Romans 8:1-2. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
One of the greatest blessings of our union with Christ is the blessing of the clear conscience. Because we have the indwelling life of Christ and his righteousness we are set free from both our objective guilt (yep, you did it) and our subjective guilt (yep, you feel terrible about it). This is our new reality. Whether we feel it subjectively or not, we have a clean conscience.
Hebrews 10:19-23. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
But the other reality is that we’re still all such a big mess. And our conscience reminds us of this every day, and in some pretty cruel ways too. And so we spend most of our time trying to silence our consciences.
Earlier in Romans Paul described our consciences this way:
Romans 2:15. [the Gentiles] show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.
Accusing and excusing.
Think about the reactions to this viral video over the past few days:
The responses have been a lot of accusing or excusing. Why? Because we all want to be on the right side. We want to keep a clear conscience even when it comes to something that we had nothing to do with. Even our reactions to what other people do might condemn us.
This is what our conscience left to it’s own devices, apart from the gospel, does. It accuses or excuses. But how? Closer to home, where can you see this dynamic in your own life?
- Do you spend most of your Christian life trying hard not to sin?
- Do you surround yourself with people that are “worse” than you?
- Do you work really hard at self improvement?
- Do you engage in an inner dialogue that tries to prove the Devil wrong about you?
- Do you engage in religious exercises that bring you absolution?
- Do you turn your failures into virtues (being real and authentic)?
Ever since the Garden we’ve been really good at sewing fig leaves together instead of wearing the clothes that Jesus has made for us. The only real way to experience the reality of the clear conscience is a steady diet of the gospel.
The truth is you ARE a mess. Even when the Devil is lying about God, he’s probably right about you. The law’s mirror still doesn’t lie. And your inner lawyer has run out of arguments. All of this is true. But the clear conscience means you can stop excusing or accusing. You can face the reality of who you really are – a sinner.
But the truth doesn’t end there. You are also a saint. You are forgiven. You’re forgiven of both your bad works and your good works. You can take your mess to God. The door is always open. Access is free and constant. The Law can no longer wreak havoc with our conscience. It can reveal the realities of our sin, but it can no longer destroy us with its despair. Since our conscience is objectively clear, we can subjectively see our sin as revealed in the law, and allow the truth of our sin to propel us toward grace and increased Christ-likeness.
Because of “to live is Christ,” now there is a new force at work in our conscience – the law of the Spirit of life. Now our conscience is guided by the love of Christ. The more we allow the gospel to overwhelm our hearts and sink down deep into our souls, the more we can listen to our conscience, and follow it into the battle for the hearts of others.