context of a Life Action summit in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area at Birchman Baptist Church. Tell us a little bit about, from your perspective, being in that church at the time that I was in the Life Action Ministries team that came to that church, what God did in those days and how He started a fresh work in your heart at that time.

Rick: When Life Action came to our church during the Fall of 1988, I wasn’t really anticipating God doing anything in my life. My life was certainly focused on career building, and I was looking to be upwardly mobile, etc. So when Life Action came, we were actually in the process of preparing to move from Fort Worth, Texas, to St. Louis where I had received a promotion. I was working for a defense contractor at that time.

When Life Action came, when the crusade started, their crusades are typically two weeks or plus. But it took that long for God to really get a hold of me. I went through the whole first week and I could tell God was beginning to work. I look back now and realize the Holy Spirit was beginning to work down inside my heart, preparing me for what He was going to ask.

It was actually the second Sunday morning. The message that was preached at that time was on Naaman and how when he wanted to be cured of his leprosy and he came and asked Elisha what to do, Elisha told him to go dip seven times in the Jordan river. What a struggle that was for him because of his pride. It was a very simple thing to ask of him, but it was very difficult for him to do because of his own heart.

That was when God began really dealing with me and laying conviction on my heart of the pride that I had in my life. I left my seat in the church and went to a place that had been set aside for prayer and After that was over, I had a fresh joy in my heart.spent several minutes just crying out to the Lord and confessing the pride that I had in my life, and my living independently from Him and self-sufficiently from Him.  That was a Sunday morning service; I remember leaving Sunday morning, and I could not wait until it was time to come back to church that evening.

Nancy: That’s a sign of revival, isn’t it?

Rick: (laughs) That’s right. I didn’t want to go home. I couldn’t wait to get back.

Nancy: Wow.

Rick: So we came back and one of the ladies in charge of the nursery came in and was looking for volunteers. They needed some help in the nursery, and I was trying to duck. At that time we had three little girls. The oldest was five. So we had some in the nursery. We were nursery workers. So I was kind of trying to hide out.

They ended up selecting my wife Vickie to go, so I got to stay in the service and I was excited about that.

When that service started, though, the way that the revivalist began that message, he said, “Before we start, let’s just stand and pray and say, ‘God if You would choose to speak to me tonight, whatever You say, I will obey.’”

I remember praying that with all my heart. The joy from that morning was still overflowing in my soul and I was excited to pray that and then began listening anxiously for what new truth I was going to learn.

It was probably about five minutes into the message; the message turned out to be on having a clear conscience both toward God and toward man. The definition that was given was: You can say that you have a clear conscience if there is nobody I’ve ever wronged, I’ve ever lied to, stolen from, sinned against in any way that I haven’t gone back to that person and made it right with them and then sought God’s forgiveness as well.

He asked for a show of hands of who could say that. As our heads were bowed, I knew that I couldn’t raise my hand. In fact, I almost physically felt that somebody had just socked me in the stomach because the Lord brought two things instantly to mind as he posed that question to us, and I was thinking, “Could I say that?” Two things came immediately to mind:

  1. Part of my security clearance that I held as part of my job.
  2. Having stolen when I was in college from various businesses in that local area, in the college area.

Specifically what came to mind was my security clearance. On the questionnaire you have to fill out a lot of background information, of course. One of the things they asked was, “Have you ever partaken of in any way the use of illegal drugs?”  I had while I was in college.

But I knew what the right answer should be. I was fearful that if I told the truth I was not going to receive my clearance; therefore, I was going to lose my job. So I rationalized that. “Well I don’t do that anymore. It’s not going to be a part of my life, so I’ll just say what they want to hear.”

The problem, the issue, that God had me work through was that I was holding a clearance. I also had a special access clearance with the Navy to work on the project that I was working on. So every day I was going to work, it was like I was lying. I was not qualified to be there. I had not told the truth.

Nancy: That application you had filled out how long before?

