Have you ever longed for a clear conscience?
A man named Saul had reason to think about this too. Before Saul became a believer, he zealously persecuted Christians—rounding them up and throwing them in prison, standing by as a crowd of angry Jews stoned and killed a young believer named Stephen. Then Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul became Paul the apostle, one of the leaders of the early church and the writer of much of the New Testament.
As Paul looked back at his life, he called himself the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:16). Yet he also wrote that as a Christian he served God “with a clear conscience” (2 Timothy 1:3)! He wrote about forgetting the past and pressing forward (Philippians 3:13, 14). The past didn’t seem to have a hold on Paul—he didn’t let it define who he was or impact his decisions in the present. How did he do that?
Paul wrote something else that gives us a clue: “Don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you—whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23, New Living Translation). What did Paul say about the past in those verses? Nothing! It was a nonissue.
The past belongs to God. It’s the present and the future that are ours.
We do need to deal with the consequences of our past actions and inactions. We might need to apologize, or tell the truth, or find out why we did what we did, or make amends if we can. These healing steps are essential and biblical. But the past itself—with all its guilt and embarrassment or shame—that’s gone, if Jesus is our Savior.
The bread and the cup of Communion represent Christ’s body and blood. They remind us of his sacrifice that removes our past and gives us a clear conscience. In the freedom that results we can resist temptation, reject the accusations of Satan, and serve God. The past is gone.
The book of Hebrews compares the Old Testament system of animal sacrifices with Christ’s death on the cross and says, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ . . . cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14).
Diane Stortz is a freelance editor and the author of A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year (Bethany House), which will be available in January. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.