No way! No way…I can’t! No way…I won’t!
As the conviction of God’s Spirit escalated, pressing me to clear my conscience with others, so did my resistance. What God was asking of me was just too much! The level of honesty and humility required would devastate me. My reputation and ministry career were on the line.
But when God comes in genuine revival, He lovingly presses for the hardest steps of obedience. He knows what lies on the other side—internal power that produces fullness and fruitfulness. In the ways of God, death to self brings forth resurrection.
There was more at stake than I even knew. I was focused on the possible negative consequences for my actions now. God wanted to bring real freedom to my heart forever.
Everything that interfered with having a clear conscience needed to be identified and dealt with. Why? Because according to Scripture, one of the virtues to be cultivated in my life is “love that [comes] from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Slowly, I began to understand that God’s purposes for my having a clear conscience went beyond dealing with guilt. There was an extraordinary grace and power available to me that only came through radical humility and obedience. A vision of the good I was missing—by hiding and harboring my sin—began to drive me to open the doors of my heart and to clear the slate.
Finally, I said, “Yes, Lord, I will!” I was amazed at how He reminded me of sins that had been stockpiled in my conscience, defiling it and desensitizing it until I had become numb to the promptings of God’s Spirit. I was shocked that my list of offenses was two full pages of single-spaced lines, filled with ways I had wronged, hurt and offended others and not gone back to make it right. It included…
- stealing a small pack of caps from a dime store in junior high school.
- devastating my loving parents (after they would not let me go out with my friends) by highlighting Psalm 27:10 and leaving it where my mother would read: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.”
- sexual immorality in dating relationships in high school and college.
- cheating in almost every class I could remember in college.
- hating my grandparents for “killing” my brother who died in Vietnam after they encouraged him to enlist.
- pretending I was an obedient Christian as I served in leadership positions in my church, even though I knew I had not surrendered my life to Christ.
Difficulties and Rewards
Clearing my conscience was hard. It required me to make restitution for what I stole, to admit my disrespect to my parents, to seek out previous girlfriends to confess sexual sin, to return my college diploma, to humbly beg for reconciliation after introducing myself to my grandparents whom I had avoided since age 10, and to stand before my home church to ask their forgiveness for my hypocrisy.
But there were also rewards that went beyond anything I ever anticipated. Making the hard decisions to obtain and maintain a clear conscience before God and man was, and has continued to be, one of the most liberating practices of my life.
Thirty years later, I believe it laid the foundation for an intimate marriage, enabled good relationships with my children (and now grandchildren), and time and time again renewed my relationship with God with power, freedom and indescribable joy.
Seven words changed my life: I WAS WRONG. WILL YOU FORGIVE ME?
As you read this issue of Revive, I pray those will become treasured words in your Christian walk and ministry, propelling you to depths of love you never knew possible!