Having a clean conscience before God is an irrevocable and guaranteed promise, through Jesus shed blood for us in the cross. We know this cleanness is a past finished act, as well as an ongoing and present reality. In spite of this promise why do Christians spend so much of their time feeling unworthy of God, guilty of failure and at worst unforgiving? The simply answer is we don’t yet now how to fight the battle to maintain and grow what Christ has won for us. The nature of this battle and who and how we must fight are essential to understand if we will truly live free in Christ (if you have not yet read the first two installments of this series Clean#1 and Clean#2 you may want to do so first)
In Romans Chapter 2, Paul the apostles begins taking Jewish followers of Jesus Christ to task, due to their low view of Gentile believers; who had come to Christ from lawless paganism. The crux of Paul’s argument is why cite the O.T. law in regard to the Gentiles past behaviors, when you (The Jewish follower of Christ) are breaking the very law you’re applying to them. Using Romans 2:13-15 Paul illustrates that by the Holy Spirit it appears the Gentile believers, with little or no knowledge of the law, are actually living the law. This he declares is evidence of the law being written on their hearts and no doubt a reference to the New Covenant prophecies (promises) made real in Christ’s death and resurrection (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). The Jewish contingent should have rejoiced to see these fulfillment’s in their Gentile brethren. Romans 2:15 reveals how our conscience works as the Spirit of God reveals the law written on the heart of the regenerated soul.
(Romans 2:15) who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)
The Christian can either excel in grace or wallow in “dead works” (Hebrews 9:14) feeling, condemned for not measuring up. Remember walking dead works is to return to what we used to do to find peace, favor or justification from sin, in relations to God. Looking into the N.T, where Judaizes sought to add to the gospel with O.T. Law requirements, this can be easily seen, Yet for us we must dig a little further, to see how “dead works” can muddy our consciences.
Let us remember that one of many clear lines of admonition in the N.T. is the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2). The renewing of the mind is a “renovation”. This renovation is not one where we build upon the old foundation of our mental life. The reformation of the mind is a complete gutting of the patterns, precepts and processes of our thinking apart from Christ. Essentially it is out with the old and in with the new (II Corinthians 5:17). You’ll agree that although this is fairly easy to equate with thought, its outlay is some of the most laborious demolition and removal work. Of course this work is God’s first, through a supernatural work. In relation to this, God continues this work supernaturally, yet as it is combined with our labor intensive and consistent effort.
In the first place we understand that the reformation of mind begins when we are regenerated or awakened by the Holy Spirit being convicted of sin, judgement and righteousness (John 16:8-11). This of course takes the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (I Peter 1:22-23; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5). However this work does not find enduring foundation or growth commensurate to our redeemed lives, should we not fight for it, by faith.
Many books have been published concerning the battlefield of the mind and rightly so, for the scriptures warn us concerning this reality in many places. Consider Philippians 4:8. In this passage we are commanded concerning what we are to allow occupying our minds with the words “meditate” or “think on these things”. Interestingly, the two previous verses in Philippians 4, command us not to be anxious, which is a state of mind defecting the entirety of our person. We obey that command by seeking the presence of Christ in prayer. Few if any would deny this is part of the renewing of the mind. We also cannot deny that it is opposed by Satan, as he is a roaring predator looking to devour your life of faith.
It is for this reason I Peter 1:13 warns us to “gird up the loins of our mind”. Contrary to the popular interpretation the word “gird” which means to tie up the loose ends, in reference to the tunic worn in biblical times, does not refer to a race but a battle. Simply put we are to tie up the loose ends of our thinking, which are left over from when our “old man” ran the show. The reason being, that Satan only has to distract your thinking long enough, tripping your with the loose ends of your old thinking, to get you out of the will of God. He does this often by muddying our clean conscience with the old patterns and thoughts of the “dead works” which use to direct our actions and thinking, apart from Christ.
One of the ways Satan does this is by recycling patterns of guilty and labels which wrongly identify us. Far too many Christians seek to “get right with God” through “penance” instead of repentance, meaning they seek to atone for their sin through a behavioral change. Although behavior transformation does occur in the Christian, who has a clean conscience after they sin, it is not the behavior that cleanses the conscience, but the eternally powerful blood of Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:7-9) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Not only does the blood of Jesus clear the account (past tense), with supernatural cleaning power, His blood transforms the behavior by the Holy Spirit (as we submit to His word). No doubt many will say Amen to this monumental truth, but when you fallen down the next time, how will you get up? Will it be with sobriety, and gratitude for God doing what He promised in Christ, or will it be with shame, condemnation and guilt? This is important to know, because the second response is what leads people away from grace and back into the bondage of condemnation and “dead works” entanglement.
Make no mistake, even if you do not struggle with a guilty or condemning mind set, others you know may be tortured by it. These are sad and joyless believers feel they constantly fail the Lord, even though they are seeking to do His will for the sake of love. Sadly their praying, fasting and pursuit of scripture, is no longer for the delight of relational their union with Jesus, but to reach a level of proficiency where they will feel they have met a level of good to merit God’s grace (which would not be grace at all). Although redeemed they forget we are accepted by God based on Jesus perfect finished work alone.
What a battle we fight, with an enemy that wants to steal your joy, kill your trust of Abba and destroy your faith. It is for this reason Paul writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit…
(2 Corinthians 10:3-6) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
The enemy of our soul wants stronghold upon stronghold of “dead works” to remain firmly planted, yet hidden in your mental make-up. Our “old man” easily accommodates the enemy’s desire, for it keeps him relevant. The only way to know these strongholds exist is to prayerfully seek the Lord… “Search me O God and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-34). If we seek Him sincerely He will answer, but don’t expect the revelation to come on firm days with sunny skies. Expect the answers to come when the day is dark and our life is shaken with trial. It is in those moments, we have a choice to submit to God in trust, acting upon His word by the Holy Spirit, or behaving as we did apart from Christ.
Once you encounter thoughts of despair, hopelessness, condemnation, guilt or a need to work to find affirmation, pull that stronghold down by obeying the truth of God’s word. Believe the truth of the grace of God toward you; keep a sensitive, soft and contrite heart before God. Keep your clean conscience, bought and paid for with the precious blood of Jesus.