In our world today, it is probably safe to say that the majority of people are religious. Most people believe in a god of some sort, and most people practice, to a certain extent, some kind of religion. However, these facts alone do not please the only true and living God. Even in the small community where I live there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people who worship God on Sunday morning. These people are religious; there is no denying that. But, is the religion they are practicing right with God? Is it the true religion of God's New Covenant or one that has been instituted by men and modified over the years to suit themselves? These are questions that each person must ask himself.
A SECOND LESSON FROM SAUL'S CONVERSION IS THAT A CLEAR CONSCIENCE DOES NOT MAKE ONE RIGHT WITH GOD.
First of all, what is a conscience? It is hard to define, but we all know what it is. Our conscience is the feeling we have inside that makes us feel good when we've done what we believe is right but it makes us feel bad when we've done something that we believe is wrong. Our conscience either approves or disapproves of our actions. Now, having a clear conscience means that your conscience approves of your actions; that is, you don't feel guilty about doing a particular thing.
With those thoughts in mind, consider Acts 23:1 - "Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, 'Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.'" Now remember, Paul had formerly tried to destroy the church; he had persecuted Christians to death. Yet, he is able to say that he had always lived in good conscience! When he was committing those terrible acts against Christians, he honestly believed he was doing the right thing. Thus, he didn't feel guilty about putting them in prison and supporting their executions.
Do you see the point I'm trying to make here? Saul had a good conscience, but that didn't mean that what he was doing was right! Many today are mistaken in thinking that as long as they don't feel guilty about their actions, then they're not doing anything wrong.
In Acts 24:16, Paul said - "...I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men." Like Paul, we too must strive to have a clear conscience. Now, don't misunderstand me on this point. It is important to have a clear conscience. If our conscience tells us that a particular action is wrong (or if we have doubts about its correctness), then we shouldn't do it. If we violate our conscience in doing things that we believe to be wrong (or at least doubt to be right), then we've committed sin according to Romans 14:23 and I John 3:19-21.
However, just because our conscience doesn't make us feel guilty is no guarantee that we're doing what is right, because a conscience can only guide properly to the extent that it's been trained from God's word. Don't deceive yourself into thinking that just because you feel good about yourself that God is pleased with you. God's word is the standard that will judge us ultimately (John 12:48)--not whether or not we have a clear conscience.