Graduations from high schools and colleges are in full swing. Students celebrate their graduating experience with families, processions, ceremonies with speakers delivering words of wisdom, and receiving their diplomas. Students are rewarded for their hard work in completing the needed requirements for graduation. Many are excited about moving forward in life, be it further education or the workforce.
Ed Engle, CEO of Central Christian Academy in Indianapolis, invited the graduating seniors and a few administrators and teachers who knew the students well to give them a personal send-off with some heart-felt advice. One of his team said that his advice would be to live out your life with a clear conscience. It was a novel idea that required some unpacking. Together, they spent the rest of their time together understanding what it meant to live with a clear conscience. For many, in the time that followed, the gospel of Jesus Christ became personal and alluring.
From a biblical worldview perspective, the conscience is the part of the human soul that is most like God. Because God made us in His image, we have a conscience which is an inner moral compass that gives us an understanding of what is right and wrong. God also gave us a choice to exercise our obedience or disobedience to God. When we act out against God, we sin and are without excuse.
“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:22).
“You know in your heart all the wrong you did” (1 Kings 2:44).
Our conscience can become dulled and suppressed to the point that we lose our sense of right and wrong. We become deaf to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit warning us to choose to obey God and stay away from those things that go against God’s best for our lives. We “suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18).
D.A. Carson writes: “We live in the age of authenticity, in with individuals feel they have the right to pursue and do whatever they want. That is what makes them authentic. Inevitably, that stance makes one suspicious of all voices of authority that seem to tug in any direction different from what makes our lives authentic”. He continues: “Small wonder, then, that this is an age that gives little thought to the nature and functions of conscience. More dangerously, conscience is malleable or changeable, and is easily re-shaped to conform in substantial measure to the dictates of our age. We crush conscience in order to toss off what now appears to be the shackles of a bygone age.”
Billy Graham said, “Why did God give us a conscience? One reason is because He loves us, and He doesn’t want us to destroy our lives and the lives of others through our evil deeds. But He also gave it to us to show us our need of Christ. He alone can forgive our sins and change our hearts, and then help us live the way we should. Don’t give in to cynicism or despair in your job, but ask God to help you point others to Christ’s transforming power.”
We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s best for us. When we sin, the consequences of sin vary, but guilt and evil thoughts do not go away by trying to be good. Only God can redeem a violated conscience. Our consciences are cleansed when we bring our sin, our failures, and our miserable attempts to appease God to the foot of the cross. Believing in the death and resurrection of Christ brings about forgiveness of our sin and the cleansing of our conscience. Psalm 103:12, God promises to cast our sins away from us “as far as the east is from the west.”
With a clean conscience, we are free to pursue righteousness as we become the men and women God created us to be. Yes, we will still commit occasional sins, but God always provides a way for us to have our consciences cleared.
“If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
God delights in us and His transforming work in our lives. He wants us to enjoy life, love others well and walk with God in all of life. With the forgiveness of sins, we can have a clear conscience, allowing us to experience the joy of living without guilt or regret. We can live without wallowing in our past failures. We are now free to embrace life the way God designed it and live life with a clear conscience.
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” Jeremiah 29:11-14