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.

Two weeks ago today, while in Mozambique, I got up and took a cold shower. There was no hot water because the power was out in Nampula. I don't like taking cold showers. I certainly don't like shaving with cold water. The power goes off every Sunday morning in Nampula, so if you don't get up early, you're out of luck. My host, Mike McCoy, forgot to tell me that. That's why he took his shower early. When we got back that evening after worshipping with other evangelical missionaries, not only was there no electricity, there wasn't any water. Mike said that happens too. On Monday morning there was electricity, but no water. We had to leave for the bush early. So I didn't take a shower on Monday. And I didn't take one on Tuesday because they don't have showers out in the bush — although the good folks there do provide a ten gallon bucket of hot water, that has been heating all night on an open fire, for you and three or four others to use. I went from Sunday morning to Wednesday morning without bathing. I looked rough and probably smelled rougher. When we got back to Nampula, the first thing I did was wash my hands with hot water and soap. Out in the bush about the only thing you can do is use wet-wipes and waterless hand sanitizer. But those things don't get all the grime off. When I washed my hands at Mike's apartment, I couldn't believe how filthy they were. And the shower and shave with hot water? Ah, they really were heavenly! I was reminded that there really isn't a substitute for hot water and soap.

There is no substitute for the blood — the Blood of an Innocent One. When all is said and done, the blood is life. The blood of Jesus Christ, the very life of Jesus Christ, is the key to life in all its fullness. His blood, His very life is what cleanses our consciences and enables us to live joyfully and faithfully, giving ourselves unconditionally to him, preferring right over wrong. His sinless life allowed for His blood to be a cleansing agent, a purifier to clean us up. Because He gave Himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God for us, "Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death" (Hebrews 9:14). There it is. Because of what He did, we can prefer right over wrong and right always leads to life while wrong always leads to death. There really is no substitute for the blood, is there?

And because there isn't, when our consciences are consciously cleansed with blood, a result is empowerment to serve the living God. What does your service amount to today? Each of us knows, don't we? None of us can serve Him with gladness of heart if we haven't allowed the blood of Christ to cleanse us. If there is no cleansing, there is no power. One of the reasons why pessimism pervades some quarters of the church is because the church, that is the people, has forgotten the blood. When the Blood of an Innocent One becomes the filter, we can, without a doubt, experience an invasion of optimism in the people of God. What a way to serve the living God — allowing optimism to saturate our existence, to inform everything we do.

At once that saturation of optimism leads us to realize that Jesus "offered himself" (Hebrews 9:14). A conscious conscience cleansing with blood will direct us to offer ourselves. So what are we offering today? We know that, too, don't we? There is so much you and I can offer — particularly in our material possessions. The truth is if we are conscious about having our consciences cleansed with His blood, we'll show it with our checkbooks and we'll do so we great optimism. Remember, Jesus "offered himself." It stands to reason, then, that we are to offer ourselves — everything about us. In doing so we are offering hope to a world that is hopeless without the blood, without the life of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday The Times-Georgian had the headline, "Keeping the Faith in HOPE." The story focused on Georgia parents' worry that the HOPE Scholarship isn't going to last. It may not. For selfish reasons I hope we can keep faith in HOPE. I borrow the headline today to remind you and me that we are to "keep the Faith in HOPE — the hope that our consciences can be cleansed by the Blood of an Innocent One, the blood of Jesus Christ and the hope that all the consciences in the world can be cleansed with the same Blood of the same Innocent One. Let us consciously allow Christ's shed blood to cleanse our consciences. Let's consciously pattern our way of living in accordance with His way of living. There's no other way to live life. There's no other way.

Benediction

Depart, now, in the fellowship of God, your Heavenly Father, with great shouts
of joy. And as you go, remember:

In the faithfulness of God, the foundation of your life, you are being
made strong as He provides you refuge each day;

By the grace of God, you have been delivered from the deep darkness
of sin into the brilliant light of His salvation; and

In the love of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, your conscience is being
cleansed as a result of the shedding of His blood — blood that
will never lose its power.

Thanks be to God! All Hail King Jesus! Now and forever! Amen and Amen.

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Jimmy Gentry is pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Carrollton, Georgia.

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All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are from the Contemporary English Version.