Guilt - Keeping A Clear Conscience

Bible Book: Psalms  32 : 1-5
Subject: Guilt; Conscience, A Bad
Series: Dealing With How Your Feeling

Psalm 32:1-5

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,

Whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,

And in whose spirit there is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones grew old

Through my groaning all the day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. (Selah)

I acknowledged my sin to You,

And my iniquity I have not hidden.

I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,'

and You forgave the iniquity of my sin." (Selah)  (NKJV).

The most cruel and controlling of all human emotions is the emotion of guilt. Guilt can make a man afraid of his own shadow. There is a story told of the time when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the English writer who created the character, Sherlock Holmes, agreed to play a practical joke on twelve of his best friends. He sent each of them a telegram that simply read: "Flee at once...all has been discovered." Within twenty-four hours all twelve fled the country.

The most horrible trip you can ever take is a guilt trip. Someone once said about guilt, "It is a trip that will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and charge you more than you want to pay."

If you are old enough to realize the distinction between right and wrong, and you have a conscience that is healthy and normal, at some time or another, you have most likely been haunted by the ghost of guilt. Everyone, at sometime or another, has been pursued by the power of guilt.

In truth, Psalm 32 is an x-ray of a guilty conscience. David had committed adultery with another man's wife and then, after it was revealed that she was pregnant, he had her husband murdered to cover up what he had done. The gnawing tooth of guilt had been eating away at his soul, like an agonizing cancer. David felt guilty because he was guilty. But David triumphed over his guilt, and the way in which he triumphed over his guilt then is the same way you can triumph over your guilt now.

Without a doubt, we can look at this x-ray of his guilty heart and learn how to keep a clear conscience.

I. Be Candid About Your Faults

David's dilemma began when, as he candidly admitted, he "kept silent" (Psalm 32:3, NKJV). When we sin the usual inclination is to cover it up. There is simply an instinctive nature in us that just wants to "sweep things under the rug." A lot of times, when we are considering doing something erroneous, we will evaluate it and then attempt to moderate it. Often times we will say, "Well, everybody is doing it" or "This is not going to hurt anybody!" One thing we love to do in today's society is just blame the problem on something else or somebody else, because, after all, we are living in a "no fault society." Our attitude many times is: "Well, if his face hadn't gotten in the way of my fist, he wouldn't have been hit."

Too frequently we are like the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder's performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun - until it bounced off his forehead. The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between his hands and smacked his eye. Furious, he ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform, and shouted: "You idiot! You've got center field so messed up that even I can't do a thing   with it!" [17]

Instead of coming clean and being candid about his fault, David tried to conceal it. David attempted to cover up the dirt, and when he did, his problems began. Take into consideration what unconfessed sin does in the life of a Christian.

It  Weakens Your Strength

David reports that, "When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long" (Psalm 32:3, NKJV). Do you notice here what was making David so despondent and so depressed? It was not really David's sin; it was actually David's silence that was triggering his problems. Essentially, the sin of silence began to weaken his strength. He states that his "bones grew old." The toughest part of a man's body is his bones. In effect, what David was saying was that sin had weakened his greatest strength, and had strengthened his greatest weakness. His body began to ache so much he would just moan and groan continually.

Unconfessed sin can reveal itself in so many ways in your life, even in your body. It can manifest itself as insomnia, or being unable to sleep, as a loss of appetite, or being unable to eat, as a migraine headache or an ulcerated stomach. It can affect your physical health significantly.

A. It Worries Your Spirit

David goes on to say, "For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me" (Psalm 32:4a, NKJV). Do you understand why David was so unhappy? God wanted him to be unhappy. The burden of unconfessed sin was the hand of a righteous God upon his life.

I am totally convinced that when a person really has a relationship with God and they have truly been born again and they are out of fellowship with God, they will not and cannot be happy, because God will not let them be happy. When you are in the hand of God and you sin, and then you try to retreat from God and stay in that sin, God just resiliently puts the pressure on. Someone has rightly said, "A Christian out of fellowship with God is just like a bone out of joint." Likewise, the pain of David's guilt was insufferable and the pressure of his guilt was intense.

B. It Withers Your Soul

David also says regarding his unconfessed sin, "my vitality was turned into the drought of summer" (Psalm 32:4b, NKJV). When there is filth in your heart, there will be famine in your soul. Do you see what guilt had done to David? It had turned his life into a life of dullness, deadness, desolation, and despair.

There are two types of wounds that can come to the human spirit. There is the wound of grief and there is the wound of guilt. Now grief is a clean wound. It will heal with time. But guilt is a dirty wound. It will never heal until it is cleansed and cured. The burden of unconfessed sin is guilt. This guilt will pursue you, pester you, and persecute you. This is because you cannot conceal your sin from God, and you cannot conceal your sin from yourself.

