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The Cleansing of Conscience (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
September 16, 2020 4:00 am

The Cleansing of Conscience (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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September 16, 2020 4:00 am

Under the old covenant, sins were confessed to priests, and animals were sacrificed. This satisfied Levitical law but failed to clear the conscience. Listen to Truth For Life as Alistair Begg explains how the new covenant erases our guilt and shame.



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God created each one of us with an innate sense of right and wrong. When we ignore that inner moral compass and violate God's law, we can feel an awful sense of guilt. Thankfully, God offers us a way to be pardoned for our sin. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg is teaching from Hebrews chapter 9. He's titled this message The Cleansing of Conscience. The high priest entered into the most holy place, and according to verse 8, his movements were illustrating the fact that ordinary men and women did not have direct access into the presence of God.

And that brings us to the first of three central truths that I want you to notice. Number one, the inadequacy of the Old Covenant is expressed in the fact that access to God was restricted. Ordinary priests were restricted from the most holy place by this curtain here in verse 3. Their ability to move around was in itself only with a limited clearance.

They could only go so far, and the people couldn't go as far as them. And there was only one backstage pass, and it was only given out once a year for one individual to use, and that was the high priest. And to everybody else, the access to God was restricted. And so people began to look at those individuals, and with a measure of justification, as the key to their access to God. And in our generation, unless men and women's understanding of the nature of what it means to have access to God is transformed by the truth here of Hebrews 9, men and women continue to look at religious men in the exact same way. Oh, they say, he's able to go in the holy place!

Now, if I can hitch my wagon to him, maybe he'll be able to take me places that I could not go on my own. When an individual thinks like that, it is clear that they have never understood the radical change that had been brought about in the establishing of the new covenant. And they are living their lives in the awareness of the fact that their access to God is totally restricted. And they are aware of the fact that something needs to happen if there is to be freedom of movement not just for the priests but also for the worshippers. How can I know God?

How can I have my conscience cleansed? I go in the outer court, the priests do their thing, but they're there every week, and I'm there every week, and I do the same thing every week. And I have to wait for 365 days for the day to come around when the fellow does the main thing. And when he does the main thing, even then he goes by himself, and I can't get to God. Now, the writer is building to what he is going to proclaim in verse 24. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one. He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Verse 19 of chapter 10, the same truth. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, open for us through the curtain… See how revolutionary this was for these individuals, for whom access to God was restricted? And the writer to them says, I want you to understand that we have confidence to enter the holy place.

That is revolutionary! You couldn't go in there. There was only one chap went in there. And it was a dangerous thing for him to go in there.

And before he went in, he had to make sure that he had atoned for his sins in the sacrificial system and that he was then able to offer atoning sacrifices for the others who were restricted. And now the writer says, I want you to know that you can come straight in, walk right in, sit right down. Baby, let your mind roll on.

I don't know where that came from, but it's good. That's the deal. You can walk right in, and you can sit right down. And you can ease your mind.

Why? Not by means of the restricted access of the old covenant, but because of a new and living way that has been opened up by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, the identity of Jesus Christ is crucial. He is not merely another religious leader on the smorgasbord of opportunities. Who he is is vital to what he did. It wasn't just the death of a man that provided for sins. It was the death of the incarnate God that provided for sins. And his identity is crucial to the issue. That is why the writer has taken so much time to establish it. This Christ is the Creator. God spoke of old in many his ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things. And so he goes through it.

Why? Because the identity is absolutely vital. In Sunday school, in Bible class in Scotland, we used to sing a song that went like this. There's a way back to God from the dark paths of sin. There's a door that is open that you may go in.

At Calvary's cross, that's where you begin, when you come as a sinner to Jesus. Why do I have a guilty conscience? Why are the heavens like brass? Why does God seem so removed from me?

And what am I to do about it? You see, we have people living in this generation, like the people in the Old Covenant, living with restricted access. Haven't understood that when Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up his spirit, in that moment the temple curtain was torn in two, declaring that the restricted access had been superseded by an immediate possibility of entry for all who will come in repentance and in faith. It was inadequate because the access was restricted. It was inadequate also because the cleansing was partial. The cleansing that was on offer was only partial. The various ceremonial washings of verse 10 could only do so much.

The food and the drink and the external regulations, they applied for a time until the new order. The Old Covenant couldn't answer the deep dilemma of man, the real barrier between God and man. It's not a curtain. It's my sinful heart. It's the fact that I know that I have no justification to go into the presence of God. I know that God is holy. I know that sin deserves to be punished. And I know that I haven't loved him with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength. Even if I kept every other commandment for all of my life, I never managed to do that one.

Therefore, I've got a problem. And I've been trying to clean up my act, and I've been trying to become a little more religious, and I've tried to put a few things into my life to try and alleviate these problems, and actually, I feel not bad after a Sunday morning at Parkside. I feel quite good, usually till just about after lunchtime, and then it all descends upon me again. There's a sort of palliative moment or two whereby I get a superficial lift. It's kind of nice to be around those people. I like the songs, and the prayers kind of calm me, because I live such a busy life, and I'm receiving benefits from these things. But you don't have a cleansed conscience.

