We have a hypersensitive smoke alarm in our house. It goes off all the time. But I think it is better to have a smoke alarm that is too sensitive than to have one that isn’t sensitive enough.
As believers, we want to have a working conscience. The Apostle Paul warned, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:1–2).
If your conscience is sensitive, that is good. You don’t want it seared as though a hot iron had been applied to it.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
– Hebrews 10:22
A healthy conscience discerns between good and evil, and it gets weighed down with guilt over wrongdoing. This sense of guilt should motivate you to take responsibility for your actions and seek forgiveness when you have done something wrong. You will gain a clear conscience when your sin is pardoned and its accompanying guilt is resolved through genuine repentance.
A clear conscience before God is possible through faith in God for salvation. When you receive God’s gift of salvation, your sins are forgiven and your relationship with God is restored. A clear conscience before other people comes through the repentance and restitution that restore damaged relationships.
Maintaining a clear conscience enhances your relationships in every sphere of life and brings many benefits, including those listed below:
- Power to Overcome Temptation
Sin brings destruction into your life and relationships. A clear conscience prompts you to live honourably in order to avoid the painful consequences of sin and the humiliation of confessing wrongdoing, asking for forgiveness, and making restitution. (See Romans 6:32, Psalm 32:5, and I John 1:9.)
- Alertness to Make Wise Decisions
Failure to confess secret sins to God and to those who are spiritually responsible for you is like allowing enemy soldiers to lie hidden in the territory that you are responsible to protect. If you make a habit of hiding your sins, you’ll be drawn into deeper and deeper bondage, because Satan uses a defiled conscience to lead a person into more sin.Maintaining a clear conscience motivates you to make wise choices—to take responsibility for your actions and avoid the consequences of hiding your mistakes. The Apostle Paul wrote, “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (I Timothy 1:18–19).
- Boldness to Witness
As a Humanitarian, unconfessed sin can make you ashamed to share your faith because you can be called a hypocrite. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation” (I Peter 3:15–16).
- Freedom to Resolve Conflicts and Build Friendships
Unresolved offences can be a stumbling block to the salvation and spiritual growth of others. However, the sincere humility that you express when you take the steps necessary to gain a clear conscience is a quality that usually generates endearment and honour.Paul lived “in all good conscience before God” (Acts 23:1). “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward” (II Corinthians 1:12).
- A Firm Foundation for the Humanitarian Life
The Apostle Paul told Timothy that a clear conscience is a key component of a life of faith. He told Timothy that “the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling” (I Timothy 1:5–6).
It takes effort and humility to maintain a clear conscience, but it is worth the investment. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
This material is adapted from the Basic Seminar Textbook, pages 50–55.