II. Be Concerned With Your Failures

I have got some great news for many of you reading this book. Guilt is neither a deadly disease nor a chronic condition. The critical cancer of guilt can be eliminated. Let me share with you how the process begins. Verse 5 says, "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden" (Psalm 32:5, NKJV). David at last came to the point where he had to come clean with God, because the Holy Spirit had convicted him. This is so imperative to understand for this reason: God never accuses people of wrongdoing. God convicts people of wrongdoing. What is the distinction? It is so significant.

Satan will accuse you of sin. For we are told in the book of the Revelation he is the "accuser of the brethren." However, the Holy Spirit will convict you of sin. In other words, Satan is like a prosecuting attorney. He will accuse you of sin that God has already forgiven. On the other hand, God will convict you of sin that you have never admitted or confessed. The Holy Spirit of God never digs up trash that has already been covered.

In United States, we have a law that is based upon the 5th Amendment to the Constitution called, "The Law of Double-Jeopardy." That law simply states that once a person is found innocent of a certain crime in a certain jurisdiction, he or she can never again be tried for that crime. There is also a spiritual law of double jeopardy. Once the Spirit of God convicts you of sin and you confess that sin and you receive forgiveness of that sin, the Holy Spirit of God will never bring that sin up to you again. [18]

David says once more, "And my iniquity I have not hidden" (Psalm 32:5a, NKJV). In other words, David became concerned with his sin and owned up to it. He confessed. He became completely lucid before God and, in light of his wrongdoing, humbled himself.

David continues to say, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" (Psalm 32:5b, NKJV). Confession is the only knife that can cut the festering wound of sin and cure the infection of guilt.

Understand carefully what that word "confess" means. It doesn't just mean to admit your sin. You could admit your sin, but not really confess your sin. The word "confess" actually means to "to say the same as." Therefore, when you confess your sin, you not only admit your sin, but you agree with God that it genuinely is sin. You take God's side against your sin. As a matter of fact, you take God's side against you, because you are either on sin's side against God or you are on God's side against sin.

1 John 1:9 assures us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." When you are concerned about your failures and candid about your faults, God releases you from the chains of sin. It has been said, "Emotional freedom never comes in a plea of innocence. It comes in an admission of guilt." [19]

III. Be Content With Your Forgiveness

David's psalm does not commence with the burden of guilt; it commences with the blessing of grace. David begins by discussing how blessed he is. The word "blessed" can be translated "how many are the happinesses of." David's happiness had returned. He was happy on the inside, because he had the peace of God. He was happy on the outside, because he was at peace with God. And he was happy on the other side, because his peace was now in God eternally forevermore.

There is no doubt David was content. He says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven" (Psalm 32:1, NKJV). The word "forgiveness" in the original Hebrew language literally means "to lift a burden off of someone and carry it away." And that is just what forgiveness is - it is when the mighty hands of a merciful God takes the heavy stone of sin off your shoulders and carries it away.

He goes on to say in verse 1, blessed is the man "whose sin is covered" (Psalm 32:1b, NKJV). In other words, not only was David's sin forgiven, but his sin was forgotten. When God forgives, God forgets. Jeremiah 31:34 says, "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:34, NKJV). When God covers and forgives our sins, He locks them in the vault of His grace, throws that vault into the sea of His mercy, and you never hear from it again. [20]

Finally, David says, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity" (Psalm 32:2, NKJV). The word "impute" means "to charge to someone's account." When you confess sin to God, He will never again charge it to your account. That means your past is forgiven. Your past is forgotten. Your past is forsaken.

Ernest Hemingway in his short story, The Capital of the World, tells the story of a father and his teenage son, who lived in Spain. Their relationship became very strained. Eventually, the son ran away from home. The father began to search for his lost and rebellious son and finally in desperation, he put an ad in the Madrid newspaper as a last resort. His son's name was Paco, which is a very common name in Spain, much like John and Paul are here in America. The ad read simply:

Dear Paco:

Meet me in front of the Madrid newspaper office tomorrow at noon. All is forgiven. I love you.

The next day at noon in front of that newspaper office, there were eight hundred "Pacos" seeking forgiveness! [21] You may be a "Paco," anxiously seeking forgiveness.

There is an old, well-worn saying that goes, "Nothing is ever settled until it is settled right and nothing is ever settled right until it is settled with God." Yet the good news for all of us who seek the peace that a clean conscience brings is that God is willing to forgive all of our sins; and not only that, but He is willing to forget them as well so that we might have a clear conscience.


[17] Ron Hutchcraft, "Wake Up Calls" (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), 46.

[18] James Merritt, "A Song for Yesterday." Accessed 7 November 2005 at

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ernest Hemingway, "The Capital of the World," in The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938), 36.