You put your head on the pillow. Why? Well, Isaac Watts put it. Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain. But Christ, the heavenly Lamb, takes all our sins away, a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they. You either love or hate Shakespeare. Few people are sort of on the fence with Shakespeare. I guess I love it.

I don't fully understand it, but I like it. And I can't come to this issue of conscience, I can't come to this issue of partial cleansing, without going to Macbeth. What is it? Act 5?

Somewhere around there? Act 1, scene 5? I can't remember. Remember, they call in the doctor to see Lady Macbeth. And as they stand in the observe Lady Macbeth, she's often portrayed as being, like, at her vanity. And as they stand and look at her, the guy says to the doctor, "'Look and see how she keeps on the rubbing of her hands.'" And then we draw closer to her. And as she fiddles with her hands, we hear her say, "'Out, damned spot!

Out, I say! What, will these hands ne'er be clean?'" Here's the smell of blood still. All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. And then it says, "'O, O, O.'"

And when you read that in the class, it's pathetic, isn't it? You know, when you read the scene, and some girl fancies herself as Lady Macbeth, you know, she's like, "'O, out, damned spot! O, the self! And all the perfumes of Arabia cannot sweeten this little hand. O, O, O.'" And the teacher says, "'Get a grip, you know, get a life!

Can you not put something into it?'" See, it's the difference between reading somebody else's lines and facing my own guilt. Some of us cannot alleviate our guilt with a casual little, "'O, O, O,'" but in the silence of our own lives, it is a strangulating cry of embittered misery which pierces our souls, and we cannot alleviate it. And under the system of external religion, there is only a partial cleansing that is an offer to us. All of the sacrifices and all of the gifts could not ease the pain of a wounded conscience. And finally, it was inadequate insofar as the access was restricted, the cleansing was partial, and the pardon was limited. The pardon was limited. Verse 7, at the end of verse 7, and he offered these sacrifices for himself and for the sins the people had committed.

Notice the final two words in verse 7. They had committed in ignorance. The provisions of the old covenant only covered the sins which had been committed unwittingly. But that's an inevitable problem for the individual with a troubled conscience.

What is to be done for people like me who, in the words of Forsyth, are not simply stray sheep or wandering prodigos, but we are rebels taken with the weapons in our hands? What good is a religion that can only deal with the sins that we did when we didn't know we were doing them? What good is a cleansing that only cleanses from the sins I didn't know I did? What about all the ones I knew I did? And there are a few of them. There are a lot of them. There are an overwhelming number of them. Well, this'll take care of the ones you don't know about. Thank you. But I got an awful lot I do know about.

What am I to do? Where is the individual to go who is haunted by remorse, who is driven by failure? Can anything be done for the remorseful sinner who longs for a cleansing from sin, released from the impression of unrelieved guilt? That's the question, you see, and that's the way in which the writer moves.

He sets the scene so wonderfully. And this is the way the gospel is to be preached. You see, what purpose in my offering you a Jesus? Would you like to know Jesus? You say, I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. Would you like to follow Jesus? I don't know. Would you like a Savior? You say, well, you know, maybe. Maybe not. And you see, that's exactly what happens when people say, well, that guy's getting awful worked up about that, and I don't know why.

I mean, it's kinda nice for him and for some others, but not for me. Until the day that the Word of God pierces your soul, and you're before your own vanity, and you're saying, Out, damn it, spot! There's not a perfume from Arabia that can deal with the taintedness that is on my sinful hands. Then, in that day, you got big ears for news of a Savior. But until that day, I can talk till I'm blue in the face. And you know what?

I feel total freedom. Because my words can never convict someone of sin. Only the Holy Spirit of God can convict someone of sin. I cannot take the scales off your eyes.

I cannot pull the plugs from your ears. Only God can do that. And I don't fully understand how he does it. But I know he does it.

And you'll know he does it. For when, in your heart and in your conscience, you are prepared to admit that you have unrelieved, unmitigated guilt for which all of your best endeavors are providing no satisfaction, and in that day you're saying, Oh! Oh! Then that day is the day of salvation. That day is the day when Easter comes to life. That day is the day when this dying Christ means something.

And the question is, has there been such a day in your life? We'll come back to this, but just notice how he leads to it in verse 11. When Christ came, the people have been holding their breath, saying, What are we to do now? He said, Well, let me tell you. When Christ came, the high priest of the good things that are already here, all the benefits and blessings of salvation, he didn't enter by means of bulls and goats and calves' blood.

