Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Love from a Good Conscience

According to I Timothy 1:5, true biblical love flows from a three-fold spring – a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. These three together are the essential work of God in salvation. God purifies hearts by faith (Acts 15:9); and those who have been born again have purified their souls in sincere love of the brethren. (I Peter 1:22, 23)

I think a pure heart is necessary because that way it is undivided and loyal and its motives are pure, giving rise to a pure love. A good conscience is necessary because it allows us to love without trying to compensate for a guilty conscience toward God or others. And a sincere faith is necessary because it keeps our love from being hypocritical and pretentious.

I’d like to focus on a good conscience in this article. If you have a Bible available, it would be helpful to turn to Hebrews chapter 10. How is a good conscience achieved when our lives have a lot of sin in them? Take some time to follow the logic that the writer of the book of Hebrews follows as he helps us understand how to have a good conscience.

In verse 1 (Hebrews 10) we find that the Old Testament sacrifices could not make the worshippers perfect. If they could have, two things would have happened according to verse 2. First, the sacrifices would have stopped because the people would be perfect and there would be no need of further sacrifices. Second, the worshippers would no longer have a conscience of sins.

In order to understand what this means, we need to look at verse 3 which tells us that instead of having a clear conscience, the opposite was the case. The sacrifices were a constant reminder of sins. Instead of being able to put the sins behind them and forget about them, the sacrifices kept reminding them of their sinfulness. If the sacrifices had worked, there would not be this constant reminder of sin and the worshippers’ conscience would not keep plaguing them with guilt.

Hebrews 9:9 basically says the same thing. The sacrifices could not make us perfect in conscience.

According to 10:9, God’s will though was to remove the first method of animal sacrifices in order to make way for the second, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Verse 10 tells us that through the will of God we have been sanctified once for all by Christ’s one-time sacrifice for us. Pay close attention to the words, “once for all”. Multiple sacrifices are no longer needed.

Every priest of the Old Testament stood daily ministering in their role as priests. But Christ (verse 12) offered one sacrifice for sins and sat down. The job is done. The sacrifice is done once, never to be repeated. That’s what sitting down signifies.

Verse 14 then gives us an important statement. It says that by one offering He perfected forever those who were sanctified. Put verse 10 and 14 together. Through the will of God we have been sanctified and having been sanctified we have been perfected forever. Now go back and think about the beginning of the chapter. If the sacrifices had made the people perfect, the sacrifices would have stopped and the conscience of sins would be ended. What the first system was not able to do, the sacrifice of Christ accomplished!

That seems like an amazing statement, but do we trust how we feel or what the Scripture says? I don’t know about you, but my conscience often blasts at me about my continual guiltiness. But that is similar to the Old Testament sacrificial system. There was a constant reminder of sins.

God promises us in verse 17 that God will remember our sins and iniquities no more!

Now let me clarify one point. Shouldn’t our conscience convict us when we sin? Yes it should, but I don’t think that is what’s being talked about here. It’s not a matter of being convicted of particular sins. The conscience is right in bringing those things to our attention. What this passage does to help me is to remind me that my conscience should not be allowed to continually beat me down and continually remind me that I am a sinner. God has dealt with that once and for all on the cross. The sacrifices have stopped and my conscience should not continue to afflict me. God will remember my sins no more; they are removed as far as the east is from the west; they have been thrown into the depths of the sea; though they are like a red stain, they have been made as white as snow.

As Hebrews 6:1 tells us, let us move on from the elementary principles and not lay again the foundation of repentance from dead works and faith toward God. We shouldn’t be continually revisiting this issue. We need to move forward and not allow our consciences to keep us bound and fruitless for Christ. A good conscience in turn allows us to love both God and others without the ulterior motive of trying to prove something or work off some guilt we might feel.

Here are some other verses that might be encouraging to you: Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Acts 13:38; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:19; I John 1:9

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