Saturday, July 5, 2014

If He Forgives, Why Can't I Forget?

     If God puts my sins as far as the east is from the west, then why can't I?
     If He forgives my sin, then why can't I?
     If He doesn't remember my sin, then why do I?
     All excellent questions.  I have been pondering this question.  It is a mixed blessing to be sure:  God sets me free of my sin with His love and forgiveness, yet I can remember every detail and shame floods my soul.  I would love to not remember.
     Satan uses my rap sheet of sin to remind me of how bad I have been/still am.  He parades all the sickening details of what I have done and delights in tormenting me in how low I stooped in my pursuit of sin.  He reminds me of the tears I have caused to flow and the hurt I have needlessly bestowed on others.  I cringed when he starts the movie called "This is Your Life."
     On the other hand, God doesn't even remember what I have done.  My slate with Him is completely clean: "'Come now, and let us reason together,' saith the Lord: 'though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18)
     Perfect cleansing leads to perfect righteousness in His eyes: "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)
     He wants to restore fellowship with us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us.  Sin is the wall and Jesus tore down that wall.  We need to confess--that is, acknowledge what we have done.  He already knows, but He needs to hear from us:  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)
     He hates our sin, yes, but He loves us more: "But you have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.  I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins." (Isaiah 43:24-5)
     Wow.  We stand in the light of His forgiveness and love, and yet...why can't we forget?  Why must the memories torment us?  Think a minute about the words of Joseph, when after his brothers sold him into slavery, he rose in the court of Pharaoh and was able to save his family from famine: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Gen. 50:20) 
     Listen to the words of Paul, who like Joseph, was misunderstood, cast into prison and reviled: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom. 8:28)
     So, if we remember our sins, what is the good God tries to bring forth?  What is the beauty He brings from the ashes?  How does the garment of praise feel around our bruised spirit?  How can there possibly be joy for mourning?
     Remembering our sins:

Keeps us humble about ourselves:  It is hard to be self-righteousness when we know we have fallen prey to the same sins.  This was one of the tragedies of the Pharisees:  they were so unaware of their sins--past, present and future--that they had no humility.  They were the very opposite:  arrogant and confident in their own ability to be good, they were, in Jesus' words, "white-washed tombs filled with dead man's bones."

Keeps us from judging others: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  (Matt. 7:1-2)  If we remember our failures, our faults, then we remember our need for mercy and how grateful we are for it.  We like to give out judgement but receive mercy.  Jesus is calling us to give out mercy and not forget that we have stood there ourselves in the shoes of sin.  If we do judge, then let the standard we use be exactly the same one we use for others. 

Keeps us dependent on Him:  Our sins remind us that we are weak, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." (2 Cor. 12:9)  It's hard to deceive ourselves about how wonderfully strong and sufficient we are when we are reminded of our sins.  At that moment, we are reminded of our need for Him, in every day and in every way. 

     Notice how not forgetting our sins affects ourselves, each others and how we relate to God.  
     Now it is true that Satan will use our sins to condemn us, leading us to be paralyzed with shame.  But, we must use the sword of the Spirit:  His Word.  Jesus rebuked Satan with the Word of God.  Why do we think we can respond any differently?  
     Next time you feel harassed, speak His word against your accuser and stand on the fact that "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) 
     We stand on His forgiveness and grace.  As someone once said, "When Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future."     
     We walk in Him with confidence:  "Be still and know that I am God." (Ps. 46:10)

As someone once said, "When Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future."


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