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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018
A Conscience Cleansed From Dead Works.
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? - Hebrews 9:13-14 [NASB]

I was reading 1 John 1 the other day, and followed a cross reference at verse 7 (but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. - [NASB]) - the reference had to do with the blood of Jesus His son cleansing us from all sin. The reference directed me to the passage in Hebrews 9 that I quoted above.

I was feeling awkward in my affections towards the Lord at a time when I needed to draw near in prayer.  There was creeping in again, an old sense of unworthiness that unless addressed with the truth of God's word, promised to be a hindrance not only to my worship and devotion, but to my joy and service.

As my thoughts lingered over 1 John 1:7, and then subsequently Hebrews 9:13-14, I found myself wondering what exactly the author of Hebrews meant by having a conscience cleansed from dead works to serve the living God.  I wanted to serve the living God, and was finding myself hindered by my own being.  Here seemed to be something with teeth in it, if I would only take the time to search it out.

The mention of the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a red heifer in the previous context in Hebrews 9, points us back to the Levitical laws concerning ritual uncleanness.  Any Israelite who came into contact with a corpse (intentionally or unintentionally) became ritually unclean for seven days - during which they were to live separately from all of Israel, and were barred from attending the Temple.  On the third day and seventh day of their uncleanness they were to present themselves before a priest who would sprinkle "water of impurity" on them.  Those who faithfully followed the requirements were restored to Israel, and any who did not were cut off from Israel.

That's where the ashes of the red heifer come in. To make water of impurity Eleazer the priest had to sacrifice a red heifer away from the tabernacle in the wilderness, and sprinkle some of it's blood in the direction of God's throne on earth (the tabernacle) seven times before burning the remains of the red heifer to ash.  As the fire was burning Eleazer was instructed to add cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet materials to the fire so that the ashes of each would be mixed with the ashes of the red heifer.  He had to go wash his clothes and body having himself become unclean until that evening.  Another "ritually clean" person would gather the ashes the next day and bring them to a place outside the camp in a clean place, where the ashes would be mixed with water to create the "water of impurity" needed to cleanse a person from the guilt of having come into contact with a corpse.

The (converted) Israelites to whom the epistle to the Hebrews was addressed, didn't need anyone to explain the law concerning that uncleanness which could only be lifted by way of the ashes of a red heifer (c.f. Number 19).  They understood something that we might easily miss today.

You see, the person who was unclean, having become contaminated by contact with a dead body,  was simply presented to the priest according to the prescription of the Law, and upon receiving the full "water of impurity" treatment by the priest - was declared to be free of the uncleanness.

When the priest declared you clean - you were clean.  Until then you were essentially cut off from both Israel and (more significantly) God.  You couldn't worship in the temple, you couldn't have out with anyone who wasn't already unclean.  The moment the priest declared you clean - you were back in - all was right in the world.

Every time a believer simply ignores God's will - by either not seeking it, or by setting it aside to pursue their own course - they "sin".  Their sin is a work that they do, which is not done in the strength and power of the life of Christ, but rather in their own sinful strength - in the power of the "old man" whom Paul writes about in Romans 6.  Pursuing your own way is a dead work, because it flows from the life that was crucified with Christ on Calvary.  That's Paul's point in Romans 6 - that life is dead, so don't obey it.  When you obey the desires of that life, you are obeying the commands of a condemned corpse.  That is a dead work

To understand what the author of Hebrews intends in Hebrews 9, you must understand the juxtaposition he is using to explain himself.

No unclean Israelite could serve God if did not deal directly with their (intentional or unintentional) transgression of the Law.  If they ignored the Law, they were cut off from Israel.  In order for an Israelite to once again become clean after coming in contact with a corpse a cleansing had to take place, and a priest had to declare you clean afterwards.  Once they had done that, they were free once again to worship and serve God according to the Law.

Once the priest declared them clean - they didn't doubt their own cleanliness, nor did they hold themselves aloof from the congregation waiting for some greater indication that they were really and truly made clean.  They likely headed immediately to the Temple, where they had been forbidden to tread for seven days.  They likely immersed themselves back into the throngs of Israel, where formerly they were forbidden.  The guilt of their transgression, being paid, was no longer a hindrance to their fellowship with God.

The author of Hebrews is rightly pointing out that any of his (Jewish) readers would not hesitate by way of some sense of guilt over having been unclean - from immediately partaking of all they had been denied during their uncleanness.  This they would readily do in the strength of some ashes from a red heifer.

How much more so, the author asks, if your cleanness - your acceptance with God - is not brokered by the ashes of a red heifer - who neither offered himself up to be the sacrifice, nor was capable of understanding his role as a sacrifice (under the old Covenant) - is your acceptance with God by and through the finished work of Christ who understood his role as a sacrifice, and willingly entered into the bearing of the fullness of that penalty - all for the sake of those whom He was cleansing - how much more will what Christ has willingly and knowingly done to secure your acceptable with God, make you acceptable to God?

It is good, and even proper to continue to have a realistic appreciation of your own lack of personal merit before God.  But you must never, if you are a Christian, allow that right understanding of your own pathos cripple you.  You haven't been cleansed by your own efforts, any more than a Jews was cleansed by his or her own efforts.   You merely present yourself to Christ and know that you are accepted in Him - and you conscience, resting upon the finished work of Christ - will not hinder your progress, but encourage it.

Do not let yourself become so certain of God's disfavor towards you over your sin that you hide from him like Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden.  You cannot serve the living God if you live as one cut off from God - in your own sinful pity party.  Do not let your conscience remains so poorly informed that you keep yourself from serving the living God.  But trust that all that Christ has done on your behalf has been effective and more than sufficient.

To put it another way, and I hope you can see it: walk in the Light as Christ Himself is in the Light.  Do that and you will have fellowship with one other believers having rested fully in the knowledge that the blood of Jesus has cleansed you from the guilt of your sin, and made you fit to do the work you are called to do.

Having said that, I fear that some who read this will miss the mark a little.  So let me say this clear:  There is a person who sins all they want, and in no way pursues repentance.  Such a one will hear a word like this and say, "ah, I can sin without fear because of God's grace" - and so they may continue in their sin, using grace as the enabler and excuse for their licentious living.  These neither understand grace, nor give any evidence of a genuine salvation. 

I am not saying these things to coddle any deceived fool on their way to hell, dressed up as, and imagining themselves to be, a saint.

No, I write this to the one who labors to draw near to God, but finds themselves weak for all the effort.  I put this hear as an oasis for such as these - that they may be deceived by their own misinformed conscience into giving up.
posted by Daniel @ 11:55 AM  
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