THE WORD IS
"For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things" (1 John 3:20).
Where can I find grace that will cover my sins? Where can I get balm to heal the wounds that my sins have caused in my conscience? Is there help available for me, or must I always bear the burden of a bad conscience and suffer the pain of the wounds caused by my sins.
Are these questions that you are asking?
I can with joy tell you that help is available. Our Savior, speaking to troubled souls like you, says: "Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
But surely you are not thinking: "This is true when it comes to just ordinary sinners, but my conscience is not clean. It has been tarnished by some especially abhorrent sins. Even though how I try, I cannot forget my transgressions. They always rise up to accuse me." If this is how you feel, you have no reason to despair. Many have had identical thoughts, but have nevertheless found peace when they have come to know God's grace.
A person by nature thinks that he must first cleanse his conscience in order to be able to believe. When his conscience, despite all his efforts to cleanse it, remains unclean and continues to accuse, he despairs. But Christ's Gospel is not a message of despair, but one of joy.
Jesus once bore our sins. Everyone's sins! All the sins of all people. He bore even those transgressions that weigh heaviest on your conscience, those that you cannot forget and which always return to accuse you. He also bore those sins which we have not even considered to be sins, and was forsaken by God because of them. He also atoned for those sins that especially trouble your conscience. Specifically for these sins He earned forgiveness.
Your heart cannot by nature know this. That is why it continues to accuse you. But God is greater than your heart and knows all things.
In His sight your sins are many times greater, much more abhorrent, and have deserved a much more severe punishment than you can feel in your conscience. Also in this respect He is greater than your heart and knows all things.
But God also knows what Christ has done for you. He knows that Christ has paid the full price for our sins. He accepted this sacrifice by raising His Son from the dead. God has been appeased in His heart. He does not have to seek atonement from your heart in order to forgive you. He is above your heart. He has been reconciled to you in His own heart for Jesus' sake. This is the basis of your salvation.
Do not therefore seek permission to receive forgiveness from your own heart, but rather go before the highest court of justice, before God Himself. In His own Word He assures us that He is merciful to sinners for Christ's sake. You can be at peace. If your heart condemns you, God is greater. In order to believe, do not listen to the voice of your heart, but rather listen to the voice of God.
Perhaps you still want to know: How can I get a clean conscience?
That which has been done, we cannot undo. We cannot be free of our evil nature in this life. But nevertheless we can attain peace of conscience. We cannot attain it by our own works. We cannot attain it even though how hard we try to improve our life, though how hard we strive and pray. All of these are our own works and cannot bring us peace. But still we can find peace of conscience. Not by our works, but through the forgiveness that Christ has earned for us. Everything is by grace, that wonderful, free gift of God. God tells us in His Word: "Jesus Christ... is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). We can be sure of forgiveness on the basis of this promise. God cannot lie. When God, the highest court, pardons us for Christ's sake, a lower court, our conscience, cannot change this ruling, but must submit to the decision of the higher court.
Do not therefore first seek peace from your own heart in order to believe, but believe in Jesus Christ and you will find peace.
Although your sins have slashed deep wounds into your conscience, remember that Jesus was wounded for your sake. While He was forsaken by God, He suffered in His heart the pain caused by sin, because our sins had been charged to Him. "With His stripes we are healed", says the Bible (Is. 53:5). Peace with God has been earned for us by Jesus once and for all. In order that our hearts can remain at peace, let us cling to the gracious promises of God's Word. Through them we can pacify our conscience, knowing that God is greater than our heart.