January 27, 2021
Your conscience is that part of you that knows you deeply. The word "conscience" means a "knowing with" or "self-knowledge." This is the part of you where God protects you from wrong choices, but also convicts you when you sin.
When we have sinned against someone, the Bible has a very clear process for resolution. Jesus commanded this in Matthew 5:23-24, and the account of Jacob in the Old Testament illustrates the beauty and rightness of this approach.
Jacob had deceived and cheated his brother out of his birthright and blessing. Esau was not innocent in this encounter also because he had vowed to kill his brother. Years went by, and now Jacob, married and prosperous, was told by God to return to Israel. But along the way, his worst nightmare came to pass … he encountered his brother, the one he had wronged years before.
We all sin and we hurt others in the process. Our sin is not only against God, but against those we have wronged. The path to a clear conscience is to humbly admit your sin and seek forgiveness from the one you've offended. Also, we should make restitution if needed.
Until that is done, you can carry the unbearable weight of guilt, and rightfully so. What if I see that person? What if they take revenge? What if others discover my past sins? What if my unresolved actions bring reproach to God and hinder the gospel? God's legitimate conviction can paralyze you and is like a heavy burden around your neck. It is designed by God to drive you to action.
When there are people in your life that you have sinned against, the best thing to do is to face it by the grace of God.
A HUMBLE, COURAGEOUS RESPONSE
Jacob took the hard but necessary step. He admitted his past sins and sent a gift of restitution to his brother. Esau graciously forgave him, and their relationship was restored. As Jacob’s conscience was cleared, the fear and distress disappeared. Even if Esau had not forgiven him, Jacob had taken the right step. He knew that, as far as it was possible, he had sought to make things right.
It’s always the best approach when you have hurt someone—no matter how far in the past—to seek to be reconciled to them when God brings it to mind. God has much to say about this, for He longs for His children to walk together in righteousness and peace. Charles Spurgeon said that a man can only be used again when his “confession is as notorious as his sin.”
Is there anyone that you have sinned against that you have not sought, to the best of your ability, to seek their forgiveness and make it right? If so, make the call. See them if appropriate. Write them and do it TODAY. Enjoy the liberating result of being right with God and right with man.
Father, is there anyone that I have sinned against that I need to approach? Places where I need to clear my conscience with You and others? If so, bring them to mind and then give me the grace and courage to face the situation humbly, regardless of their response.
(If you have questions or want to pursue this further, I've written a small booklet called "Lifting Life's Greatest Load: How to Gain and Maintain a Clear Conscience." It can be found here: https://billelliff.org/products/lifting-lifes-greatest-load)
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