Nothing upsets me more than an unclear conscience. It can stop me from falling asleep or wake me in the middle of the night. That churning, sickly feeling of my conscience. It’s often telling me a relationship with another is broken. Sometimes it can be over small trivial things, like when making small talk I speak before thinking. Other times it can be more serious, like when I intentionally spoke to hurt another or when I chose to deny Christ either in words or my lack of them.
I love the description in 1 Samuel 24:5, “afterward David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off an edge of Saul’s robe” (emphasis added). This has also been my experience – my conscience bothers me! It’s a good thing because God prompts me to action. When I can pray, act, and resolve the issue, the Lord restores my joy in Him. But there are times when a resolution is not possible. That is something I struggle with. I have learned that once you have done what you can to make peace, there are times when you have to seek the Lord’s forgiveness and leave it with Him. As Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.”
Paul speaks in this chapter of having a clear conscience, and there are two areas where his conscience is clear:
- With God
- With others
Paul knew that his relationship with God wasn’t based on his goodness and actions, but due to God, who had intervened through Christ’s death and resurrection to rescue him. However, Paul also understood that how he lived and acted was important. Paul warned Timothy of this in 1 Timothy 1:19 saying, “you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith.” This is both an encouragement and a warning to us all.
What does it mean to live in good conscience towards others? It is more than seeking to live well and do good to others. Paul had hope in God – he knew the future was secure – that there would be a resurrection. Death is not the end. Paul wanted to make sure, through his life and words, that the people around him had an opportunity to hear about and get to know the Lord Jesus.
We have an example of this as Paul spoke with Felix and his wife Drusilla. Felix had the power to release Paul who was being held unfairly, as noted by the commanding officer who sent Paul to Felix. “I found he was accused with reference to controversial questions about their law, but no charge against him deserved death or imprisonment” (Acts 23:29).
Paul had a choice to make, either to speak the truth about Christ or seek his release by paying a bribe. Paul was unafraid of the consequences and spoke the truth about Christ. His words even caused Felix to be frightened as Paul spoke directly to the sinfulness of his relationship with Drusilla, who was his third wife whom he had encouraged to divorce her husband to marry him.
For two years Felix and Paul regularly spoke. You’d expect after all that time, when Felix was changing jobs, he would let Paul’s unfair imprisonment end. But instead, he did a favor to the Jews and left him in prison for the next governor. Life isn’t always fair. Paul did what was right, he didn’t pay the bribe, and he spent time witnessing to Felix. Felix seemed interested, but in the end appeared unaffected.
Doing the right thing doesn’t always get us the outcome we want. We are called to be faithful to God, no matter the outcome, to keep our conscience with God and with others clear. The hope – the sure future – we have in God should transform our daily lives, as we worry less about the things that are important to the world and think more about what will last eternally. As the missionary Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”
- Do you have a clear conscience before God? If not talk to Him about it. Seek and receive His forgiveness.
- Do you have a clear conscience before others? If someone comes to mind with whom your conscience isn’t clear, talk to God about it. Consider what action is needed. As far as is in your control, seek to resolve it.
- Do your life and your words point others to Christ? Are you living in a way that is faithful to God and His Word?
Take some time today to praise our wonderful God, who clears our consciences of the great debt of sin we owe. Live in freedom. Share the good news with others. Seek first God’s kingdom. Then you too will be able to say, “my hope is in God and my conscience is clear before Him and others.”
Week 6 Challenge:
Paul was confident God would continue to help and deliver him when he needed it. This week, make a list of some significant ways God has been faithful to you. Put that list somewhere you will see it every day. When you read it, thank God for His past faithfulness to you and ask Him for the faith to believe in His coming deliverance.
Week 6 Reading Plan:
Week 6 Memory Verse: