George Washington once said, “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.” Our consciences are a precious and delicate gift from God. We must guard them carefully! So, how do we keep that “celestial fire” alive? The Apostle Paul gives us three keys to a clear conscience in 2 Corinthians 1:12 – “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”
1. Conduct Your Life in Simplicity
The first key to a clear conscience is to live in simplicity. This word “simplicity” can also mean “holiness.” In fact, the New American Standard Bible translates this verse, “…the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity…we have conducted ourselves….” (italics added). The Beacon Bible Expositions explain, “In this context, “holiness” stresses the moral purity of… outward behavior” (Vol. 7, Pg. 191).
Another term that captures the idea of “simplicity” is “integrity.” A man of integrity has a clear conscience because he knows that his conduct has been holy. His behavior has been upright- publicly and privately. And, If he has offended in any way, he has gone back to make right what he did wrong.
2. Conduct Your Life in Godly Sincerity
The second key to a clear conscience is sincerity. As simplicity addresses holiness in behavior, sincerity addresses purity in motive. A clear conscience requires integrity of motive and action. The Beacon Bible Expositions says, “Sincerity means transparency of motive over against either the translucent or opaque” (Vol. 7, Pg. 192). In other words, sincerity is the opposite of the manipulation and deceitfulness which so often cloud the motives and behaviors of men.
This sincerity is also to be “godly” sincerity as oppossed to mere human sincerity. In other words, it is a purity of motive according to God’s standards and not merely human estimation. Many people are sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. Only the standard of God’s holy nature and character can give us the proper standard by which to direct our motives.
3. Conduct Your Life in the Strength of God
Finally, the key to a clear conscience requires that we live in the strength of God. The inescapable reality is that no one can live a life of simplicity and godly sincerity— at least not on our own. The Apostle Paul quickly declares, “I have not lived this way by ‘fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God.'” We can only live a life of integrity as we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. We need God’s grace as power to operate in us, enabling us to be holy in motive and behavior.
In Acts 24:16 the Apostle Paul says, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (KJV). Why should we each strive to “have always a conscience void of offence?” Ultimately, for the reason Paul gives in 2 Corinthians 1:15- “…the day of the Lord Jesus.” Each of us will stand before God and give an account for what we have done in the body- both our behaviors and our motives. Therefore, we should strive to have a conscience “void of offence” so that we may stand with confidence in “the day of the Lord Jesus.”
What are some practical things you do to keep a clear conscience before God and men?
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All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.