How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!. Hebrews 9, verse 14.
You know what I’m looking forward to most in heaven? A clean conscience. In heaven, there won’t be guilt, or tears, or angst, or sorrow over things we’ve done, said or thought. There simply won’t be a place or time for them when living eternally in the presence of the Triune God. Knowing Him fully will crowd all that out.
Until then, there’s faith.
Ah faith. Please understand, I’m not bad-mouthing faith because it’s faith in Jesus that imparts into us His salvation. Yet I must confess I find it tedious and a cop-out for Christians (like me) to constantly use “well, in heaven…” as our fall-back position. I’m thankful Jesus secured eternity for me, but what about now? I desperately need His help now to get through every day here. Temptation lurks in every minute, and my conscience bothers me about things I’ve done here on the Third Rock. Perhaps my faith is weaker than I know because, all too often, my conscience zings me about sins long ago forgiven, even forgotten.
My judgmentalism; my impatience; my adulteries; my foul language; my lying; my hatred; my idolatry; you name a pet sin: I haven’t done some of these in years yet the fact that I did them, or even that things were done to me, still greatly bothers me. Occasionally, the burden wells up from my soul and I feel real despair.
It’s a taste of what Jesus must have felt hanging there on the cross. For the first time in His life, His eternal life, He set aside the dignity and self-control He lived and allowed sin to overwhelm Him. Things He hadn’t done: Jesus allowed all that guilt, angst, loathing, and insecurity to flood Him and take Him. Indeed, only a few hours before, He had been on His knees in the garden, sweating rivulets of blood so great was his overwhelming sorrow at the knowledge of what He must do. Now that sorrow truly overwhelmed Him as He not only felt my guilt but took on Himself the penalty for it. He who could not die was killed by it, killed for us.
I don’t deserve that. I’ve never done anything in my life to deserve such a thing from anyone, let alone my Creator and Savior. My whole history has been one of sin, from my first cry on that day in 1966 until just now. I’m guilty as hell for all of it and I should be.
…Except that I shouldn’t be. Not any more. Dealing in “should” is a chancy proposition because “should” is so subjective. Here’s one instance where should is actually quite sure. I shouldn’t be guilty anymore because, in Jesus, I’m not guilty. I’m not guilty by reason of substitutionary sacrifice. I’m made not guilty by Jesus hanging there on the cross and taking my guilt on Himself. I’m made not guilty by Him saying “I’ve got this. Go and sin no more.” And I’m made not guilty by the very last words He offered us while He was here: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” That’s hope for right now. Right now, in whatever I am going through, Jesus is with me, in me, seeing through me, acting through me. He’s down for my struggle right now, and it’s His Spirit that gives me the courage to turn back temptation and turn away from causing myself more hurt.
Every time my conscience bothers me, I get to remind myself that Jesus offered Himself as a living sacrifice so that my conscience is cleansed from acts that lead to spiritual death. My judgmentalism: judged not guilty any more. My impatience: forgiven by God’s patience. My adulteries: made innocent again by the intimate soul of my Savior and true friend. My foul language: cleaned up and turned for a better purpose. His purpose. His mission. I get to live the rest of my life as a worker in His fields, using the talents He gave me for the mission He has me on to meet, greet, and welcome others with the Gospel. And when it get’s tough, the Jesus living through me is a whole lot tougher.
Yesterday, the pastor at church here in Paris shared a quote. To paraphrase, it isn’t faith in Jesus that unites us as believers. It isn’t church, or what we do, or even following the Bible. The Gospel of Jesus is what unites us as believers. It is the good news of His salvation that unites us and forgives us and gives us the promise of real hope. Without the gospel, there is no good news or redemption. With it, there are only unlimited possibilities for God’s real good here and always. That’s hope for here and now to use throughout the rest of our lives. And it’s hope to live past our numbered days here to start a life forever that will have no number or end. On that our hearts and our conscience can always be clear.
For further reading: 1 Peter 3:18, Ephesians 5:2, Psalm 51:2, Psalm 65:3, Jeremiah 33:8, Zechariah 13:1, Hebrews, 10:2.
My Lord and my God, all praise and thanks to You for cleaning my conscience, for forgiving my sins when I don’t deserve it, for loving me when I’ve been unlovable.