A Cleansed Conscience

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22 The immediate effect of the primordial sin committed by our great ancestors is described as follows in the book of Genesis: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised they were naked…”

The Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer once commented on this passage and described Adam and Eve’s experience as one of “shame”, namely that which gives “reluctant witness to its own fallen state.”

Indeed. Shame is inextricably linked to sin. If we are born into this world as sinners, as the Scriptures teach us, then we also bring with us a very real sense of guilt and shame. The problem of humanity’s struggle with feelings of guilt has been recognized by scholars from backgrounds as diverse as Soren Kierkegaard and Sigmund Freud’s. The problem cannot be denied. It is the solution that is more difficult to find.

According to the New Testament authors, the problem of guilt has been dealt with by the blood of the cross, and by the blood alone. Our legal, objective guilt has been atoned for, and as a result our subjective and experiential guilt is removed. A clean conscience is therefore the logical conclusion of our right standing with God.

Oftentimes Christians fail to understand this, and as a result they fail to draw a distinction between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the condemnation of the enemy. They may even think there is something noble about their feelings of guilt, as though they are helping to pay for their sins.

Such an attitude defies the righteousness granted by God. As Watchman Nee once said: Let us side with God and not with the accuser of the brethren.

Tobie is a Bible teacher and cartoonist who is passionate about Jesus Christ and natural church life. He is married to Revien and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa. They have nine kids (no kidding) and a few crazy pets. They are part of a church that meets in their house.

Tobie writes a weekly column, The Straight and the Narrow, for a local newspaper called Bloemnews. Some of those columns end up on his blog.

For those who are interested in a biographical sketch of Tobie’s life, such a sketch is provided hereunder. See if you can figure it out…