Did You Remember to Forget and Forget to Remember?

    December 06, 2019 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza

    Many of us are haunted by our sins and failures of the past. We have regrets, and we wish we could go back in time and start all over. If we knew then what we know now, we would have behaved differently. Yet, the past is sealed from today. We cannot undo what we did or did not do.

    The Christian is one whose sins and failures of the past have been forgiven. They have been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ. Although they have been forgiven by God, many have a hard time receiving that grace and moving on. They are not free, and the imprisonment is self-imposed. We must accept God's grace and mercy and agree with His perspective concerning our past sins.

    What does God do with the sins that have been forgiven by grace through faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ? The Bible tells us. God says, ..."I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:12) He says elsewhere, "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." (Isaiah 43:25) God also adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." (Hebrews 10:17)

    What does God do with forgiven sins? Simply put, He chooses to forget them. "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:11-12) The forgiveness of God through the death of Jesus Christ is a gift. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

    I suspect that you have met people who have trouble receiving a gift. Although some are ungrateful, many more feel the need to pay the giver back. They are too proud to graciously receive. Forgiveness is a gift of God's amazing grace. It is costly to God, yet free to the Christian. We could never pay back God. We cannot merit our salvation. We must humbly receive God's free gift by the hand of faith. Then we must, like God, remember to forget our forgiven sins.

    Some people spend their whole lives attempting to be good enough to earn salvation. They choose to remember their past sins for the purpose of self-atonement. We can never be good enough. Such an attempt is insulting to God. Christ died to pay for the sins of His people and trying to pay Him back is indicative of a fatal lack of faith in Christ alone.

    Christian writer Warren Wiersbe recounts the unusual case of George Wilson. Wilson was found guilty of federal crimes and sentenced to death in May of 1830. On June 14, 1830, President Andrew Jackson granted a pardon to George Wilson. The case made its way to the United States Supreme Court. The issue was whether a pardon of a greater offense, excluding a lesser offense, necessarily extended to the lesser offense despite the pardon's express terms. The Court held that it was unnecessary to decide the issue since Wilson did not accept the President's pardon. Neither did he plead the pardon in his criminal case. The Court noted, " A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual on whom it is bestowed from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed. ... It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and if it be rejected,

    we have discovered no power in a court to force it on him." United States v. Wilson, 32 U.S. 150 (1833).

    The pardon of God's grace must be accepted in faith and trust. Mental self-flagellation by remembering our sins is neither healthy nor holy. "When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy." (Titus 3:4-5) The Christian must remember to forget the forgiven sins of the past, lest grace be twisted into legalism. American lawyer and hymn writer Horatio Spafford expressed it this way:

    My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

    God forgets the sins of His people, but He remembers His promises toward them. He is faithful and is worthy of their total trust. His promises are covenantal in nature, for God has chosen to relate to humanity through covenants. He sovereignly establishes the relationship and binds Himself to an oath by Himself to keep His own promises. The psalmist sings, "the LORD is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever." (Psalm 111:4-5) "He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations" (Psalm 105:8) "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments." (Deuteronomy 7:9) "Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." (Psalm 36:5) "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

    We must not forget to remember our obligations of the relationship. They are both vertical and horizontal. We must be faithful to God and others. Only God can change us from unreliable, disloyal promise breakers to faithful, loyal promise keepers. Consider the prophetic pronouncement of the new covenant, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God." (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

    There will come lapses in our memory and our obedience. We will sin. Yet, instead of running from God we must run to Him, remembering His precious promises to us. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

    Christian, don't forget to remember His promises, and yours. And do remember to forget the sins that have been forgiven you because of Christ and Christ alone. "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." (John 1:16)

    "Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods." (Psalm 40:4)

    Back to Articles