Yes, Christian acronyms can be somewhat forced and are often downright corny. Agreed. However, this mechanism does have its place. The acronym A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) sometimes helps me to pray a cogent prayer when called upon without warning. Years ago when I was studying for a test on Apologetics I invented a reverse acronym to help memorize the “five ways” of Thomas Aquinas for proving the existence of God- Medieval Catholic Proved God Generally (Motion, Cause, Potential, Gradation, Government- if you’re studying this for a test, you’re welcome). So acronyms have their place, and I want to share one I think is helpful both for dealing with guilt in our own hearts and also in counseling others. It’s about getting and keeping a C.L.E.A.N. conscience:
C: Confess and Repent
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV) For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, (1 Thessalonians 1:9 ESV)
Confession of sin and true repentance which actual turns away from sinful paths and pursues practical righteousness is essential to dealing with the weight of a guilty conscience. Unconfessed or secretly cherished sin will become the heaviest weight in all the universe to a soul under true conviction.
L: Leave Behind the Guilt
…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:14 ESV) So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36 ESV)
As it has been often said, justification is not a legal fiction. The blood of Christ really is has a cleansing power of such magnatiude that it can wash us and we will be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7). True, we will always regret and have a holy sense of mourning over our sin, but that is quite different than carrying around the guilt of it. Our guilt got nailed to the cross a long time ago (Col. 2:14).
E: Engage God’s Means
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV) The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. (Psalm 19:7-9 ESV)
We do not need to seek new visions or go on discovery quests to learn how to practically deal with our nagging conscience. God has attached promises to certain means such as the reading of Scripture, prayer, Christian fellowship, singing, the preaching go the gospel and the sacraments. He has not endowed these things with grace in and of themselves, but he as graciously promised to communicate his grace to us through these means. How thankful we should be that he has given us such gifts! If we struggle with our conscience perhaps making better use of these means, both through private communion and corporate worship, is the best place to engage with the God who has worked so mightily to deliver us from condemnation and to secure our redemption.
A: Ask for Help
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 ESV) Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14 ESV)
We need help. We need to rely on the Christian community as a gift from God to help us through this life. We also need to plead with God to send his Holy Spirit to us in power. Rugged individual determinism is always poison to our faith, whether it be through the neglect of the help of the brethren or even the neglect of our God himself.
N: Never Forget Christ
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)
In the final analysis, this is the great secret of the truly clean conscience. In Christ my sins are forgiven and I am wrapped up in the imputed righteousness of his perfection. God has removed our sins from us as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103). This momentous work of grace is accomplished via my spiritual union with Jesus himself, through which he continues to also sanctify me as I grow more and more into actual conformity to the character of my Savior. How blessed we are of God, that he could destroy all guilt against us legally, would adopt and cherish us as sons and daughters relationally, and would lead us into paths of holiness experientially! Wonder upon wonders, sinful people like us really can get and keep a clean conscience, not because we are without sin, but because God has provided a way to both have absolute assurance of our pardon as well as a greater and greater experience of our redeemed identity. O that more and more would know the blessing of a C.L.E.A.N. conscience!
(By: Nicolas Alford)