Clearing Our Conscience
About the Guest
- Dr. Erwin Lutzer shares what it means to live in the freedom of a clear conscience to others and to God. (26 min. podcast) https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/finding-freedom-from-your-past/
- Read "3 Characteristics of a Repentant Spouse." If you want a strong marriage, there comes a time to be honest about yourself. (6 min. read) https://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/forgiveness/3-characteristics-of-a-repentant-spouse/
- Listen to Chris and Cindy Beall's story "Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken." (25 min. podcast) https://www.familylife.com/podcast/familylife-today/caught-in-a-web-of-deception/
- How to Know God. What is Christianity? https://www.cru.org/us/en/how-to-know-god.html
moremoremorePaul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 17 books on Christian living, produce 14 teaching series and travel aroun...more
Discover the value of living in the freedom of a clear conscience with God and others. Our guests, Erwin Lutzer, Eric Mason, Chris and Cindy Beall, and Paul David Tripp offer biblical insight and heartfelt transparency.
Michelle: Have you ever noticed that when sin sits and festers it can just spin out of control and destroy things in its path? Kind of like a tornado? Here is Paul Tripp.
Paul: I was a very, very angry man. I was in the midst of destroying my marriage and my ministry. I mean I was that out of control. When God began to reveal that to me, the level of grief in me and embarrassment in me didn’t happen all at once—that came was life changing.
Michelle: We’re going to take a look at grief over sin and life change that comes from genuine repentance on this edition of FamilyLife This Week. Stay tuned.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. You know one of my favorite places to visit is Nashville, Tennessee. You’ve got good food there. You have great music there. You have amazing coffee there. We haven’t talked about my coffee addiction in quite a long time; but in the middle of this big city is a quiet park. In the middle of this quiet park is an enormous structure.
To be exact, it is the replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Actually, did you know that Nashville is known as the Athens of the South? The Parthenon has 46 outer pillars or columns to it. Pillars are strong. They are used as building support kind of like foundational support.
Just like the Parthenon, FamilyLife has some core pillars; but they look a little different than the pillars on the Parthenon. If you were to walk into the foyer at the FamilyLife offices here in Little Rock, you would notice four banners hanging in the rotunda that remind us what our core pillars are.
The first banner you would come to is personal repentance and purity. Now, repentance—I get that. That’s a really touchy thing because we don’t like to talk about that at all; do we? But before we talk about repentance, there is something underneath repentance; and that’s our conscience. Erwin Lutzer is the author of the book The Power of a Clear Conscience: Let God Free You from Your Past. He spoke with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine just a few weeks ago; and Dr. Lutzer explained that it’s easy for us to make a mistake about the state of our conscience.
Erwin: There are people today who feel guilty over things they should not feel guilty about; and by the way, there are those who don’t feel guilty about something they should feel guilty about. So, the conscience has to be informed by Scripture; but to the person who is inheriting guilt, it’s not all your fault because we’re dealing with people all the time because of bad parenting—they have guilt that has been heaped upon them, and they have shamed that has been heaped upon them. So, they need to be able to see God’s grace and mercy there as well.
So, everyone has a conscience. We have all felt it. It’s like going through a metal detector. Sometimes, it is set more sensitively. So, it goes off more easily. So, you may have been in a home where everything was very loose, your conscience doesn’t trouble you, and maybe, it should. You may be, also, in a home where it was too strict. It’s troubling you about things that shouldn’t trouble you.
So, we need a conscience that is informed by the word of God so that we understand that the rudimentary issues of the law are written on every heart; but of course, the conscience can be shaped—and has to be—by the word of God.
Bob: There are somethings in every human conscience that are imprinted there by God at birth so that we grow up knowing some right and wrong independent of what cultural data we get; right?
Erwin: Exactly; that’s why people all over the world have a conscience; and they are struggling, and they have an intuitive sense of right or wrong—not perfect, but nonetheless it is there.
Dennis: Yes; as you were talking there, I was thinking about Romans 1. It says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who, by their unrighteousness, suppress the truth.”
You use an illustration I want you to comment on here. You said, “Some people feel like they have a mountain of shame and guilt; but God has something better.”
Erwin: He really does, and the big text there is in the book of Hebrews where it says that Jesus despised the shame. Jesus shamed shame.
So, to the person who is listening today who is saying, “I am filled with shame,” you come to Jesus; and you spill all that out. He will receive you. You don’t have to be ashamed in His presence because He is going to replace it with a sense of wholeness.
