Hebrews 9:11-28

It's true, you know. Forgiveness, loving kindness, mercy, and compassion were given to us by the blood of Jesus — the "Blood of an Innocent One." That's what the author of Hebrews assured a group of persecuted believers in the text I read from Hebrews 9.

I read all these verses because their leading theme is blood as the way of life-giving power. Did you hear what is said here? "Christ freed us from sin forever. He did this by offering his own blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls" (Hebrews 9:12). The Blood of an Innocent One — not the blood of goats and bulls, mere animals; but by the blood of a human being, Jesus. His blood is much more powerful — it clears "our consciences" (Hebrews 9:14).

What's your conscience telling you today? Everybody has a conscience. It comes with the created outfit. It was put there at birth. You can't get rid of it. You can't ignore it. The Bible speaks of the conscience in at least 28 passages in the New Testament. All of them say essentially the same thing: my conscience makes me aware of the rightness or wrongness of my conduct with the urge to prefer right over wrong.

Nearly 500 years ago a Saxon monk by the name of Martin Luther believed the church needed an overhaul. So on October 31, 1517 he walked down the street to the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany and nailed up on the front door 95 reasons why the church needed repair — he didn't mean the physical structure of the building, either. All pandemonium broke loose as the Protestant Reformation began, from which Baptists would emerge. Four years later, in 1521, in Worms, Germany, Martin Luther was tried for heresy. He was given the chance to recant. "Friar Martin, do you recant?" he was asked. He responded, "My conscience is held captive to the word of God. I can do no other." He did not recant and was excommunicated from the church.

Oh, how glad I am Martin Luther chose the right thing: a conscience held captive by scripture. How I wish I chose the right all the time. I'm sorry to say that I don't. Neither do you. I choose the wrong at times and so do you. This is why there is to be a conscious conscience cleansing. Say it fast enough and you'll find it's a tongue twister. A conscious conscience cleansing is needed. One with blood — the Blood of an Innocent One.

You and I made a choice to come here today. Prayerfully we've come to worship to do just that: worship. Sadly some of us don't come to worship to worship. Some come out of a sense of duty or requirement. Some come out of a sense of guilt or as a result of some bargain they made with God. Some even come thinking if they live right and show up at 10:30 every Sunday, God will shower them with an abundance of possessions.

Practically all of us, at some time or another, have traveled through the motions of worship. We've walked right into this place and walked right out as if absolutely nothing ever happened. This is why, right now, I want to invite us to make a conscious choice — to have our consciences cleansed by the Blood of an Innocent One. This cleansing will allow us to do just what we are called to do in this hour: worship. This cleansing has to be with blood. A cleansing with blood. Sounds kind of yucky.

Now there are all kinds of cleansers on the market today. There are facial and body cleansers designed to remove all the deep filth in the skin to give us better complexions and help us to look younger. An assortment of household products is available to cleanse floors and walls in bathrooms and kitchens. There are cleansers intended to remove spots on clothes. You can get your teeth cleansed with stuff that will make them whiter than white. There is, I suppose, deep within each of us a desire, a longing to see life clean. Who wants to go around dirty and grimy all the time? I'm sure there are folks who do, but I'm happy to say I'm not one of them.