He entered by his own blood, and he obtained an eternal redemption. How long does that sound like? Does that sound like forever? I don't want a forgiveness that only lasts five minutes, like going to the car wash. You go to the car wash, you get it cleaned up, you come out of the car wash, you try to avoid every construction thing, you go right through the construction thing, it fires right up on the sides of your doors, and you might as well turn right around and go back to the car wash again. And then if you're so stupid that you go right down the road again, then you'll be doing it—you'll be like the village idiot, just driving up and down dirty roads and going to the car wash. But if there was a way to get a car wash, you never need your car washed again. Show me that car wash!

Right? Is there a way to receive eternal redemption? Is there a way to have your sins forgiven—the sins of yesterday, the sins of today, and all the sins of tomorrow?

The answer is yes. In the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. All perfect redemption, the purchase of blood.

To every believer, the promise of God. The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus, a pardon receives. What kind of pardon? A partial pardon? A total pardon. And someone come and accuse you of your sins, you're telling, Hey, I got a total pardon. Somebody says, You know, you're a little unclean. Say, You know what?

He cleansed me completely. Somebody says, You're not supposed to go in there. That's only the holy place.

Say, I can go anywhere. I'm with my big brother. His name is Jesus Christ. He died in my place.

Excuse me. I'm going in here. You know the story of the evangelist who's pulling up his stakes in the early part of the twentieth century, dismantling his tent and heading for home? And as on the Monday morning he's putting the tent stakes into the bag, a young boy comes along who'd attended one of his meetings, and he says to the chap, he says, What do I have to do to be saved? And the fellow hardly looking up and putting the stakes in the bag says, You're too late. And the boy says, You mean I'm too late because I missed your services? He said, No, you're too late because someone has done all that is necessary for you to be saved. You don't have to do anything except believe. I say, I've got to get out of here.

This is way too simple. What am I supposed to do? I mean, don't I need letters of recommendation, like for the country club? I mean, isn't that a down payment? Isn't there something that I can do to make myself feel good about the fact that I did it so that I could say, Hey, I joined? No. See, that's the difference.

I tell you what you can do. You can fall down on your face, and you can cry to God for his mercy to be stowed upon your life. What did the thief on the cross do? He said, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. For the blood that ran down his cross and the other chap's cross was real blood. But the blood that he saw from the corner of his eye, from the pierced and riven side of this Jesus of Nazareth, was the blood that was shed for his eternal redemption. And the dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day, and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away. The dying thief received total pardon from God. It's a beautiful picture of God's amazing grace, extended not only to that thief, but to anyone who will place his trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. You're listening to Truth for Life. Please keep listening. Alistair Begg will conclude today's message with prayer.

That's coming up in just a minute. When we reflect on the crucifixion of Christ, everything he suffered on our behalf, it's a fitting response for us to want to draw near to him out of respect and gratitude. This is, in fact, God's desire for us. The Bible teaches us that we're created to be brought near to God as a kingdom of priests. That's somewhat shocking because we don't view ourselves as priests, certainly not in the conventional sense.

Author and counselor Ed Welch has written a helpful book on this subject. It's called Created to Draw Near. And in this book, Ed traces the priestly identity throughout the entire Bible, beginning in the Garden of Eden all the way through the New Testament. It's remarkable to see how God extends his invitation for all of us to draw near to him with open arms.

And in his presence, we discover what it means to be truly human, to be known, unashamed, full of meaning and purpose. We'd love to send you a copy of this encouraging book from Ed Welch called Created to Draw Near. It's yours when you give a gift to support the ministry of Truth for Life. You can request your copy online at truthforlife.org slash donate or through our mobile app.

You can also call 888-588-7884. And keep in mind, your gift supports the mission of Truth for Life. We teach the Bible so men and women can come to know God's love and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to save them from their sins and lead them to eternal life. This is why what we teach comes directly from the Bible so that God's Word can do God's work in the lives of those who listen.

If you'd prefer to mail your donation to us, write to Truth for Life at post office box 398000 Cleveland, Ohio 44139, or call 888-588-7884. Now, let's conclude today by joining Alistair for a moment of prayer. Some of us have never known what it is to be saved. We've certainly embarked on religion.

We are moving in the outer courts, as it were. But our consciences are not cleansed. And we hear God's voice today telling us that the only thing we need to know is that we're great sinners and that Jesus is a great Savior, and then that we would come and acknowledge our guilt and our debt and our rebellion and our sin and our indifference, and Christ would affirm the fact that he bore all of that sin, all of that debt and rebellion and indifference in his body on the tree in order that in childlike trust and in repentant faith we may be transformed. Father, I pray that you would look upon this congregation in your mercy. Bring men and women from darkness to light. Liberate the troubled and broken consciences. Free them from the acts that lead to death.

Redeem them with your outstretched hand. And now, may the Lord bless us and keep us. May the Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us. May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon us and give us his peace, today and forevermore. Amen. Thanks so much for joining us for today's study in Hebrews chapter 9. I'm Bob Lapeen. Hope you can join us again Thursday as our series called Fix Our Eyes on Jesus continues. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-13 06:00:54 / 2024-03-13 06:09:30 / 9

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