I read somewhere that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once played a joke on twelve of his friends. He sent them each identical telegrams that read:
“Flee! All is discovered!”
Just four words. But within 24 hours, all twelve fled the country.
What Conan Doyle did in jest, God does to us in all seriousness.
The Lord will use situations to awaken ignored or unresolved guilt, testing our willingness to come clean and clear a guilty conscience.
Are you willing? Here’s how.
Becoming Conscious of Conscience
God brought to Joseph’s family a famine that awoke their consciences regarding a sin they had buried for 22 years.
“Truly we are guilty concerning our brother . . . What is this that God has done to us?” —Genesis 42:21, 28
It’s amazing how God can get our attention.
The Father may remove what He gave—money, possessions, even family—to get us to a place where we’re willing to listen to Him and to come clean with sin we’ve buried. We’d rather try to live with a guilty conscience than to face the pain of accountability and confession. But God provides the right circumstance to help us face what we’ve avoided—and this for our good.
3 Steps to Clear a Guilty Conscience
When God puts you in a situation that awakens unresolved guilt, are you willing to come clean before God and man? How do you do that?
- First, realize that you can’t clear a guilty conscience on your own. It’s a tough confession. Do you remember Lady Macbeth’s famous sleepwalking plea?
“Out, damned spot! Out, I say!”
And when the spying doctor heard her say this, and saw her trying to wash the imaginary spots of blood off her hands (really, off her conscience), he made this statement:
“Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles; infected minds to their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets. More needs she the divine than the physician. God, God, forgive us all!” —Macbeth, Act V, Scene I
Shakespeare nailed it here. A guilty conscience isn’t something any earthly doctor can fix. Only God can wash the blood off our hands.
- Second, believe that Jesus has removed your sins—and thus, your guilt. Why? For eternal forgiveness. Although you have sinned, Jesus shed His blood on the cross, as your substitute, to pay for your sins. And if you believe in Him—if you trust Him for the forgiveness He offers by grace through faith—then you can know that your sins are forgiven (Romans 3:23-24, 28).
This is fine for eternity. But what happens when we sin AFTER we’ve trusted Christ?
How many of your sins had you committed when Jesus died? None. That means He died to pay for all your sins—past, present, and future. There’s no other way, to quote Shakespeare, to get that “damned spot” out.
- Third, confess your daily sins to God and to people. Why? For relational forgiveness. A couple of verses reveal our need for confession to people:
- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” —James 5:16
- “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” —Acts 24:16
This kind of confession isn’t to “stay saved,” but so that you stay in fellowship with God (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2). The fact is, we need a set of eyeballs looking at us and asking the hard accountability questions. It’s too easy to sidestep reality.
10 Questions Can Help Clear a Guilty Conscience
I’m in men’s group that meets each week for Bible study, prayer, and accountability. We begin our meetings by answering the following 10 questions. (You can download these questions here.)
- Have you spent daily time in the Scriptures and in prayer?
- Have you had any flirtations or lustful attitudes, tempting thoughts, or exposed yourself to any explicit materials that would not glorify God?
- Have you been completely above reproach in your financial dealings?
- Have you spent quality relationship time with family and friends?
- Have you done your 100% best in your job, school, or retirement?
- Have you told any half-truths or outright lies, putting yourself in a better light to those around you?
- Have you had the opportunity to share the gospel this week?
- Have you taken care of your body through regular physical exercise and proper eating and sleeping?
- Have you allowed any person or circumstance to rob you of your joy?
- Have you lied to us on any of your answers today?
Ask God to make you sensitive to His voice, and don’t ignore God’s prodding when He makes you aware of your need for confession and accountability. Be willing to come clean and confess.
There’s no other way to clear a guilty conscience.
Question: Why do you think the Bible tells us to confess to one another? Please leave a comment.