One of my favorite stories in the gospels is the encounter that Jesus has with a Pharisee named Simon and a woman who was a sinner that is found in Luke 7:36-50. Here is the verse that sticks in my mind that also connects with Hebrews 9:
Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven– for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47 ESV)
Many times in the gospels we see this comparison of those who think they are righteous with those who acknowledge they are sinners. Not every sinner loves Jesus and desires to be forgiven by him. That is clearly demonstrated by one of the two thieves on a cross next to Jesus. Those who do recognize who Jesus is and desire to be forgiven receive a gift that only Jesus can give. They receive forgiveness and a clear conscience.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:13-14 ESV)
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13-14 NIV)
Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. (Hebrews 9:13-14 NLT)
If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God. (Hebrews 9:13-14 MSG)
The Pharisee in Luke 7 is a product of the old covenant. We understand the system he lived under because we often revert to it ourselves. We focus on the law of God and discover we can not keep it. The result is guilt or a conscience that is not clear. Satan, the accuser, loves to keep us here. Guilt easily turns into fear and our focus shifts from God to ourselves. Under the old covenant the result was continual sacrifice. Our unfortunate, but typical, response is to try to clear our conscience by working to pay back what we know we owe.
The woman who was a sinner in Luke 7 is a wonderful example of the new covenant. She probably didn’t understand much about theology, but she knew what was important. She knew love when she saw it. She worshiped Jesus, gave her love, and received forgiveness which we hope she accepted. God’s love motivated him to create us and continually work to bring us near to him. He desires our closeness so much that he was willing to give Jesus as a sacrifice. It is the result of the sacrifice that the Hebrews 9:13,14 focuses on.
The simple definition of worship is to bow down. Worship is an act of submission. How easy do you find it to submit to someone you fear? Without Jesus’ sacrifice it is difficult to approach God and bow before him without fear. That’s not what God desires. He wants us to run to him and jump into his arms. He wants us to love him and others the way he does. We can only do that if we are free from guilt. We need a clear conscience. We need to recognize in a very tangible way that we have been forgiven in a way we can’t imagine. We forgive and don’t forget. God forgives and forgets. He wants us to worship and serve him out of a clear conscience and deep, abiding love.
The next time you can partake in communion recognize that you are able to approach God with a clear conscience because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Accept the forgiveness given and live out of the clear conscience it produces. May we all love as much as we have been forgiven.