The God Who Bleeds: Hope For The Guilty Hebrews 9:10-15
There is no question that the actions of Adolf Hilter during World War II stained the history books with the chilling reminder of how destructive an unregenerate heart can be. Albert Speer was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich.
Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office. He was credited with keeping Nazi factories humming throughout World War II. He was the only one of twenty-four war criminals tried in Nuremburg who admitted his guilt. Speer spent twenty years in Spandau prison. Here is what he said in an ABC interview after twenty years:
“I served a sentence of twenty years, and I could say, ‘I’m a free man, my conscience has been cleared by serving the whole time as punishment.’ But I can’t do that. I still carry the burden of what happened to millions of people during Hitler’s lifetime, and I can’t get rid of it. This new book is part of my atoning, of clearing my conscience.” The interviewer pressed the point. “You really don’t think you’ll be able to clear it totally?” Speer shook his head. “I don’t think it will be possible.”
What a sobering reminder of the power of the conscience to remind a person of their guilt! Chuck Colson made this statement shortly after this interview:
“For thirty-five years Speer had accepted complete responsibility for his crime. His writings were filled with contrition and warnings to others to avoid his moral sin. He desperately sought expiation. All to no avail. I wanted to write Speer, to tell him about Jesus and his death on the cross, about God’s forgiveness. But there wasn’t time. The ABC interview was his last public statement; he died shortly after.”
While many of us will never counsel someone who has plumbed the depths of depravity as Speer did, we will most likely meet people who struggle with their sinful actions from the past and are haunted by a guilty conscience. People will typically seek to deal with guilt in a few different ways. One way is to ignore it. This is typically done by blame shifting, dismissing or denying the issue. Others try to numb it. A few of the typical ways this is done is through substance abuse, impulsive risk taking (thrill seeking), or busyness with children, work, or church activities. Another main way people will often try to deal with guilt is to atone for it, as Speer did. Also behaviors to lookout for would be OCD, focus on spiritual performance, legalism, moralism, etc. None these responses lead to freedom. There is no amount of therapeutic counseling, behavior modification, or blame shifting that can scrub the soul clean from the guilt of sin.
This is where biblical counseling reveals its most powerful reality. We have the only permanent answer to a guilty conscience: The God Who Bleeds. The book of Hebrews was written to bolster the faith of believers who were under persecution. It majestically lays out the story of atonement reaching its final fulfillment in the sacrifice of Christ, or in other words, the journey from the shadows of the OT sacrificial system to the substance of the new covenant. It is easy for those of us in a western culture to miss the significance and severity of the old sacrificial system. The perpetual flow of blood from the sacrifices provided a vivid picture of the reality that sin could never be overlooked! The constant smell of blood would have reminded everyone that things are not the way they are supposed to be! In fact, in Numbers 15:30-31, it appears to show that under the old sacrificial system there was no offering you could do to atone for premeditated sins! Since only sins of ignorance were forgiven (even on the Day of Atonement), no one could have a completely clear conscience:
“But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people.31 Because he has despised the word of the Lordand has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”
The whole system communicated that sin both brings and demands death. Sin cannot be set aside, even by a loving God. His judicial sentence was, “the soul who sins is the one who will die “(Eze. 18:4).
The amazing realities nestled in the pages of Hebrews provide for us a rich array of truths to encourage a person tortured by his or her past. Here are two key realties to both ponder and unpack with those struggling:
- Because of Christ’s sacrifice my redemption is secure no matter how I feel (Heb. 9:11-12)
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”
The incredible truth here is that not only has He settled all our debts, He has provided permanent relational access to God. This is powerful to share with someone who has spent many years convinced he can never be forgiven, and even if it were possible, God was doing it reluctantly and keeping him at a distance. Helping people see that God desires them to come close and near will be a huge help!
2. Because of Christ’s sacrifice my conscience can finally become clear (Heb. 9:14)
“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctifyfor 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.”
We must seek to be sensitive to how crushing the weight of guilt can be on the conscience and not minimize a person’s struggle, but we must help him wrestle biblically. We understand that guilt is the objective judgment that is accrued when we break a law. Our feelings by themselves are not an accurate measure of true guilt. For example, I can be driving at 65 mph in a 55 mph zone and not feel guilt even though I am guilty. Helping people struggling with their past to see the truth in this passage will go a long way to unloading a burdened conscience as they experience and begin to walk out the gospel realty of forgiveness. In short, the blood of Christ is God’s answer to man’s depraved heart and disturbed conscience. Guilt and shame give way to hope and freedom.
No other religion on earth has a God that bled on behalf of His people. This is a profound and glorious reality. Helping people see that God is not ashamed of them but delights in them will liberate the guilty soul. As those privileged to come along side those most hurting, let us humbly and confidently present The God Who Bleeds as the only lasting hope for the guilty.
Posted on May 3, 2012