Steps In

Clearing One's Conscience

Please note that the following material is taken from Chapter Five of  the book Bringing Every Thought Captive, Vol.1.  Some of the material has be abbreviated for the use on the web.
There are two basic elements in clearing one's conscience.  The first element is to clear the conscience of offenses that we have committed toward God and others.  The second element is to clear the conscience of offenses that others have brought to us.

Offenses Toward God and others

Eight steps toward getting a clear conscience producing a freedom to serve God.
8. Accountability
7. Restitution
6. Repentance
5. Confession of Sin
4. Desire for a clear conscience
3. Fear of the Lord
2. Acknowledgment of Sin
1. The judgment of God

The first step in the clearing of one's conscience is experiencing the judgment of God (Hebrews 12:6-13).  God, in one sense, doesn't discipline Satan's kids; however, He is quick to discipline His own.  One may experience physical illness because he abuses his body, the temple of God.  Judah was sick in the head and in the body.  One may have migraine headaches because he is wrestling with guilt.  He may have family problems with his spouse and children.  He may have social problems at work, school, or with civil authorities.  He may experience mental agony of depression, fear, worry, and anxiety.  He may have financial problems and not be able to pay his bills.  He may experience a bondage to various addictions (drugs, alcohol, sex, and work).  God may simply turn us over to our enemies for destruction as he did with Judah.  Sin always has a consequence, the judgment of God.

The second step is to come to the acknowledgment of sin.  Again, the soul is like a city.  The sins which one harbors in his soul are like strongholds within the city.  One may be afraid that other people might find out about the inner strongholds of sin; therefore, he builds a wall of defense around the city.  The field of psychology has come up with several dozen defense mechanisms that we may use to keep from facing the truth about our failures and our lives.  The psychological defense mechanisms are like the stones that make up the wall about the city.  Some of the more formal ones are denial, suppression, projection, rationalization, regression, displacement, idolization, and compensation.  (1) Denial is when we simply deny that we did what we did.  "I didn't do it!"  Peter used denial when he was asked if he knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75).  (2) Suppression is voluntarily pressing something that we have done down deep in our subconscience so that we won't have to look at it.  (3) Projection is projecting our sinful behavior upon someone else.  "I didn't do it.  John did it."  (4) Rationalization is trying to reason away any guilt involved.  It is saying, "Well, it was only a little white lie."

(5) Regression is an attempt to relive an earlier time of our lives so that we don't have to face the current situation.  (6) Displacement is one that we all use.  Instead of taking responsibility for our wrong, we kick the cat or scream at the children.  (7) Idolization is redirecting our attention off ourselves and placing it upon someone whom we would like to be.  (8) Compensation is trying to make up for some failure in one area of our lives by excelling in another area of our lives.  Each of these are lies of the enemy that make up a stronghold.  They are sins.  Although the devil blinds our eyes at times, we allow him to do so.  To get a clear conscience we must face the truth about our sin.

The third step to get a clear conscience is to experience the fear of the LORD. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7).  The fear of the LORD is to connect our wrong actions to God's response to our actions.  Until we do this, we will continue in our ways of sin.  We must realize that God sees and knows everything that we do wrong whether it is in the dark or anyone else knows about it or not. God exhorts us by saying, "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil" (Proverbs 3:7).  The fear of the LORD goes beyond the fear of getting caught.  God's Word says, "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate" (Proverbs 8:13).  We should also understand that if we can trust God to discipline us, then we may also trust Him to reward us.  "In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge" (Proverbs 14:26).  We should see that we must begin with the fear of the LORD; then we can move on to restoration. "The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility" (Proverbs 15:33).

Some people have the belief that "the fear of the LORD" is just an Old Testament concept, but there are some rather strong verses in the New Testament on the topic. "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Hebrews 12:28).  "And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear" (I Peter 1:17).

Fourth, to get a clear conscience we must desire a clear conscience.  Not everyone will have this desire.  Some will desire the pleasure of sin much more than doing what is right.  Others will fear the consequences of what they might have to do to get a clear conscience.  David expressed God's desire by saying, "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shall make me to know wisdom" (Psalm 51:6).  Then David said, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou has broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.  Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Psalm 51:7-10).

