Hebrews, Part 9
As a young woman, I decided that being cool in my new high school was more important than holding tight to my faith. A horrific personal assault the previous year had changed my view of myself and my body, and at fourteen I couldn’t process this in any way. I had no words for it. Therefore, when we moved across the country, and I started at a new high school, I made the decision to be cool.
Each time my conscience nudged me, I shoved it behind my back, so to speak. Gradually this became easier to do. Unfortunately, it took me years to figure out that I had trained myself to ignore my conscience and then twice as many years on top of that to train myself to listen once again.
I could only regain what I had seared because Jesus died to make it possible for my conscience to recover. He heals and purifies consciences, even when we have sinned intentionally.
Hebrews 9, where the discussion of Jesus’ role as our great high priest wraps up, informs us that the gifts and sacrifices of the Old Testament could not “perfect the conscience of the worshiper” (Hebrews 9:9b.). These were only in place until the “time of reformation” (ESV) or “new order” (NIV). The New Covenant and the ability to have a perfected or cleansed conscience arrived with Jesus Christ.
“Perfecting the conscience” or “purifying the conscience” in a moral sense means to fully cleanse the conscience from sin. This is in contrast to the ceremonial cleansing of the Old Testament, which sprinkled on blood and dealt with washings and regulations, but didn’t heal the spirit or soul.
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:13-15a ESV).
Only Jesus can make someone morally clean, bringing us eventually to heaven and a state of blessedness and glory. He cleansed our sins with his own blood, not with the blood of calves and goats. We are his prize. This was his goal. He split the curtain into the Holy Place right in two. His sacrifice only needs to be offered once, not yearly like the old sacrifices.
Only Jesus can make someone morally clean. He cleansed our sins with his own blood. We are his prize. This was his goal. Click To Tweet
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:26b-28 ESV).
Purifying or making clean the conscience is a significant topic in the New Testament. Paul makes clear that the conscience is essential to guiding us away from sin. There we interact with the Holy Spirit, and there we are morally guided from within. This is why we mustn’t sear our consciences. It takes years to heal such a wound.
Decades of careful work reestablished my ability to notice the conviction and the nudge of conscience and Spirit together. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I had done this work that I truly felt forgiven for my sins of that past time period. I didn’t expect this. Theologically, I knew I was forgiven, yet I dragged the guilt of it behind me for a long while.
Theologically, I knew I was forgiven, yet I dragged the guilt behind me for a long while. Have you ever been in this place? Click To Tweet
Jesus’ sacrifice of himself accomplished many things at once. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” Hebrews 9:22b reassures us. When we turn to him in repentance, we are forgiven. His righteous blood covers us.
This was why Jesus came for people like me — to forgive sinners, to restore us to God, and to heal our consciences.
These truths are woven throughout most of the New Testament. Many passages make clear this change brought by Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection and how it affects our inner humanity—the conscience, the soul, the spirit. Take a peek at these passages. See all we have gained in Christ Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.
First, we have encouragement in his Person, comfort in his love, participation in the Spirit, affection, sympathy, and on and on, thus enabling us to live a godly life. Begin in Philippians 2 with the foundational blessings accomplished by Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. . . .
Read this: Philippians 2:1-16
To bring harmony and unity, God provided the remedy for racial and cultural division through the sacrifice of Christ. Racial prejudice is a soul wound, obvious evidence that cleansing of the conscience is needed. The Lord restores us and creates a church where Jews and everyone else (Gentiles) can meet in harmony and love, free of prejudice with consciences fully functional. . . .
Read this: Ephesians 2
Then, Peter tells us that obedience to the instructions found in God’s Word purifies our souls, similar language to “perfecting our consciences,” moving the same message forward throughout the New Testament. . . .
Read this: 1 Peter 1
And finally, he has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. All the essentials of growth, healing of conscience, putting aside of past sins — all of these we already have in Christ, Peter reminds us. Will we appropriate his divine power and grow? . . .
Read this: 2 Peter 1
We made a general mess of our lives, following the broken passions of our flesh, broken in heart, soul, and mind. This is the state of humankind.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1-7 ESV).
“But God” is one of the most encouraging and blessed phrases in the Bible. I would be a mess and not at all who I am today, but God. My conscience would have never recovered, and I would continue to be driven by lust and selfishness, but God. I would be lost and never be found, but God.
We can’t grow in our own strength. We can’t heal ourselves. Our consciences can’t be made whole and clean through our own efforts. But God, through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and his Holy Spirit within us, can heal and purify even our consciences.
How about you? Where do you fit in this summation? But God . . .
Find the next Hebrews series post, right here.
I’m so excited to finally share the sequel to No Longer Alone with you! Be encouraged as you read about faith in action during hardship. But God . . .
Just in time for Christmas: Find The Shadows Come in Kindle and paperback, alongside No Longer Alone.