What you need to do is recognize this—that the shame that you experience could be demonic. Perhaps, you are even ashamed about something that you should be ashamed about. Either way, Jesus is there, and He’s the one who is able to cleanse us / to forgive us so that we can stand in His presence and be welcomed and received and valued. That is, of course, the essence of the Gospel—is we come to Jesus Christ, the one who died for us.
Dennis: What you talked about in the book that I like was there was a mountain of shame that we feel, but God’s got a bigger mountain of grace.
Erwin: Oh, I love that. Actually, it’s a quote from Spurgeon who says that no matter how big the mountain is of our sin, God’s grace is always a bigger mountain. Let’s me say this. The righteousness of Jesus Christ applied to the human heart—that righteousness is far greater than our sin. I always like to tell people that there is more grace and love in God’s heart than there is sin in your past. So, you come as you are; and you receive that, lay it down, and God is able to give you grace and strength in the midst of your conflict.
Michelle: What a great reminder that the grace in God’s heart is always bigger than our sin. That was Dr. Erwin Lutzer. He is a pastor, and he’s also a radio show host. To hear more of his discussion with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine, go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. That’s FamilyLifeThisWeek.com; but, of course, do that after you’ve heard this entire show because you wouldn’t want to make me mad because I would have to repent of my anger. Oh, wait. That’s what this show is all about; isn’t it?—yes; repentance.
One of the best places to practice this repentance is in your marriage because it might be the relationship you sin most in—well, other than in your relationship with God, that is. To help us understand repentance in marriage, I wanted you to hear Eric Mason. He has a Master’s in Theology. He has a PhD; but most importantly, he has been married to Yvette for a long time and has had to live out what he preaches.
He was recently onboard the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise, and he taught from Psalm 51. That’s where David is crying out to God over his sin with Bathsheba, and we all know that David is a man after God’s own heart; but that heart also had sin in it, and he did wrong. Remember in 2 Samuel 12 God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. Now, Nathan was very crafty in how he did this. In fact, he told David a parable about a man in the kingdom who was doing wrong to others. David was incensed.
Eric: See, it’s interesting that David had a lot of self-righteousness when it came to somebody else’s sin; but when it came to him dealing with his sin, he’s going to say what we hear in the first part of this chapter which I think we all should call upon and work through as people who are to be repentant spouses. You must throw yourself on the character of God.
Right here, David says, “Have mercy on me, O God.” I like the fact that he calls for God’s mercy because he calls on God’s character before he dealt with his sin. This is very, very important because if you focus in on your sin first, then you’ll get depressed; you’ll get frustrated; and you feel locked in.
But if you put your mind on the character of God, then you’ll have encouragement to deal with your sin; but if you try to deal with your sin without the character of God, you will get in deeper bondage. That’s why you need the Gospel, not self-righteousness, because the Gospel is the willingness to submit ourselves to the beauty of the character of God so that Christ’s righteousness can cover our sin and deal with it. So, we call on God’s character, not our sin.
Eric: So, you’ve got to make sure God’s—[Applause]—you’ve got to make sure, in your life, no matter where you are and in your marriage that the character of God and the perfections and attributes of God is driving your marriage, not just your sin. Because if you just mention your sin to each other all the time, then all you’re going to do is argue about—“Well, you sinned against me,” “No; you sinned against me,” “But the other day, it was you,” “No; the other day it was you,” “No, you remember what you did?” You’re just going back and forth, back and forth; but if you—
Eric: —focus on God’s mercy and you’ll look at the little bit that your spouse did to you in light of the holiness of God and on your life; and you say, “God, I deserve this. So, how am I going to add on and push on to them what you didn’t give to me?” So, my man, David—he begins to throw himself and calls on the attributes that he needs. Then, after that, he says something beautiful. He says, “According to Your steadfast love.” I like that. That’s the Hebrew word, hesed. That word means loyal love. Somebody say, “Loyal love.”
Audience: Loyal love.
Eric: Loyal love points to this: God’s unconditional covenant with His people. That means He is faithful even though we are not faithful. So, David isn’t calling on family. He’s not calling on, like—“God, I’ve been killing it for your glory. I’ve been spending time in the word. I figure I just deserve some love right now.” No; that is not what he does.
What he does is he says, “I know I’ve messed up beyond the worst level of messing up, and what I need is I need the God, right now, who will deal with me based on His commitment to covenant, not my failure of the covenant.” See, that’s what is so good about the new covenant through Christ, though—is that the new covenant through Christ is an unconditional covenant where God does all the work of the covenant and we work because of His love, not working to get His love. So, He lays out for us this covenant love and this steadfast love.