We should understand that God's law is written in our conscience. "Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another" (Romans 2:15).  We should also understand that when we sin we defile our conscience. "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.  They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (Titus 1:15-16).   Again, the Word of God must be used to crack through the hardness.

The fifth step to achieve a clear conscience is to make a confession of your sins.  James exhorts us by saying, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5 :16).  The first part of confession is agreeing with God and others that we have sinned.  Confession is saying, "I was wrong.  Please forgive me."  It is not saying, "I am sorry."  Someone may have a car wreck in front of your house, and you may say to them, "I am sorry that you had the wreck."  However, you are not expressing any responsibility in what you said.  We should be careful not to use blame toward others in our confession.  For example, we should not say, "I guess I was wrong, but if you hadn't done such and such, I wouldn't have done what I did."  We must take responsibility for what we have done and let others take responsibility for what they have done.  Literally one should say, "I was wrong" or "God has convicted me that I was wrong."  A partial confession will not work.  One must tell the whole truth.

Next, we should express how we were wrong.  We may have had wrong actions, wrong words, wrong attitudes, or wrong motives.  In expressing a wrong action, one might say, "I should have paid more attention to you when you were speaking."  In expressing wrong words, one might say, "I should not have said that you were lazy.  I was very inconsiderate of all the work you have done in the past."  In expressing a wrong attitude one might say, "I should not have gotten angry at you as I did."  Finally, in confessing a wrong motive, one might say, "I showed extra respect toward you (my boss) so that you would give me a better position.  I should have shown you respect because you are the authority that God has placed over me."

A second part of confession is asking the person whom we have offended for forgiveness.  We should recognize that forgiveness is never deserved.  Therefore when we ask for forgiveness, we are actually making a request.  We are not demanding it.  Therefore, we should leave the request with the other person, whether or not he is willing to forgive.  God is quick to forgive because it is of His nature to forgive through Jesus.  However, it may be quite difficult for others to forgive us.  The other person may not be willing to forgive us if he is balancing blaming us with his own offense.  If the other person, in such a case, forgives us, then he must look at his own guilt.  He may not, therefore, be willing to face the things that he has done to offend us.

It is also good to plan what you will say.  If you wait until you are facing the person you have offended, you may be too emotionally charged to communicate clearly.  Jesus tells of the planned confession of the prodigal son.  "I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And  am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy servants" (Luke 15:18-19).  Normally, we should go to and face the person that we have sinned against.  Letters are usually not the best way of confession for two reasons:  people read between the lines, and they may use the written words against us.  Phone calls may be acceptable in many cases.  We normally should not have others to relay the message for us because they may distort the message.

The sixth step in getting a clear conscience is repentance.  The word repentance comes from a military concept meaning to do an about-face.  We are headed in the wrong direction.  We are to stop, turn around, and go in the right direction.  Ezekiel gives us a picture of repentance by saying, "But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die" (Ezekiel 18:21).  It is a turning from sin to do that which is right.  Peter puts it this way in the book of Acts, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).

Someone might ask, "Isn't repentance for sinners?  Do Believers also need to repent?"  The answer is "Yes" to both questions.  "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (II Chronicles 7:14).  God spoke those words to His chosen people, but they may apply to us today.  Furthermore, Jesus told the church of the Laodiceans to repent.  Jesus said, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19).  We must understand that true repentance is more than an outward act, it is an inward change of heart.   "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (II Corinthians 7:10).

The seventh step toward getting a clear conscience is that of making restitution.  Although there are various biblical laws, let us take a look at several.  "If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double" (Exodus 22:7).  Notice that the caretaker was to pay double for that which he was responsible.  In another situation, a thief was to pay seven times as much as he had stolen.  "But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house" (Proverbs 6:31).
Luke records an occasion where Zacchaeus, a tax collector, climbed up into a tree to see Jesus as he passed by.  Jesus stopped and called to him to come down from the tree and go and fix him a meal.  Zacchaeus submitted himself to Jesus as Lord and said that he was willing to make restitution.  "And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold" (Luke 19:8).   Restitution brings freedom because we have to give up more than we originally took.

The eighth step toward achieving a clear conscience is accountability.   Inmates in prison often declare that it easier for them to be in prison than to be walking around in society.  Why?  In prison, the guards hold them accountable for their actions.  In society, they are pretty much on their own.  Therefore, it is important for one who is in the process of clearing his conscience to submit himself to an authority that will hold him accountable.

