A GOOD CONSCIENCE
By Larry White
Behold, Jehovah's hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor his ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden his face from you,
So that he will not hear.
Sin is the thing that keeps man separate from his God. Sin has a detrimental affect on every aspect of our relationship with him. There are many things that because of sin, hinder us from coming to God.
- On God's side: His holiness, his righteousness, and his justice.
- On man's side: His guilt (which needs cleansing), and his evil behavior (needing sanctification, renewing).
It seems there is one fundamental difference in all people, if we could put them into two groups.
PENITENT and IMPENITENT
In Mt.4:17, Jesus began preaching, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This would necessarily divide people into two groups viz., those who repent and those who do not.
You have the same two groups in
Or do you despise the riches of his goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath. Tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
The Old Testament revealed God as the almighty, all powerful, all knowing, eternal, Holy God, who is unseen and unapproachable - yet at the same time a God rich in mercy, full of tender compassion and great kindness.
God does not want to condemn man - like Peter says in 2Pet.3:9, that he is "longsuffering not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." But God will condemn the impenitent. If a person willfully and obdurately thumbs his nose at God - who struts across this globe speaking his own words, doing his own deeds and ignoring the will of God, God will bring the anger of his wrath down upon him in judgement.
But what of the humble and contrite heart that trembles at God's word - who wishes in his heart that he had never sinned against God - how can he ever come before the Holy God who is a consuming fire, with the guilt of all his iniquities and sins still on his head?
In the O.T. under the Law, there was no way to have your guilt removed and your conscience made clear. Paul says, "For by law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom.3:20) That is, the Law just exposed their sins but had no remedy.
For the law, having a shadow of the good things about to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
We have a couple of examples of men in the O.T. who were brought before a vision of God still in the guilt of their sins.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
And one cried to another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts;
The whole earth is full of his glory!"
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said:
"Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
Jehovah of hosts."
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
"Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged."
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
"Whom shall I send,
And who will go for us?"
Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.
And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.
Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.
Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.
Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come."
When he had spoken such words to me, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless.
And suddenly, one having the likeness of the sons of men touched my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke, saying to him who stood before me, "My lord, because of the vision my sorrows have overwhelmed me, and I have retained no strength. For how can this servant of my lord talk with you, my lord? As for me, no strength remains in me now, nor is any breath left in me."
Then again, the one having the likeness of a man touched me and strengthened me. And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!"
So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."
With these I think we can gather what a sinful man's reaction would be, were he to stand before God. These men were holy men, God's servants and look at their reactions. How could the ungodly sinner ever stand before God? Like Peter says in 1Pet.4:18, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" To stand before the eternal, almighty God, still in your sins, will be the most terrifying thing man will ever experience.
God certainly is holy and awesome, but God is love. I do not think it is God's character that will keep man from standing before him as much as it will be man's own guilt that will be the problem. His own guilty conscience will condemn him before his maker.
But now in the New Testament, there is a remedy for the guilt of sin. It is the good news or the Gospel that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. In Jesus we now have a way to rid ourselves of our damnable guilt. Our consciences can now be washed clean in the blood of the son of God.
But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of all was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.
It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience – concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
But Christ came as High Priest of the good things about to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
And for this reason he is the mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
I.) When we have faith in Jesus Christ, what are we believing?
(Jno.3:16) "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life."
What is it to believe in him?
That he existed? Yes, but is that all?
That he was and is the son of God? Yes, but that and more.
That he cleanses me from all my sins. That he took all my sins and continues to take all my guilt away - that he cleanses me from all sin - and in Jesus Christ who loved me and gave himself for me, I can have a clear conscience.
I think that is what Paul meant in 1Tim.1:12, "For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I have committed to him until that day."
II.) What are the benefits of a good conscience?
1. We can draw near to God.
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, his flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, 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.
With a good conscience we can have the full benefit of communion with God - approaching his throne of grace and enjoying the blessing of peace with our God and Father.
2. Along with this communion comes a confidence we can have before God that comes from a good conscience. That is why immersion is for the remission of sins.
...who formerly were disobedient, when once the divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
There is also an antitype which now saves us – immersion [baptism] (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the appeal of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The appeal to God of a good conscience. I have had my sins washed away when I was immersed. And there will always be that place in space and time to which I can continually appeal in my thinking where I know that Jesus accepted me and washed me from my sins in his own blood. (See Acts 22:16)
Is that faith in baptism? No. That is faith in the blood of Christ which we appropriate to ourselves when we are immersed into Christ by baptism for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) It is faith in the working of God who, when I was immersed, forgave all my trespasses and made me alive together with Christ. (Col.2:12-13) Where is my faith when I'm baptized? It is in God who is working on my behalf, and Jesus you died for me.
You can see this good conscience at work in:
And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
3. The third thing a good conscience gives us is boldness in the faith.
When we know and are fully persuaded and are sure that everything is alright between us and God, then I can speak right up when Satan and the world are confronting me.
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
4. A good conscience is one of the three most important things in the life of a Christian that Paul mentioned to Timothy.
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk,
5. A good conscience is something that will preserve our faith.
This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
If we have obeyed the gospel - having done the will of God in becoming Christians, and have done the will of God in remaining Christians - then our consciences can be clear in Jesus Christ and our faith strong in him.
Even if we have failed in the past, we can do the will of God in repenting and confessing our sins to him and through the blood of Jesus Christ - God is "faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness." (1Jno.1:9)
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is the one condemning? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Can you have a good conscience before God?
Most certainly you can. Is there any one that can condemn you?
Absolutely not. The blood of Jesus Christ is our confidence and our boasting and our triumph. Our victory.
Build up your faith in Jesus Christ and let him be your confidence.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”
And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”
So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple. And he who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Would you like to be with that number and have that confidence?
You can have your robe white and washed in the blood of Christ.
- Through faith in Jesus Christ,
- repentance of your sins,
- and immersion in baptism for the remission of sins,
you can have the appeal to God of a good conscience and Christ your savior will stand with you in that day, and you can praise God for his salvation in Jesus Christ forever and ever.
(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point, OR January 20, 1985)