Then he says, again, “According to Your abundant mercy.” Then he begins to deal with his sin. Then he begins to say, “Lord”—he says—“blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly.” He says, “I want it all gone, God.” He says, “I don’t want any trace of my mess. Just let me build a foundation.” He said he doesn’t want any of his mess to get in the way of his relationship with the living God. He says, “Cleanse me from my sin.” So, he asks for full cleansing from his sin.
So, first thing we see, if you are going to be a deeply repentant spouse, is the attributes of God—God’s mercy, God’s love, God’s grace, God’s long suffering, God’s spirituality, God’s omniscience, God’s omni—His attributes must pervade a marriage because the more your mind is on the Lord and your marriage and not just the faults of your spouse, then you can deal with sin.
Michelle: Wow. That is a really tall order. Eric Mason is saying that to be a deeply repentant spouse, we need the attributes of God—His mercy and His love, His grace, and His long suffering—because when we have the mind of Christ, it’s only, then, that we can deal with sin and be who we need to be in our marriages.
Eric also wrote an article on this subject, and we have it on our website for you. Go to FamilyLifeThisWeek.com—FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
Michelle: Hey, it’s time for a break; but when we come back, we’re going to take a look at how this repentance plays out. We’re going to learn by example. So, stay tuned.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I’m Michelle Hill.
If you’re married, one of your worst fears could be that your spouse is cheating on you. How do you think you’d react if you found out that your spouse was having an affair? On the flipside, what if you’re the one involved in the affair? How would go about confessing this to your spouse?
That’s what happened to Chris Beall. He was a pastor who had just moved his family halfway across the country to accept a new pastorate. Chris thought that he was leaving behind the sins of the past / sins that his wife Cindy wasn’t aware of until that day.
Chris: Our pastor was leading a staff meeting, and we had only been there for six weeks. We’re still in boxes, just bought a house. I mean we just got there—didn’t know anyone. He was talking about a friend of his that had morally fallen / had an affair, and Craig made a statement—“You know what?”—he said—“Your sin will find you out. It always will. It’s just a matter of time.”
He said that we all struggle with things and that if you confess—if there is something you are dealing with—if you confess it, you’ll find mercy; you’ll find grace. If you hide it and you get caught, there will probably be a different story.” That was it. That’s all I could handle.
It was a Tuesday. I went home, and Cindy was unpacking boxes. I knew that this conversation would probably yield the loss of a marriage, the breaking of a family, and certainly the end of ministry; but I went in and just said, “Honey, we’ve got to talk.” That’s pretty much all I could take.
Cindy: The door opened, and I thought, “What is that?” I came around the corner, and there he was. It was 9:30 in the morning, and he just looked at me and said those words: “We need to talk.” I knew right then—“Okay, something is not right.” I wasn’t sure if someone died or if he had lost his job, but something was clearly wrong.
So, we sat down on the sofa, and he just proceeded to tell me, “I’ve been unfaithful to you with many women many different times many different places over the course of about this two year period.” He said, “One of the women is pregnant, and I’m pretty sure that I’m the father.” I went probably into a place of just somewhere in outer space—just like shock—immediate like—“Is this really happening?”—almost out of body like experience.
Within a few—30 minutes or so—our pastor Craig and another pastor, Jerry, came over; and they are sitting across from us. We’re just kind of all four staring at each other. They are not really looking at Chris because they are pretty mad at him at this point. I never went to that anger place at this time. I just thought, “What do we do now? What’s the next step?” There is nothing that took me to this level of despair like that confession that day. I literally asked God to just take me home. I just wanted to die.
Dennis: Because of the betrayal?
Cindy: Yes; absolutely—the betrayal, the baby. No one is supposed to be the mother of his children—just me. I’m the mother of his children.
I remember saying, “God, You told me to trust You. How in the world is this going to show that I can trust You?” That was really—that was really the only time I questioned God because I was very aware—even in the midst of that devastation—I was very aware that it wasn’t God who let me down. It was my husband. A lot of people blame God. I don’t blame God for those kinds of things. I knew it was my husband, but I kept saying, “Okay, God, I don’t understand how You—why wasn’t this revealed somehow sooner before there was a baby?”
Dennis: Did you ask him to leave the house?
Cindy: I did not. We didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know what to do, and I’m kind of one of those financial nerds. I’m thinking, “Well, we can’t afford for him to go stay in a hotel. I’m surely not sending him to hotel. He’s going to cheat again.” So, there were all these things that—so, we just stayed there.
I think what made it possible for me to stay in the same home with him was he was broken. He was completely devastated by what he had done to the name of Jesus and to our family. He was not like—“You need to get over this. I’m sorry it happened, but if you’d been a better wife….” There was nothing like that. I mean he just sat there and would just weep for hours over what he’d done.
