How The Believer Clears His Conscience

Dr. Steve Viars December 31, 1999

How The Believer Clears His Conscience

God expects the believer to grow in the likeness of Christ.  Growth, not perfection, is His expectation. Since we still have the old selfish thought patterns, as well as the new nature, we still sin. Every selfish attitude, thought, word, deed, and habit is sin. It is essential to our growth in Christ that we learn the way God has provided for us to clear our conscience, to stay in fellowship, and to continue to grow.

Our old way of treating sin must change. Like Adam and Eve, our Genesis Three way of dealing with guilt is ineffective. The Genesis Three kind of person runs from tree to tree, hides, blameshifts, and tries to cover over sin so that God and others cannot see it. God's way is to grow in transparency: to walk in the light of His Word and deal with sin properly.

I. Consequences of Unresolved Sin

A. Physical Consequences
1. From Ps. 32:3, 4 list three results of keeping silent about sin.

2. List at least eight results from Ps. 38:2-10.

3. Jas. 5:15, 16 implies that one cause for a believer’s sickness may be
(Note:  By no means does he say “all.”  The Bible also recognizes organic illnesses that are to be treated with “oils” or medications as well as sicknesses for other reasons.)

2 – How the Believer Clears His Conscience

A. Relational Consequences
• What is the result of unresolved lusts according to Jas. 4:1-3?

B. Spiritual Consequences
1. Read 1 Jn. 1:1-10.
a. Why did John write this book (v.3)?
b. How would an individual fulfill this purpose (v.7)?
c. How does John expand on what “walking in the light” means according to         vv. 8-10?
d. Considering the overall passage, what would be the consequence of not “walking in the light?”

2. How is Ps. 66:18 consistent with 1 Jn. 1:1-10?

C. Weigh the temporary pleasures of sin against the consequences you have just studied.  What can you conclude?

II. Understanding the Doctrine of Repentance

A. Repentance Is Not Simply Sorrow.
Some have supposed that repentance simply means having some remorse about sin and the web of complications it has caused. Paul carefully distinguishes between the “godly sorrow," which brings repentance, and the "sorrow of the world," which brings death in      2 Cor. 7:10.
There are several reasons why a person may show remorse, or the "sorrow of the world":
1. He may be sorry he is caught and enduring pain.
2. He may be sorry he is causing others pain.
3. He may be sorry that he cannot continue in his sin peacefully.
4. He may be sorry that his great plans are not working out. 

How the Believer Clears His Conscience– 3

Read Matt. 27:3-5. Did Judas' sorrow cause him to repent to God?  What did he do instead?

B. The Meaning of Repentance
1. The word "repent" simply means "to change direction" or to turn around and go the opposite way."  Repentance is a change of mind, will, emotions, and direction concerning sin, self, and God.
2. Repentance involves:
a. Seeing that our sin hurts a Holy God and being genuinely sorry that we did it.  How did each of the following persons express the meaning of repentance?
1) David in Ps. 51:14-17: 

2) Paul in 2 Cor. 7:9, 10: 

b. An inward repugnance to sin followed by acts of forsaking it through Christ's power.  What do the following passages say regarding the forsaking of sin?
1) Matt. 3:8 

2) Prov. 28:13 

3) Acts 26:20 

c. A humbling of the self:  surrendering to the will and service of God.  (See Acts 9:6.)

3. Repentance itself is the gift of God. (See Acts 5:31.) This is possible because Christ has already paid the price for our forgiveness on Calvary's Cross.  We do not merit or earn it; we only appropriate it.

4 – How the Believer Clears His Conscience

III. Applying the Steps of Clearing the Conscience

A. Agreement with God's Word about Our Sin
1. According to 1 Jn. 1:9, what is the believer to do when the light of God's Word shows him he has sinned? 
2. The word "confess" means "to say the same thing" or to agree with God about my sin."  Which of the following is a Biblical confession and which is not?

a. "Lord, forgive me.  You know I couldn't help it."
b. "Lord, you know I don't know why I did it."
c. "Please forgive me.  You know I did it because of the way so-and-so treated me."
d. "Lord, I had no excuse.  I see how wrong I was.  Please forgive me."
e. "I'll do better next time."
f. "Forgive me if I've sinned."
3. What did David call it in Ps. 51:3, 4,14-17?

B. Confession
1. To God:
From A, 2 above, select the correct confession that says the same thing God does about sin, and write in this space. 
2. To Appropriate People:
What did Christ command when our sin has caused a breach in the relationship with another person in Matt. 5:23, 24? 

How the Believer Clears His Conscience– 5

3. Which of the following reasons for not going to another to ask forgiveness are Biblical, and which are not?
a. "The other person really does not know about it; I only thought it in my mind."
b. "I will not go to him during the invitation service;  I will see him on an individual basis."
c. "It is complicated, and I may need the help of my pastor or a deacon."
d. "Although he was hurt for awhile, he has probably forgotten it."
e. "I know there is no need to ask because he will not forgive me."
f. "But he hurt me, also."
g. "If I do, it will not make a difference."

C. Restitution
(To "make right" with the appropriate people)
1. Read Lk. 19:1-10.
a. Why do you think the crowd identified Zaccheus, the taxgatherer, as a “sinner” in verse 7?
b. What did Zaccheus vow to do after his encounter with the Lord in verse 8?
2. What did Paul plan to do on behalf of a runaway slave in Philemon 18-19?
3. What do you need to do when you have wronged someone?

6 – How the Believer Clears His Conscience

D. Change
1. Regarding the forgiveness of sin, Lewis Sperry Chafer said:
"Let it not be supposed that this divine plan of restoration of the child of God to the Father's fellowship will react in an attitude of carelessness on the part of the Christian. The sufficient answer to this challenge is:
a. True confession is the expression of a very real repentance, or change of mind, which turns from the sin.  This is the exact opposite of becoming accustomed to the sin, or becoming careless with regard to it.
b. This very revelation is given, we are told, not to encourage or license us to sin, but rather that "you sin not" (be not sinning).  According to the Scriptures and according to human experience, the believer's safety in the faithfulness and justice of the Father and the advocacy and propitiation of the Son is the greatest incentive for a holy life. It is clearly revealed that God has, by other and sufficient means, guarded against all careless sinning on the part of those whom He has eternally saved through the merit of His Son."

2. In 1 Jn. 2:3-6, what does John say immediately after he admonishes the believer to walk in the light and confess sin? 

3. Read Prov. 28:13.  God says, "...he who confesses and  will find

4. In Eph. 4:22, 24, how does Paul say we effect this change?

E. Blessing
• Read Ps. 51:12, 13 and note the two things David expected AFTER his sin was dealt with properly.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video