Four Keys to Keeping a Clear Conscience

(My daughter Holly Hawkins Shivers is the guest blog poster today.)

The holidays are upon us and well, sometimes that means coming face to face with relationships that seem hard. It can also mean thinking about the past year and ways in which we want to do better.

We’ve all had moments when we say or do something we second guess. Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night thinking of something you wish you hadn’t said. Or perhaps you are in the middle of a difficult life circumstance, and you just don’t know how to respond.

You want to know that what you are doing is right in the sight of God. You want to live with a clear conscience.

In Acts 23, we find Paul in Jerusalem offering his defense before the Sanhedrin after being imprisoned. In his opening statement he says,

“Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!” Acts 23:1 (NLT)

Later in Acts 24:16, when speaking about his belief in a future resurrection Paul says again, “Because of this, I always try to maintain a clear conscience before God and all people.”

And again, we find this idea in 1 Cor 4:4 as Paul is describing how the Corinthians should consider him and the other apostles. He states, “My conscience is clear but that doesn’t prove I am right. It is the LORD Himself who will examine me and decide.”  

How did Paul so often reach a place of confidence in the way he lived his life? How could he be so sure?

Scripture speaks to the idea of a clear conscience more than you might think.

Let’s look at just a few examples:

  • 1 Timothy 1:5: “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.”
  • 1 Timothy 1:19: “Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:12: “We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings…”
  • Hebrews 13:18: Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do.”
  • Job 27:6: “I will maintain my innocence without wavering. My conscience is clear for as long as I live.”

In light of these passages and as a follower of Christ, how can you practically maintain with a clear conscience, doing the best you can to live a life pleasing to God?

Here are four keys to living with a clear conscience in 2024…

1. Humble yourself

First and foremost, don’t trust yourself to know everything.

This is especially applicable for those of us who have been in the church and involved in ministry for a long time. The temptation is to automatically believe that we are on the right side of any given situation without taking time to pray, seek and ponder what God may be speaking to our hearts.

Do you know what you don’t know? Do you take serious the wisdom found in Proverbs 3:5-6 which tells us to lean not on our own understanding?

We should often consider how blind we are to the sinful motives of our hearts. This is certainly true in our culture, but just as much so within the church. Are you guilty of labeling fellow believers or leaders based on what someone else thinks or writes about them?

Let the Holy Spirit be the one to guide your judgements and convictions. Claim this promise from John 16:13:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…”

2. Actively listen

Saving room in our lives for quiet contemplation is not only necessary, it’s crucial for anyone seeking to do right. But it’s not easy!

Author and theologian Henri Nouwen says it this way:

“The mystery of the spiritual life is that Jesus desires to meet us in the seclusion of our own heart, to make his love known to us there, to free us from our fears and to make our deepest self known to us. In the privacy of our own heart we can learn not only to know Jesus, but, through Jesus, ourselves as well.”

When we take time to actively listen, God reveals hidden motives of our hearts and guides us on the right path. So often in the book of Acts Paul mentions how the Holy Spirit led him here or there, or that the Spirit said not to travel a certain way to another town… surely that was the result of Paul’s active listening.

What does that look like for you? How do you hear from God?

3. Confess + repent

Maintaining a regular rhythm of confession to God and others is perhaps the most applicable way to keep a clear conscience. As a wife and a mom of four, there have many occasions in which I’ve been stuck at the crossroad of admitting I was wrong and ‘holding my ground’ in order to be right.

It’s never fun to ponder ways in which we’ve fallen short, let alone speak it out loud to another person. But when we do, something miraculous happens.

One of the most fascinating things about the character of our God is his willingness to make us clean after we sin against him. He does it over and over again.

In fact, we find in scripture four beautiful word pictures of what God does with our sins once we confess them to him. He remembers them no more (Isaiah 43:25), he buries them in the bottom of the ocean (Micah 7:19), he makes them white as snow (Isaiah 1:18), and he removes them as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

When you lay your head on your pillow each night, ask God in your heart to bring anything to your mind that you need to make right. Then confess those things to him and receive his new mercies when the sun comes up.

4. Renew your mind

Romans 12:2 says, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Did you catch that? Paying attention to what we think about and setting our minds on things above helps us to know the will of God. So how can we renew our minds and ensure that we are walking in the Spirit each day? Certainly this is key to keeping a clear conscience.

Try this: Tomorrow when you wake up, don’t look at your phone right away. Commit to reading a scripture, devo or even going outside for a few minutes before you connect to the “world.” Clear your mind and offer a simple prayer: “Lord, this day is yours. Lead me and guide me.”  

Then as you move throughout your day, think about the things that draw you into a spiritual atmosphere. Is it worship music in the car? Is it a podcast while you’re folding laundry? Is it a walk, a drive or a deep talk with a good friend?

Whatever it may be for you, fill your life with more of those things.

As you strive to live your life with a clear conscience in the year ahead, remember, you’ll never get it perfectly right. And that’s okay. But when you stay humble, listen for that still small voice, confess your sins and renew your mind, the living Spirit of God will guide you into all truth.

Not to mention, you’ll likely sleep better at night! As one theologian stated,

“There’s no pillow as soft as a clear conscience.”

Shore with Blue Sea

Eleanor Harris (American, 1901-1942)

A green and brown rural landscape leading into a bright blue ocean and slightly cloudy sky, done in oil paints.

Shore with Blue Sea

Eleanor Harris (American, 1901-1942)

A green and brown rural landscape leading into a bright blue ocean and slightly cloudy sky, done in oil paints.

Susie Hawkins enjoys teaching the Bible, speaking, and working with ministry wives from her home base in Dallas, Texas. She has an MA in Theology from Criswell College, and serves on the board of Baptist Global Response (associated with the International Mission Board of the SBC), LifeSavers Foundation. She is the author of  From One Ministry Wife to Another, and has contributed to blogs and various publications. She especially enjoys Tex-Mex lunches with friends and spending time with her grandkids who are beyond awesome.  Susie is married to Dr. O.S. Hawkins, president of Guidestone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.

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