by Jesse L. Smith
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“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience…” –Hebrews 10:22
Christians are often viewed as nitpicky people who find sin in everything, but in reality those who are not concerned with justifying themselves have no need to be conscious of sin all around them. Self justification is very much a part of human nature, and there are few people who would classify themselves as ‘wicked’. Most everyone wants to feel good about themselves, and the way they accomplish this is by focusing on the faults of others instead of their own. Therefore as ironic as it seems, the people who are most conscious of sins are those who have the greatest amount of sin in their own lives. Scripture describes this quality of the wicked saying, “They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.” –Psalms 64:6 One would think that somehow the ‘wicked’ would be the most tolerant when it comes to sin, but in reality the exact opposite is true.
Having a sin consciousness is a bad thing, and God never intended His children to live with a constant awareness of sin all around them. The Apostle Paul wrote that the purpose of God’s law is “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” –Romans 3:19 God’s intention wasn’t for us to constantly feel bad about ourselves, but for us to be aware of our need for a Savior. Once we have acknowledged our own guilt before God, the law has served its purpose in bringing us to the Lord Jesus Christ. At that point there is no longer any need to justify ourselves by focusing on the sins of others, because we have already declared ourselves to be guilty. This in effect frees us from the consciousness of sin around us, because now we look to be justified by the Cross of our Savior.
The moment we begin to justify ourselves by any goodness we think we might have instead of by Jesus, is the moment our conscience will once again be defiled by sin. It is very easy to fall into this trap because it’s in our nature to compare ourselves with one another. We might think we are ‘doing pretty good’ compared to some other person in the church, or feel bad about ourselves based on ‘the performance’ of another. In so doing we disconnect from our Savior, and forget that there is no goodness in any of us but Jesus. As Christians we are not to live by a list of standards that we think can make us good, but by faith in the goodness of Jesus living inside of us. The Apostle Paul questioned the Colossians on this point saying, “Wherefore if you be dead with Christ from the ways of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which are all to pass away with use) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”
The more we focus on all the sin in the world, the more our own conscience will be defiled by it. God hasn’t called us to perfection through our own works, but to innocence through our relationship with Jesus. Hebrews 9:14 says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Like Adam and Eve before the fall of mankind, God is able to cleanse our conscience through faith in Jesus to allow us to stand innocently before Him. We dare not approach God through any goodness of our own, just as Adam and Eve had to hide from the presence of God because of the shame of their own sin. If we try to be justified before God by our works, we lose our innocence before Him.
The world we live in today is full of darkness, but we were never meant to focus on it! All of us are like mirrors, and we will reflect whatever we are angled towards. If we are angled towards the Lord Jesus, we will reflect the light of His Glory – but if we are angled toward darkness we will also reflect darkness. Jesus said, “The light of the body is in the eye: if therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye be evil, your whole body shall be full of darkness.”-Matthew 6:22-23 Instead of having a sin consciousness, we should have a redemption consciousness – a heart that sees the world through the mercy and grace of a loving Savior.
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Hi Jesse, I share my faith regularly and for years have known that we all justify ourselves, especially the non-believer. I can think of 3 people in the last few weeks where self justification was angrily exposed as we talked. A strong pride that says - look at that guy, at least I am not like him Luke 18:9-14 They have no idea how this is keeping them from God. Because God has placed this strongly on my mind I searched self justification on the site. Your article is the first one I have read. It is awesome. God is using you to clearly explain truth. Your article helped me see more clearly. I am so glad you are a member of the site. Please keep writing. God Bless, Mike Edwards
Very encouraging Jesse. I love that -- We are all like mirrors reflecting whatever we are focused on. I particularly appreciate the message not to be so sin conscious of the world for that is sure to overwhelm us. But to be more Redemption Conscious. For who of us is not without the need for Redemption. A while back I too was led to write a poem entitled Redemption's Grace. The Lord Bless You for your encouraging words.