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Guard Your Conscience

Take these steps for a clean conscience

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: How to guard your conscience — practical steps to developing a pure conscience

Part 3 of a 4-part series on “Living with Integrity”

Part 1      Part 2      Part 4

Guard yourself against a corrupted conscience

Your conscience is your moral awareness or moral consciousness. It is a voice inside you that declares what is right and what is wrong. It can be prompted by the Spirit of God, but if you aren’t careful, it can be corrupted and guide you the wrong way.

Read Paul’s warnings:

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. (Titus 1:15)

Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. (1 Timothy 1:18-19)

Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:2)

Influences that can corrupt your conscience

  • Your sin nature
  • The “wisdom” of the world
  • Your friends
  • Your life experiences
  • False teachers
  • Your culture

Paul’s instructions for a clean conscience

In a letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged Timothy to hold on to a good conscience. In the same letter, he wrote that someone must have a good conscience to be a deacon.

Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. (1 Timothy 1:18-19)

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. (1 Timothy 3:8-9)

Related: Tell the truth

Discussion questions

1. What did Paul mean when he wrote “fight the good fight”?

2. Why is it important to hold on to faith and a good conscience as you fight the good fight?

Peter’s instructions for a clean conscience

Peter also wrote about our conscience in many places. For example, he said to keep a clean conscience when you talk with others about Christ.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Discussion question

3. Why did Peter say to keep a clear conscience when talking with people about the hope you have in Christ?

Follow Paul’s example

You can see how important a good (or “clean”) conscience is to God when you read what Paul said about his own conscience:

Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (Acts 23:1)

So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:16)

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace. (2 Corinthians 1:12)

I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. (2 Timothy 1:3)

Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. (Hebrews 13:18)

Discussion question

4. Would you like to be guided by a clean conscience? Explain your answer.

Guard your conscience by drawing close to God

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. (Romans 6:19-20)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16)

Guard your conscience by reading the Bible

A key way to guard your conscience is to read the Bible every day, praying that God will bring its words to life inside you. Ask God to line up your conscience with the truth in the Bible

The Bible is God’s Word. It is the only truly dependable source of truth. It has been proven trustworthy and constant throughout history. Make Bible studies part of your daily life.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8).

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119:16)

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws. (Psalm 119:30)

Do not conform any longer 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. (Romans 12:2)

Related: Why should I read the Bible?

Discussion question

5. How does turning to God make a difference in what your conscience says?

More ways to guard your conscience

  • Pray for wisdom and a clean conscience
  • Be willing to do what God says.
  • Be honest with God about your motives and actions.
  • Spend time with mature believers.

Discussion questions

6. Has your conscience been corrupted by your friends, life experience, culture, or other influences? Explain your answer.

7. What steps will you take to be sure your conscience lines up with God’s Word?

Reject inappropriate guilt or shame

Although some people corrupt their conscience, other people go to the other extreme. They think many things are sinful that in themselves are not sinful. They constantly feel guilty, sure they have done something wrong. Sadly, they often feel guilty when they haven’t done anything wrong.

Paul gave an example of this when he wrote:

But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. (1 Corinthians 8:7)

If you think something is sinful, do not do it. However, if you constantly feel guilty, you may need some help. Talk with your pastor or a mature Christian friend who can help you better understand God’s grace and what the Bible says.

Related: Be encouraged by God’s forgiveness

Discussion questions

8. Do you think you experience inappropriate guilt or shame? Explain your answer.

9. If you think you experience inappropriate guilt or shame, who will you talk with to get godly advice?

Memory verse

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:14)

Make it personal

1. What is the conscience?

2. Do you pay much attention to your conscience? Explain your answer.

3. Was it important to Paul to have a good conscience in his own life? If so, why was it important?

4. How can someone’s conscience get corrupted?

5. In your own life, have any influences corrupted your conscience? Explain your answer.

6. What steps can you take guard your conscience?

7. Write a prayer asking God to help your conscience be formed and guided by him.

8. How has this Bible study on a clean conscience helped you?

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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