Bible Study

What Does It Mean To Have A Good Conscience?

Our conscience is given by God and is discussed more often than you might think in the Bible. What does the Bible say then about this topic? Do we need to make an effort to keep a clear conscience or is a good conscience guaranteed for a Christian?

3 Types of Conscience in the Bible

Briefly, there are three types of conscience mentioned in the Bible. Firstly, a guilty conscience, secondly a seared or deadened conscience, and thirdly a clear or good conscience.

1 Feeling Guilty

This is not necessarily a bad thing – the definition of a guilty conscience is, ‘a bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that one has done something wrong’. It is how we respond to the conviction of a guilty conscience that is important.

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will convict us of righteousness, of what is right in God’s sight, but will not condemn. If we are, or when we are, convicted of sin it is wise to deal with it promptly and seek forgiveness.

“…you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.” I Timothy 1:19

We are in a spiritual battle, and responding to the prodding of our conscience in line with the truth of God’s word is our guide. This is the way to keep our faith strong and to live with the peace of a clear conscience.

2 Deadened To Sin

This is when our conscience becomes unresponsive, unfeeling, and hardened by sin. This is caused by persistent rebellion. Ignoring the truth of God’s word and following selfish desires slowly, but surely, deadens our response to the Holy Spirit. Until there comes a time when we no longer hear or feel His prompting.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

Remember the letter of Ephesians is to a church – it is not speaking to unbelievers but to believers. It is clear, that when we commit to following Jesus, there is a process of sanctification. Slowly we become more like Him as we respond to the word of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Related post: Live a Life Worthy of Your Calling

3 Living With A Clear Conscience

It is possible to know peace of mind, in our daily lives. It is not that we are confident in our behavior but in the righteousness that is ours in Christ Jesus. We are secure in the faithfulness of God to keep the promises of His word.

“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22

Paul, the apostle, the man who at one time persecuted Christians was able to live with a clear conscience. This was because, having repented of his sins, he believed in God’s forgiveness. With faith we can also be free from condemnation, leaving our past behind and trusting in the goodness of God.

Headshot of a woman looking quizzical and the text 'Let your conscience be your guide? Good Advice for a Christian?'
What Does It Mean To Have A Good Conscience?

Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

This well-known phrase comes from, of all places, a Disney movie. The advice given is to let our conscience guide our decisions. The basis is that we will inherently know what is the right thing to do. But is this good advice?

There is a passage of Scripture in the Old Testament that states cursed is the one who trusts in man. It goes on to say, that blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and whose confidence is in Him. Following this, the writer, Jeremiah, makes an observation and states:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

The LORD answers Jeremiah’s rhetorical question, that He alone can search, examine, and judge our hearts and minds. The implication is that we cannot trust our emotions. Our feelings are not consistent, they are subject to so many external forces. In the same way, we cannot rely on our conscience to judge our actions.

Our conscience can be dulled, and deadened, by persistent unrepentant sin. The small, and often, unnoticed sins can lull us into thinking they do not matter. And so we deceive ourselves, our hope for peace of mind is based on the righteousness of Christ Jesus.

Through the Lord Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit as our counsellor. We have a trustworthy guide, the Spirit of Truth living in us as promised by Jesus:

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you, and will be in you.” John 14:15-17

The Holy Spirit has been given to guide us in truth. We can keep a good conscience, prompted by the Holy Spirit and in agreement with God’s word. The Holy Spirit may oppose a dulled conscience, and it may oppose our understanding. What we think is right may not be God’s best for our situation. Sometimes we are called to obey His word even without any obvious benefit…

A Clear Conscience Fears No Accusation!

But the Holy Spirit never brings confusion. His prompt, the nudge of that still small voice will guide us to keep the faith and to be obedient to the call to follow Jesus. The Holy Spirit is not only our counsellor but also our enabler.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” Titus 2:11-13

Related Post: Guard Your Heart Above All Else.

A picture of a woman looking up from an open Bible with a big smile on her face and the text of Hebrews 10 v22.
How To Keep Your Conscience Clear

How To Keep Your Conscience Clear

We’ve established that as Christians we don’t rely on our conscience per se, but we rely and depend on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s word. There will be times in our lives when our hearts and minds will be troubled. So, how do we live with peace?

Firstly, we need to keep short accounts. By that, I mean to reflect and examine our decisions and behavior in the light of God’s will and according to His word. As believers, we do not live sinless lives, but the Holy Spirit will prompt us to recognize sin and to do something about it. To keep our conscience clear, we must be willing to be corrected, to ask for forgiveness, and to give forgiveness to others. (Matthew 6:12-15)

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Secondly, a clear conscience comes when we remain close to the Lord and abide in Him. It is a daily relationship with the Lord that enables us to live in freedom. This is the source of abundant life, knowing our sins are forgiven, and that we are reconciled to God.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10

We receive the gift of God’s love and forgiveness, with no condemnation. And we can walk in the light of His love, acknowledging our dependence on God and released from fear!

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