MARKUS JEROMIN: The joy of a clear conscience

By PASTOR MARKUS JEROMIN
Guest Columnist

Guilt is oppressive. It can drag a person down. It takes away freedom and stifles joy.

Guilt is an inner weight that stems from actual wrongs committed. And it is, in fact, a gift from God! No, I did not write that by mistake.

Guilt is a gift from the Lord. Let me explain.

Sometimes our consciences bother us. Where does this come from? Usually it is the activity of the Holy Spirit of God. Before sending the Spirit into the world, the Lord Jesus said, “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

Guilt and conviction of sin are a very good thing. (Read on to find out why.) They are not to be ignored; they lead to confession, repentance and the joy of a clear conscience.

The ultimate cause of guilt is sin, which is disobedience to God’s law. Sin leads to two major problems.

First, it puts us under God’s just condemnation. It is, in fact, rebellion against God, and He doesn’t take that lightly. Sin against infinite holiness and perfect goodness rightly merits eternal punishment.

Second, sin causes all kinds of hurt and damage, both to ourselves and to our relationships with God and others. Just think about how it weakens our ability to resist wrong and harms others.

Sin also puts us under Satan’s influence. But God is gracious and would spare us of these things — if we would listen to our consciences.

Many do the opposite. They harden their consciences in the face of guilt. They just want to get rid of their guilt as quickly and easily as possible. Is this you?

When the Holy Spirit convicts, don’t sear (rather than soften) your heart. Conscience that is defied quickly erodes; it gets quiet and then eventually goes from quiet to silent.

That is a scary place to be. We don’t need to look to people like Stalin and Hitler for examples. The pages of the newspaper produce plenty of examples.

Even in our own lives we’ve seen the devastation, haven’t we?

So when you experience guilt, don’t make excuses for sin. Don’t harden your heart against conscience’s pangs. God is mercifully telling you to get off that path of destruction, and quickly!

The right response is to confess your sin. Admit it, own it and apologize — first and foremost to God. And repent of it (turn away from it).

Do you know what King David’s first and greatest concern was after being convicted of sins of adultery and murder? It was that he’d sinned against God … done what is evil (despicable and offensive) in His sight (Psalm 51:4).

Repentance means changing course, making an about-face, changing your attitude about sin in general and about specific sin(s). It is admitting the evil of sin — your sin. Agree with God about it.

Repentance also involves confessing to the person you’ve harmed. With that, as far as you are able, seek to make things right with them.

Jesus Christ suffered and died so that those who confess their sins to Him can be forgiven of their sins.

The Son of God died as a perfect sacrifice for sins, so that He could suffer as a substitute — not for everyone’s sins, but for the sins of those who turn to Him in repentance and faith. And this brings peace with God. It may not always bring peace with others, but it leads to the peace that matters most.

So, repentance and forgiveness remove guilt and lead to joy and the freedom of a clear conscience. This is good (gospel) news indeed! Therefore, “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20a).

Markus Jeromin is the pastor at Providence Presbyterian Church of Manistee. He can be reached at markus@providencepc.net.

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