Rick: That would have been about five years before.

Nancy: So you hadn’t really thought about this much over the last five years?

Rick: Not at all.

Nancy: Until the Lord put His finger on your heart.

Rick: Oh, that’s right. I couldn’t quit thinking about it after that.

Nancy: Is that called conviction of the Holy Spirit?

Rick: Yes, very much so. In fact, I don’t even know how I was doing my job because I literally could not get it out of my mind.

I kept trying to rationalize it. Of course, after the service was over I remember Vickie, my wife, had gone to serve in the nursery and she had missed out on the clear conscience message. So I had to go home and tell her every point because I didn’t want to bear this alone.

Nancy: Did you tell her what God was convicting you of?

Rick: Yes, I did. You know her hearing the definition; I can remember her saying something like, “Oh, wow,” as far as what the standard was.

Then I began to share with her what the Lord had laid on my heart. As you can imagine, she was a little bit anxious, if not even fearful. I said, “I keep thinking about my clearance.”

Nancy: So she’s fearful of what it would involve or what it might mean if you got that straightened out.

Rick: That’s correct. Because on the clearance form—it’s a government form—at the bottom it says, “Any willful false statement is punishable by not more than ten years in jail and not more than a $10,000 fine.”

Nancy: Oh my goodness. So there was a lot at stake here.

Rick: There was. She actually went through a process. As I was wrestling, she was wrestling with, if you will, allowing me to, putting pressure on me not to do it or whatever.

She actually met with her women’s Sunday School teacher that she had become very close to and told her what was going on and what we were wrestling with. They had a good relationship and knew some history with each other. After she heard what was going on, she said, “Vickie, God is ready to answer that prayer if you’ll just step out of the way and just let Him deal with your husband.”

Nancy: Which really took trust on Vickie’s part, trust that God knew what He was doing.

Rick: Yes. During the crusade, people would give testimony of how they had cleared their conscience in one way or another, just one-on-one individual attitudes up to having to repay money, that kind of thing. But nobody, at least at that point in the crusade, had ever had one of the consequences as going to jail. If I went to jail, there was no way I could provide for my family anymore.

But the Scripture that God kept using, kept bringing to mind was in Mark chapter 10, verses 17-22, with the rich young ruler and how he came and asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. Studying theoretically in a Sunday School context, you look at that and you say, “Hey this guy is talking to Jesus. He says, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ Jesus gives him one thing to go do. ‘Go sell everything you have and then come follow me.'"

Actually when Jesus did that, the Scripture says that He looked at him and loved him and then said that. But the young ruler went away sorrowful because he was a man of great wealth. The Bible never says whether he had another opportunity to follow Jesus again.

That’s what I would think about in the evening when I would go to sleep. I felt as though God was asking me to give everything that I had worked for and it was going to be gone in order to be obedient.

Leslie: Tomorrow we’ll hear the rest of Rick’s story. He’s been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about the joyful and somewhat scary, difficult process of having a clear conscience. Today’s interview is part of a series called Seeking Him, and every week in this series has been deep, meaningful, and challenging.

Seeking Him is a twelve-week look at the characteristics of revival. Having a clear conscience is one, along with honesty, purity, obedience and holiness. You can study all of these along with Nancy by ordering the complete twelve weeks on 24 CDs. You can also order the complete series on 2 MP3 CDs.

If you’d rather order by individual week, you can do that as well.

All of us need to remember these topics, and this series will be helpful every time you listen. To order, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Take a look at the new 2008 wall calendar while you’re there. The theme this year is "Prayers From the Heart." Each month you’ll read a new prayer from Nancy, along with a Bible passage and artwork to encourage you. It’s our gift when you make a donation online at ReviveOurHearts.com. Or donate by phone and ask for the "Prayers From the Heart" calendar. The number is 1-800-569-5959.

Tomorrow hear the moment when Rick Lawson turned in the paperwork, admitting he had told a big lie. 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.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.