Dennis: What saved your life and your marriage and your family?
Cindy: Well, infidelity is grounds for divorce; but it is also—with the right mindsets and the right willingness to surrender, it is an opportunity for forgiveness and restoration. So, my encouragement to that woman or to that man who is about to hear that or just heard it 20 minutes ago or two days ago is you do not have to decide the rest of your life in the next two days / in the next two weeks. Do not make a rash decision. Your emotions are heightened, and you don’t know which way is up and which way is down.
That was some advice that was given to me. So, it gave the Holy Spirit time—because I didn’t act on my flesh which was—“Cut bait”—you know?—“Hit the road. Get out of here.” It gave the Holy Spirit time to massage my heart and say, “I’ve got a plan. Will You let me work on it?”
Michelle: Now, that’s true repentance: when we realize our sin against God and against others and we grieve. Chris and Cindy Beall’s story of repentance and forgiveness and redemption can be heard on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com. The story that you heard from Chris and Cindy was after about a decade of repentance and healing and really God restoring a marriage. Actually, together, they have a ministry to other couples who are in hurting marriages. They are encouraging people to continue on in their walk with God.
Maybe, you’re dealing with a different sin—one of those sins that only those closest to you can see like anger. Paul Tripp and his wife Luella know this sin well. Paul’s been a frequent guest here at FamilyLife. He’s also a good friend of ours. He’s a pastor and conference speaker—also an author. In spite of his expertise and all his training in counseling, there was this sin that he let grow in his life.
Paul: I was a very, very angry man. I was in the midst of destroying my marriage and my ministry. I mean I was that out of control. When God began to reveal that to me, the level of grief in me and embarrassment in me—didn’t happen all at once—that came was life changing because instead of anger—the focus of anger is always outside of me. It’s what you do.
Paul: It’s how you do it.
Paul: How about understanding anger always tells me more about me than it does about other people?
Dennis: Did you give your wife permission to speak into your life because of this problem?
Paul: Absolutely. When I saw, I, right away, knew I am so incredibly blind. I’m not going to be able to do this by myself.
Bob: When she first started speaking into it?
Paul: It was hard.
Dennis: Hard to hear.
Paul: She would say to me, “Wait a minute. You asked me to do this.”
Paul: I’d say, “Oh, yes; you’re right.” [Laughter] Oh, it was very, very hard; but I needed it because I was so comfortable with those emotions / so used to indulging those emotions that the concept of critiquing, then, was just new for me; but it became life altering for me.
Dennis: You know, I really like your description, “Indulging anger,” because first you eat it and you consume it and then it eats you.
Paul: Yes; absolutely.
Dennis: So, what did you end up doing as your wife kept repeatedly going—“Paul, what’s making you angry?”
Paul: I ran to God for help. I became convinced that I was a deep danger to myself. I’m not being overly dramatic. I was convinced of that and that I’d become such a sovereign in my own world with my own set of unwritten rules for everybody in my life that I was a danger to me and a danger to them. It scared me, and I cried out—“God, You’ve got to help me. You’ve got to help me. You’ve got to help me.” I cried out again and again and again.
Second thing I did was I realized, “I can’t indulge anger.” So, instead of moving into the scene, I would get out of the scene. I get to a room, and I’d say, “God, I’m feeling it again. I can feel my hand shaking. Help me.” I reached out for help—not just to my wife but the people in my life. I began to confess that this was my issue. So, I had a lot of people speaking into me.
Paul: Over a period of time, here is what happened. I’m not a man now who stands with his fists clinched and saying, “Boy, you ought to be glad I’m a Christian because if I weren’t a Christian, I’d deck you.” When I’m in those situations, I don’t experience the anger anymore. That’s the transforming power of grace. Hear this: “Your Savior is not satisfied with just forgiving you. He will transform you. Run to Him.”
Michelle: Oh, I have so much to learn. The humility and the vulnerability from Paul Tripp is such an example of a life poured for Christ; and what a great reminder that Jesus isn’t satisfied with just hearing our repentance or with forgiving us; but He wants to transform us. He wants the entire process to take place in our lives. So, as Paul Tripp said, “Run to Him.” If you don’t know how to do that, go to our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com, and look for the link to “How to Know God.”
Next week, we’re going to talk a little bit more about the next step in repentance, and that is forgiveness. We need to close the loop on this repentance thing. We are going to hear from Voddie Baucham. I always love hearing from Voddie. He’s going to help us understand and help us deal with forgiveness.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” to the production team today, to Justin and Keith, Marques, Bruce, and also Megan.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I’m Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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