I often find myself longing to be something different from who I am. When I read statements such as, “I have lived my life before God in all good conscience to this day.” (Acts 23:1), I really struggle with who I am. I long for the opportunity to repeat Paul’s claim, but I wonder if it is even possible. As I thought about this, and what it means to have a clean/good conscience, I came to the awareness that I struggled to concisely and clearly define what it means to have a clear conscience. What is a conscience?
The word that Paul uses for conscience (syneidesis) means to have a true moral awareness or sensitivity towards what is right or what is evil. To use the conscience means to exercise the ability to determine between what is morally right and what is morally wrong. When we exercise our conscience, we engage within a process of self-examination in order to evaluate the morality behind all that we think, say, do, and long for. However, the conscience is not exclusively and limitedly applied to evaluating one’s thoughts and actions, but also towards determining the morality of the actions of others as well (key word: the ACTIONS of others—not their thoughts or motivations).
As I began to think about the conscience, I found the Scripture bearing upon my mind. God tells us that our hearts are evil and lie (Jer. 17:9), that we think what we do is right (Prov. 21:2), and our way of life leads to death (Prov. 14:12). Thus, we are commanded to put off the old self and to have our minds renewed in Christ (Eph. 4:22-24). We are told that it is Christ who cleanses us with His word (Eph. 5:26). And we are told that the Spirit guides us in truth (John 16:13). What does all this mean? Having a good conscience is not something inherent to us, but it is a gift from God when we come to Him in faith.
Far too often we think that we are able to develop a good conscience on our own, or that it is impossible for us to have a good conscience—neither is correct. We are born as enemies of God and in total depravity. No amount of human effort can correct our immorality. Through the substitutionary death of Christ and the gift of atonement, we are made clean by God for God. However, some (like me) struggle to grasp this. Because of a personal awareness of sin we think that we are unable to have a clean conscience; however, it is this awareness of sin that proves we have a conscience! The Holy Spirit is our conscience—He convicts us of sin and immorality to lead us back to God (John 16:8).
Think of it like this… a clean conscience is a gift from God as we respond to the awareness of sin that the Spirit opens us up to. We are able to determine between good and bad because of the work of God within us—this is something absent from us until our salvation. In short, for those of us in Christ, we realize that we are given a conscience from God, we are able to respond to that conscience because of God’s work within us, and, lastly, we boast of our conscience because it is God that works on both our wills and actions for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). The Lord qualifies us and establishes our conscience as we draw near to Him! What an amazing blessing we have in Christ Jesus!
Ultimately, every Christian can say they have a good conscience because they have the mind of Christ (1stCor. 2:16), but we feel conviction when we do not respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, we are told to live up to (worthy of) what we have attained in Christ (Phil. 1:27). Paul’s bold proclamation stemmed from the fact that he made every effort possible to respond to the work of Christ within him. How about you?
I love you and can’t wait to worship together!!!