Who can say, I have made my heart clean,
I am pure from my sin? Proverbs 20:9
This is a rhetorical question, with the expected answer of “no one,” but all of us would still like to be able to answer in the affirmative. But unfortunately, we cannot see the backs of our own heads. The eyes we use to look around for sin in our lives are themselves marred by sin, and how can we use sinful eyes to look for the blemishes in our eyes?
When it comes to the day-to-day matters of conscience, we are supposed to keep a clean conscience, but even a clean conscience is no absolute evidence of perfect purity.
“For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:4, ESV).
“for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20, ESV).
So having a troubled conscience means that it is likely that something is wrong and needs to be put right. But having an untroubled conscience doesn’t mean the same thing. We have to leave that kind of ultimate evaluation up to the Lord. He knows all things. He knows exactly how much we are kidding ourselves. Not only so, but He loves us anyway.
How is this possible?
How is this possible? And how is it possible for us to recognize that we cannot identify all of our sins and not have this understanding paralyze us with holy terror? The answer of Scripture is justification, the real and final declaration of God that we are in fact righteous. Because the Father has uttered the great “not guilty” over us through the bloody death of Jesus, and because He then uttered the stupefying “well done, good and faithful servant” over us through the resurrection of Jesus, it is possible for us to be liberated into the task hunting down our remaining sins through the process of sanctification. When we find and kill one, we might feel chagrin, but no dread. The entire process of sanctification is taking place under a banner that reads “no condemnation.” And this means that the fact that I do not know the extent of my remaining sin does not matter. And all of it is nothing but a cleansing grace.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).