As we discussed in the last post (if you have not read it click Clean #1), conscience is God’s divine imprint upon every human soul. With this conscience we have self identity, as well as an awareness of who God is and what He requires of us. Some would like to refer to this gift as man’s moral compass, as illustrated in the image to our left. This would be a limited view, for sure, but one that reflects well how the conscience works in our daily lives. The question, in lieu of our scripture is, how does one attain a clean conscience? Hebrews 9:14 declares the only way, from a Christian perspective… “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Since this is the biblical case, why do so many live with out a clean conscience? Why does it appear that some are without a conscience? This post seeks to answer those questions.
THREE RESPONSES OF MAN IN DEALING WITH CONSCIENCE
The entirety of the human race, because of its conscience, knows that they are separated from God. You may scoff at that idea, but regard that all human societies have varying forms of religion where they seek to appease a deity through atonement. Even in radical Satanism, human sacrifice is a way to please their god, gaining more power for their selfish purposes. These are simply the facts. When reviewing Romans 1:18-23, it is not difficult to see that all men are endowed with conscience, that we see the one true God and know we are separated from Him. It is for this reason man seeks religious justification, through ritual or idol worship.
On the other hand there are those who have simply given up on the zero sum gain of pleasing a deity, and pursue whatever will make denying their conscience easier. These people are choosing to be their own god, making up their irreligious practice as they go along, all the while mocking the one true God. These types often find themselves with no moral compass or care. They live quite content it would seem, indulging what is right in their own sight. Sadly they are reprobate, meaning that God has stopped speaking to them concerning their sin; for they refuse to listen to Him. Their consciences have been seared by their choice to ignore God’s revelation outwardly and inwardly by their conscience (Romans 1:18-21). This is a sad place to be.
Yet this last category is not the most prevalent portion of the world’s population. The religious person, seeking to cleanse their conscience through moral religiosity, is the most prevalent. Whether Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Taoist, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic, or Orthodox, so long as they trust in their religious practice, fall into this category. All humanity apart from Christ’s all sufficient sacrifice, are destined to rinse and repeat religious rituals and superstitions, in order to be clean enough to meet their own version of god. Like hamsters running feverishly on an exercise wheel, without going anywhere, humanity works repeatedly and religiously to scrub the guilt from their conscience. In spite of these efforts the guilt returns like a stain beneath the surface.
This vicious cycle continues for our ignoring the revelation of God, concerning His once for all time atonement in Christ’s sacrifice. They are seeking to be right with God “their” way, not His way. This is a problem as old as Cain’s fallen countenance over God rejecting his sacrifice and accepting his brother Abel’s. God requires a blood sacrifice for the atonement of sin and Cain knew it. Cain could have easily secured a lamb from his brother Abel, yet he wanted God to accept him on his own terms and in his own way (Genesis 4:1-8).
Sadly, the majority of the world has followed Cain’s “God accept me, my way” approach. When humanity chooses this path in dealing with conscience, it leads to the searing of the conscience as evidenced in the scriptures…
(1 Timothy 4:1-3) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,
One of the “doctrines of demons”, which relates directly to our subject, is that which denies the fully sufficient nature of Jesus death on the cross; for the sin of the world. The Jewish faith, although Biblical in many ways, falls into this category since the time of Jesus death and resurrection. More germane to our discussion, are the Judaizers of the apostolic period. These error prone people declared Jesus as the Messiah and believe in His death and resurrection. In addition they required strict adherence to circumcision and the O.T. law, in order to be “saved”. This addition denied Jesus sacrifice as sufficient for the removal of the sin of all men. In denial of the truth of God’s Word. This heresy was a huge problem for the people to whom the Book of Hebrews was written. We still encounter this heresy today.
Roman Catholic teaching falls into this category. I realize this may be offensive to some of my readers, but truth is truth. To proclaim anything contrary to the word of God concerning Jesus Christ, is to diminish Him and lead people astray. Consider that the very center of the Catholic mass, which is the called “the Eucharist”, is taught to be a literal re-sacrifice of Christ daily. This is taught because they believe Christ’s death was insufficient to pay for the sin of all men. This of course is a gross and blasphemous error, as it is a complete contradiction to what Christ Himself taught (John 3:16, John 11:25; Romans 6:11; Hebrews 7:27, Hebrews 9:24-28, Hebrews 10:10, 12, 14; I Peter 3:18). It also opens up a works mentality that must be followed to gain grace sufficient for heaven. This of course flies in the face of the Word of God, which declares, we are saved by grace though faith in Jesus finished work, ALONE. His sacrifice was THE only work that was necessary for our redemption (Ephesians 2:8-10).
