It is hard to believe the Gospel because it is hard to understand how it could possibly work.
“Believe in Jesus” sounds like something overly simple; it does not sound like it would “do” anything to simply trust him, to put faith in what an old book says he has done for you and for me.
So… how does it work out practically?
One very important glimpse into the daily-living working out of the Gospel is found in Hebrews 9. The whole chapter is worth considering at length, but let’s just focus in on vv. 13-14:
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.
Interesting. The point being made is that faith in Jesus Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice does something to us. What does he do? He cleanses our consciences.
Specifically, he cleanses our consciences from dead works. This is a huge practical glimpse into the gospel. Because all of us know that we do wrong. We think wrong thoughts. We do wrong deeds. Even our best works have threads of imperfection in them.
If you honestly look at your life, you know that you should be better. The Law points out that you should be better. And so our conscience condemns us. All your efforts to atone, all your gifts and promises to God, don’t do the trick. Your conscience, that inner judge of right and wrong, knows that you aren’t worthy to be in the same room as God.
But in the Gospel… something amazing happens. By faith in Jesus… your conscience can be washed. No guilt. Not because your moral compass has been tossed, oh no. Sin is sin. But by looking to Jesus, and trusting in what he has done.
Angry at your brother? Yes, your conscience, it calls sin what it is: sin. And you can declare, “I am clean, Jesus’ blood has cleansed me.” Immorality? Yes, your conscience, it calls sin what it is: sin. And your conscience does not condemn, because you trust in the blood of Jesus.
Do you see? Your conscience has been purified from dead works. Those are works that you’d otherwise do to try and cleanse that selfsame conscience. Self-atonement, acts of contrition. Like animals sacrificed to atone for sin. Yech. Dead end.
Conscience purified to serve the living God. Because if you trust in Jesus… you are free to not worry about you, but to respond by laying down your life. Not to make yourself pure—rather because you are pure.
The working of the Gospel in the life of the believer is the realization of a cleansed conscience by the finished work of Christ who gave his very blood for you. Not that you in your work keep yourself clean, but that Jesus cleansed you.
So guilt is good if it drives you to the cross. Where you get rid of that guilt forever.
And guilt is bad if it is your conscience condemning you in Christ. Christ paid everything. Are you saying his payment was not enough?
What God has made clean, don’t call common.
God has made you clean. Forever. By the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.
Press into him. Put your trust in him. Dwell on what he has done. Respond in a life that is pure by the blood of the sanctified lamb.