Weekend Broadcast

Law of Causality

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Humans typically trust their senses. Despite the fact that we have all had our senses fooled from time to time, we assume that what we see, hear, taste and touch gives us accurate information about the world. Yet some philosophers challenge this notion. For example, the eighteenth century Scotsman David Hume challenged our perceptions of cause and effect. In this lesson, Dr. Sproul addresses Hume's ideas and reaffirms the reliability of sense perception.

From the series: Defending Your Faith

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Pardoned and Glorified

  2. devotional

    Guilt and Guilt Feelings

  3. article

    Clean Hands, Clean Heart

Pardoned and Glorified

Burk Parsons

If you’ve read Victor Hugo’s classic work Les Miserables, or if you’ve seen the stage production or film, you’ll recall the scene wherein the bitter criminal Jean Valjean has been released from prison and finds safe harbor at a bishop’s home. Instead of returning the bishop’s kindness, Valjean steals his silver, strikes him, and flees in the night. After Valjean is caught by the arresting officer, who represents the law, he brings Valjean before the bruised bishop to press charges. The bishop, representing God, affirms not only that he knows Valjean but alleges he gave Valjean the silver and asks Valjean why he didn’t take the candlesticks as well. Though Valjean is clearly guilty, the authorities release him upon hearing the bishop’s trusted declaration. The bishop then utters the unforgettable words: “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.” Valjean was a new man whose life had been purchased at the cost of another.

Though Hugo’s classic is not without its theological and sociopolitical problems, this scene beautifully depicts a guilty man who was declared just and thereupon set free to a life of mercy for all the miserable ones whose paths he crossed. Valjean’s soul was redeemed and given to God for a future life of selfless service. The bishop’s gracious act of redemption in the past helped pave the way for Valjean’s future life of good works. Whereas Hugo’s heroic figure is overwhelmingly deficient, Scripture takes us to an entirely different level as God reveals that all who trust Christ are already redeemed while we await the resurrection yet to come. Though we would kill Christ in God’s sovereign plan, He came to us as God incarnate, dwelling among us to live for us and die for us that we might live in Him and die to self unto life abundant and eternal. If we trust the One who was bruised for us, then we have already died in Him, and we are already redeemed for eternity, which is not yet a reality to us in real space and time but is nonetheless a reality to God. For those He has declared just He has also glorified (Rom. 8:28–30). As He justified us, it is as if God has already glorified us that we might glorify and enjoy Him forever coram Deo. He sees the end from the beginning, and in His immutable decree all future events are comprehended and certain.

Guilt and Guilt Feelings

In the passage we examined in Friday’s study, Paul spoke of justification as that which saves believers from God’s wrath. Christians were enemies of God, he wrote, but were reconciled to God through Jesus. To use the most familiar term, Paul is speaking here of forgiveness. The Word of God declares that all people are guilty of violating God’s law and stand in need of His forgiveness. Oddly, most people struggle with feelings of guilt to one degree or another, but few seek the real forgiveness they need to have relief from those feelings. Why is this? We will pause this week to examine this issue with the help of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s “Renewing Your Mind” teaching series Guilt and Forgiveness.

What is guilt? A very basic definition is “that which is incurred when we violate a standard.” We live in a world of laws, rules, and regulations imposed by parents, teachers, employers, and governments. And then, above all of these human laws stand the commandments of the supreme lawgiver, God. All people, being creatures of God, are responsible to conform to His mandates. Thus, we have abundant opportunity to incur guilt, and we all do so. We violate both human rules and God’s law with stunning regularity, and so incur actual guilt. Such guilt must be dealt with in some way. In the case of human rules and regulations, we must make restitution or pay our “debt to society” by some other means, such as by spending time in prison. But when we violate the law of God, we incur a debt we cannot repay. We need forgiveness.

However, we may or may not feel our need for forgiveness. That is to say, our subjective feelings of guilt may or may not correspond to the objective guilt we incur by violating some standard. Yes, feelings of guilt are common, but there are those people who seem to feel no guilt at all. These include everyone from scofflaws, those who violate minor laws repeatedly with no apparent remorse, to psychopaths, who can commit serious crimes repeatedly with no evidence of guilt feelings. On the other hand, we sometimes experience feelings of guilt when we have incurred no guilt at all. Most commonly, however, we simply feel far less guilt than we should, given our numerous legal violations. Clearly there can be a great disjunction between objective guilt and our subjective guilt feelings.

Clean Hands, Clean Heart

Anthony Carter

I had some dental work done recently. Thankfully, I had a good dentist who did his best to make the experience as stress-free as possible. While I did not relish the idea of having to have my tooth operated on, today I am more than thankful for it. During this process, however, I learned something. I learned how long doctors and nurses, especially dentists, are supposed to wash their hands before and after surgery. A minimum of three minutes of scrubbing is required. I don’t think I have ever washed my hands for three minutes. In fact, when I’m hungry and dinner is on the table, three seconds usually suffices.

Nevertheless, it was comforting to know that those who would be touching the inside of my mouth were required to wash and scrub thoroughly. Yet all the scrubbing and washing did raise a question for me. If we can understand the need for cleanliness with doctors, how much more must be the case with those who would serve the Holy God?

The Word of God reminds us that one of the gracious blessings of the blood of Christ is that it cleanses our consciences. It is used in the scrubbing and washing of our consciences and creates clean hands with which we are able to serve and worship the living God. According to Hebrews 9:13–14, “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.”

The text says that Christ, through His blood, purifies our consciences. The conscience is the place of reality where the truth is told. The conscience is the place out of which guilt arises, where condemnation and liberty fight for the life of a person. We are all seeking to have clear consciences, but the Bible reminds us that we must not only have clear consciences (Acts 24:16; Heb. 13:18) but also clean consciences (Heb. 10:22) — consciences purged from dead deeds so that we might love and worship the living God. Thus, the washing and scrubbing of hands for three minutes or three hours is not paramount, but the washing of the conscience from sin and guilt. This comes only by the blood of Jesus. The blood of Jesus gives us what we most desperately need, namely, clean consciences producing clean hands.

In Psalm 24, the question is raised: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (vv. 3–4). The requirement for ascending to the place of God in worship is that our hands are clean and our hearts purified. The quest ion then becomes, “Who has clean hands and a pure heart?” The answer is Jesus. The only one I know who has such hands and such a heart is Jesus our Lord. The Bible reminds us that He has ascended the holy hill. He has entered the holy place, not by the temporal washing of the blood of goats and calves (Heb. 9:12), but by His own blood. By entering in, He has made a way for you and me to enter in as well (Heb. 10:19).

Does Jesus have clean hands? Yes, and so do all who have been washed in His blood. Is Jesus of a pure heart? Yes, and so are those who have been scrubbed by His blood. Through the blood of Christ, our consciences have been cleared and cleansed. Because of the blood of Christ, we are able to serve and worship God.

Nevertheless, we must remember that we don’t clean our own hands. We don’t free our own consciences. This was the arrogance and condemnation of Pilate. He tried to wash his hands of the guilt of Christ. The Bible says, “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood’” (Matt. 27:24). While the dirt may have been removed from his hands, his conscience could not be cleansed with water. Ironically, the blood that he tried to wash away was the only blood that could have made him clean. Contrast that with Paul, who said that he served and worshiped God with a “clear conscience” (2 Tim. 1:3). The difference is that Pilate proposed to wash himself from the blood of Christ, while Paul knew himself to be washed in the blood of Christ.

If the blood of Christ is required for us to have clear and clean consciences, the questions for you and me are simple: “Have we been to Jesus for His cleansing power? Are we washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Is your conscience washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

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