In view of the above scripture, why is this error so prevalent among religious humanity? Because it is easy to seek good feelings in things that “appear” to be morally right and makes us “better people”, in our won sight. This life of “dead works” is an demonically intoxicating and hypnotic state, one that leads to a conscience not only seared but defiled before God (Titus 1:15).
The third response to “conscience” is that of the redeemed of the Lord. As stated in the lead passage to this article, the blood of Jesus makes possible a clean conscience for all who come to Him in repentance and faith. Only the blood of Christ can clean a defiled conscience, stained with the remembrance and guilt of sin . The question is can a true believer have a clean conscience and dirty it again? Simply put, it’s a possibility.
Hebrews was written to Jewish people who had followed Jesus the Christ. They were being persecuted by fellow Jews, who were threatening their livelihood, families and lives if they did not return to the O.T. sacrifice. At the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews, the Temple had not yet been destroyed. Therefore, the writer inspired by the Holy Spirit, teaches the supremacy of Christ’s sacrifice compared to O.T. animal sacrifice, in dealing with sin. Jesus is the fulfillment of what they used practice (the O.T. sin offering), as they sacrificed an animal, whose blood would cover their sin for a year. Yet more than that. the sacrificed animal was to point to the coming of the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world. By returning to the sacrifice of an animal to deal with sin or to other dictates of the law, as a means of finding salvation, they would have been falling into apostasy. If it was possible for them to fall in this manner, is it possible for us? YES!!!
We can escape falling into this error, by understanding what it means to have Jesus blood cleanse our conscience. Before we begin to examine this here are several other passages dealing with this vital issue (I Timothy 1:5; I Timothy 1:19; I Timothy 3:9; I Peter 3:16).
PAST FINISHED ACT
Rejoice that by the blood of Jesus Christ we can have a clean conscience. But what does it mean to have a clean conscience? Simply put, it means that we no longer have a present weight of guilt and condemnation concerning our sin.
In Romans 8:1-4 we can see this vital truth clearly, where there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:14-17 (especially verse 15) reveals that because of this forgiveness, we are adopted as God’s children, and no longer are in bondage to fear. What is this bondage to fear we are released from? It is nothing less than the fear of death, which arises from the uncertainty of whether we are righteous enough to be accepted by God or rejected and judged accordingly with eternal punishment. Those of us who have a “clean conscience”, through Jesus shed blood, must hold to this truth by faith. This must be done even when they don’t “feel” it, because it is a past finished act from the moment Jesus declares “It is finished”. In spite of the cleansing being a past finished act, we can struggle with it in our ever day reality.
PRESENT PROGRESSIVE ACTION (OUR PART)
Consider with me the prevalence leprosy in the biblical era. In Luke 17:11-19, we read of account where Jesus heals ten lepers. After Jesus healed them, nine walked away with no display of gratitude. The remaining man threw himself at Jesus feet thanking Him. Let’s avoid discussion on how ungrateful nine of the men showed themselves to be, and understand they obeyed His instruction to go to the priest and report their healing. Jesus command was in the O.T. Law for the purpose of keeping the general populace out of danger from those considered “unclean”. The person who had contracted leprosy had to leave civilization to live quarantined in a leper colony. Should they encountered anyone who did not have the disease, they were to shout “Unclean, Unclean”. In essences their sickness became their identity.
Imagine the nine lepers returning to the priest and all being pronounced “clean”. They would return to their families rejoicing, doing their best to return to a normal life. Yet lying in bed next to their wives, could the thought of “Am I really unclean?”, have crossed their minds? A few days later, one of the men is about to venture out to the market. He leaves early, for all the attention he has received is wearing on him. As he comes through a wooded area, located outside of his village, he is startled to encounter a man one the road. Without thinking and in a panic he shouts “Unclean, Unclean”. The other man, in fear runs away like a lightning bolt. But the healed man is no longer unclean. Why did he behave as if he was not clean?
I believe the above illustration helps us understand why we have difficulties with maintaining a clean conscience in our everyday lives. Although there are times we are not weighed down with guilt or feelings of condemnation, invariably to a lesser or greater degree, either we ourselves or someone dear to us may deal with this issue. In failure, it is easy to default to thinking which denies our forgiven and new creation state of being. Therefore, we must dig a little further in order to understand how we can maintain the clear conscience Jesus blood guarantees.