The Victorious Christian Life

A Lesson Series for the Earnest Christian

© 2002 by Thomas W. Finley, 2013 Revised Edition

Lesson Twenty: Practices of the Overcomer - Maintaining a Blameless Conscience

This final key practice of victorious Christians cannot be overemphasized. It is of the utmost importance, for, as we shall see, our walk and testimony can utterly fail, perhaps even for the balance of our lifetime, if we ignore the voice of the conscience. The conscience is a God-given faculty of our human spirit. It is operative, on a greatly diminished level, even in unbelievers (Rom. 2:14-15). When a person is born again, his spirit is enlivened, and thus the sensitivity of his conscience is dramatically enhanced (Eph. 4:17-19; Rom. 6:21; Rom. 8:10).

The conscience of man functions to monitor his thoughts, words, motives and actions in light of what the person understands to be good and evil. The conscience testifies to a person whether one is upholding or violating the moral standards he acknowledges as true.

If we violate our accepted standards of good and evil, then we feel uneasiness and guilt. “And it came about afterward that David’s conscience [lit., heart] bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe” (1 Sam 24:5; see also 2 Sam. 24:10).

If we live according to our accepted moral code, then we feel affirmed within as being correct. “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 9:1). “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you” (2 Cor. 1:12).

To the believer, then, the conscience is his inward advisor as to whether he is sinning or obeying God. The conscience is very helpful because it not only condemns us after we sin, but it also warns us that we may be about to sin, and thus we have a chance to avert sinning if we take grace from God at that moment.

Sin breaks our fellowship with God, and this is the point that has so much to do with our victory. Our conscience can warn us that we are about to sin, and we can heed that warning and thus be victorious. On the other hand, when we do sin, and we all do, it is vital that the break in our fellowship with God be fully restored. If our fellowship with God is clouded by sin that is not dealt with, then we will surely be on the path to more defeat, perhaps even to the point of losing our faith completely. Therefore, we must make dealing with the issues of our conscience the utmost priority in our practice. Paying attention to our conscience, then, is a great part of our sanctification process.

Maintaining a blameless conscience

The apostle Paul was certainly an excellent model for us in this matter. How he dealt with his conscience was one of the secrets of his spiritually powerful life. When he appeared before the chief priests and the Sanhedrin (the council of Jewish leaders) to give his defense, he opened his address with this statement: “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day” (Acts 23:1). Then, a short while later he made this statement before the Roman governor, Felix: “In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16). In the King James Version this verse reads: “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward man” (Acts 24:16, KJV). I think the phrase “void of offense” is helpful as it includes the action of clearing up a violated conscience.

Paul was saying that he lived by the dictates of his conscience. If his conscience forbade something, he avoided it. If his conscience approved something, then he proceeded. He tried to live “before God” by only doing God’s will. And, he tried to maintain a good conscience toward man by conducting himself honorably in the sight of his fellow man (Rom. 12:17; 2 Cor. 8:20-21; 1 Pet. 2:12). When he sinned towards God or man, Paul took immediate steps to clear his conscience of that offense.

Clearing the conscience of offenses

In order to have an unclouded communion with God and live in victory, we must clear our conscience of offenses. Regarding dealing with our offenses toward God, this involves a genuine repentance and confession. Most all of us are familiar with First John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). The Greek verb meaning “to confess” is homologeo. In the literal sense it means to speak the same thing or same word.

Our conscience always speaks to us in a specific way, concerning a specific action, word, attitude or thought that is wrong. We must confess, agree, that the specific thing we have done is wrong. General confessions like “Pardon and forgive us all our sins” will not avail before God. We must humble ourselves to accept the condemnation of our conscience in each specific instance. Further, if this agreement with the inward judgment is genuine, we will certainly take steps to pursue a different course. Otherwise, our “confession” is a sham. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Pr. 28:13, NKJV).

The Chinese Bible teacher Watchman Nee gives an excellent illustration of the conscience, likening it to a window which must be cleaned in order to allow God’s light to enter our spirit and give us unhindered communion with Him. God’s light can shine into our being through the conscience of our spirit, thus showing us where we are wrong in our actions, attitudes or words. If we respond in confession to God’s condemnation of our wrongdoings, then this window of our conscience becomes clean, allowing for future light and even greater light. On the other hand, if we do not confess our sins, our conscience becomes damaged and the window becomes cloudy. Therefore, we can see less of God’s light and His voice becomes more muted. If this pattern continues, it is possible for a genuine believer to sin without any feeling of being wrong. The believer is then on a dangerous path of living further and further away from God, His truth and His righteousness.

Sometimes a believer will hear the voice of his conscience, but try to reason against the protest of his conscience with his mind. Through such mental arguments he will try to convince himself that his actions are justified. However, it is a great mistake to overrule the work of the conscience with our reasoning. We should take care to be sure that we respond to the condemnation of the conscience and not try to reason its condemnation away. This does not mean that we should not use our mind to understand God’s inward working, according to Scripture. It means that we should be aware of the tendency of the flesh to justify one’s self and be on guard against it, taking a position of humility before God to rightly respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in our conscience.

A second method that Christians may use in order to suppress the protest of the conscience is to do good works in lieu of dealing with the specific point of disobedience. However, this method also fails to satisfy the demands of conscience. What God requires is confession and repentance concerning our disobedience, not additional service to appease Him. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22b, KJV).

Once we have made our confession of specific sin, we need to trust in God’s promise in First John 1:9 that He does forgive us and cleanse us. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). He is faithful to forgive us, because He is faithful to His word concerning forgiveness in Christ (Acts 10:43). He can be righteous in forgiving our sins because of the blood of Jesus (Rom. 3:25-26).

We also need to take care of clearing our conscience of offenses toward man. Many times when we mistreat others our conscience will not give us peace solely from our confession to God. It is also pressing us to clear up the offense with our fellow man by going to them for forgiveness. An example of this is found in Matthew. “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matt. 5:23-24).

We also need to take care of clearing our conscience of offenses toward man. Many times when we mistreat others our conscience will not give us peace solely from our confession to God. It is also pressing us to clear up the offense with our fellow man by going to them for forgiveness. An example of this is found in Matthew. “If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matt. 5:23-24).

From the context, we can see that in this example the offense toward the brother would be that of calling him a name (see Matt. 5:22). Although Jesus mentions the altar, because at that time the disciples were still practicing Jews, this term would also picture our going to God for fellowship in prayer in the New Testament economy. After doing something offensive to a brother, our conscience may bother us as we approach the throne of grace. This is God’s signal to us that we must clear up the offense by going to that brother in repentance and asking for forgiveness (see Luke 17:4). It is only by doing this (and confessing our sin to God) that the offense can be removed from our conscience and we can be at peace. In the same way, we also need to clear up offenses toward unbelievers. Paul testified: “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men” (Acts 24:16, KJV).

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