To live life honestly is to live with the weight of our conscience declaring that we are guilty. As much as we want to believe that we simply make mistakes, we get constant reminders from our conscience that what we have done are not just mistakes but a true reflection of what’s inside.
We could live in denial and pridefully ignore the guilt, but it will find its way to the surface in the most unlikely places and at the most unfavorable times. It comes out as insecurity, low self-esteem, fear of rejection, or down-right bad behavior. We try desperately to convince others that the bad behavior is not a true reflection of who we are. And the need to believe it ourselves multiplies our desperation. Yet no matter how often well-intentioned people attempt to encourage us, and build us up, and tell us how wonderful, important, smart, and beautiful we are, the insecurity, the low view of self, and the wounded pride remains. Our conscience simply does not let us ignore the truth. We are not wonderful, we are not good. Low self-esteem for us is just good common sense.
We have seen and experienced the bad decisions, repeated self-destructive behavior and our conscience tells us that we are guilty. All the praise does not drown out the whisper from our conscience that we should indeed feel bad about ourselves. “You were wrong, you did lie, you were responsible.” We live with the secrets, but they are not secrets to us. And our conscience beats us up about it.
Living in a world where no one else is open about their own sin, gives us the impression that we are alone and that our problems are unique. Living the lie, that our conscience does not let us forget, leaves us swinging from one pole to the other, feeling depressed, and grasping for coping mechanisms. All are familiar social conditions. The social answers are also well-known, but they are not working. If anything they are teaching us how to live with the dishonesty. How can we love ourselves, when we know ourselves?
There is, however, a better way. There is a new and living way. This way may be new to us, but it is an old and trusted way. The writer of the Book of Hebrews calls it a new and living way, made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ greatest benefit in the age to come is undoubtedly resurrection to new life in the kingdom, but His greatest benefit in this present evil age, may be freedom from a guilty conscience.
This better way is at the heart of Hebrews, as the readers struggle with returning to the old way. The writer makes the argument that faith in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and a clear conscience before God is better than the old way of yearly sacrifices for sin. He makes the argument that Jesus is better, because He is a better High Priest, He offered a better sacrifice, and His sacrifice was once for all times. There remains no more sacrifice for sin, the writer argues.
What we have in Jesus is a full acceptance of the sin that makes us guilty. In Christ, there is not an attempt to hoodwink our conscience into believing that we are good people. But in Jesus, we have the confidence that He is good, and that we have been credited with His goodness by faith. This alien righteousness is not our own, it is Jesus’ righteousness, but it is imputed to us and apprehended by us through faith nonetheless. Listen to this wonderful verse in just that context from Hebrews 10:22 “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” The righteousness of Christ allows us to draw near even to our Holy God, in full assurance that we will not be rejected.
This new and living way does not mean that we will not have to fight for our clear conscience, but now it is a fight we can win. We can win not because we have confidence in ourselves, but because we have confidence in Him. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:23)” We can live with a clear conscience, but not because we are faithful. But because He is has made the promise, and because He is faithful we can be free from our evil guilty conscience. The new and living way, how wonderful and hopeful is that way.