Paul exhorts us to submit ourselves to authority.  "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.   Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:   For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake" (Romans 13:1-5).  Look again at the last clause.  We are to submit ourselves to those in authority for conscience sake.  The authority may first need to deal with the stronghold of stubbornness in our lives before he releases us into service or ministry.


Offenses That Others Have Brought To Us

Steps To Freedom

1. Surrender your life totally to God through accepting Jesus as your LORD (ruler, king, boss).
Do it now even if you have done it before.  Pray, "Dear God I believe that Jesus Christ died for all my sins and arose again the third day that I might have Eternal Life.  Therefore, I give my life to Jesus letting, Him become my Lord. Amen." (Romans 10:9-10).
2. Ask for God's grace (His divine ability) to enable you to forgive each person who has hurt you.
Pray, "Dear God, I ask for your help that I may forgive those who have hurt me." (Hebrews 4:16).
3. Bind up in the name of Jesus anything (anger, fear, hate, bitterness, revenge, murder, and confusion) that would keep you from making the choice to forgive others.
Declare aloud, "In the name of Jesus I bind _____________  and declare that these will have no power to keep me from forgiving others." (Matthew 16:19).
4. Understand that neither Satan nor any of his powers can keep you, as a Believer, from walking through the door of forgiveness.
God is on your side! (Romans 8:31).
5. By using your will in faith, choose now in your heart to forgive (release) each of those you have hurt you.
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."  (Matthew 6:12).
6. Now confess your choice before God.  Say, "Dear God, I purpose in my heart by your grace to forgive (release) _______________ (put the name of each person in the blank) for what they have done to hurt me."
(Matthew 6:14).  This step may take some time as the Holy Spirit reveals various names and events to you.
7. Next, place each person who has hurt you in God's hands and ask Him to release them from what they have done to hurt you.  Pray, "Lord, I place ____________ (their names) in your hands for your judgment and ask that You also forgive them for what they have done to me."
Jesus did this when he was on the cross. (Luke 23:34)  Stephen also did this when he was being stoned to death. (Acts 7:60).
8. Now that you have stepped through the door to freedom, ask God to keep His Word and release you from the consequences of the sin of unforgiveness.
Pray, "Dear God, I have forgiven ___________ and ask that you forgive me of having unforgiveness toward ____________."  (Matthew 6:14).
9. Next, ask God to forgive and cleanse you from other sins related to unforgiveness.  Pray, "Heavenly Father, I ask that you forgive me of ________ __________ (examples: anger, hate, revenge, bitterness, and depression) and cleanse my life of all these things."  (I John 1:9).
Ask God to restore your soul (Psalms 23:3).  Pray, "Lord, I ask that You take back the property that I have yielded to the enemy through unforgiveness."  Note: God is the one who restores one's soul.
10. In the name of Jesus command all those evil spirits of ___________ and _________ to be bound and to leave your mind, will, and emotions and not to come back.  Say, "In the name of Jesus, I command _________________ to leave and not to return again."  (Mark 16:17).
(Although every Believer has authority to do this in the name of Jesus, it is wise to have a Christian counselor to assist you.  You may unknowingly be overcome by some strong spirit.) (see The Open Door).
11. It is good to verify that you are free in a particular area.
The Holy Spirit is a witness with your spirit to the amount of freedom that you have received.  Pray, "Holy Spirit, since you are a witness to my spirit, am I now free in this area?"  Then listen in faith for the Holy Spirit to speak to you.  (Again, it is good to have the confirmation of a Christian counselor's spiritual discernment.)  REMEMBER:  "If the Son (Jesus) shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
You don't want evil to follow you. You can shut the door by receiving the healing of your hurts through trusting in Jesus.   Jesus said that the Father had sent Him to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18).  Pray, "I ask you, Heavenly Father, to heal the wounds through the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Amen."    Finally, ask the Lord to show you how you can begin to bless the one who has offended you.  When Job prayed for his friends, God set him free.  "And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before" (Job 42:10).  (See Healing of Emotions)

A clear conscience enables us to have a clean vessel for God to fill with His Holy Spirit.  Once we have a clear conscience we should seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).