I WAS THANKING THE FATHER TODAY FOR HIS MERCY. I began listing the sins he’d forgiven. One by one I thanked God for forgiving my stumbles and tumbles. My motives were pure and my heart was thankful, but my understanding of God was wrong. It was when I used the word remember that it hit me.
“Remember the time I … ” I was about to thank God for another act of mercy. But I stopped. Something was wrong. The word remember seemed displaced. It was an off-key note in a sonata, a misspelled word in a poem. It was a baseball game in December. It didn’t fit. “Does he remember?”
Then I remembered. I remembered his words. “And I will remember their sins no more.”
Wow! Now, that is a remarkable promise.
God doesn’t just forgive, he forgets. He erases the board. He destroys the evidence. He burns the microfilm. He clears the computer.
He doesn’t remember my mistakes. For all the things he does do, this is one thing he refuses to do. He refuses to keep a list of my wrongs. When I ask for forgiveness he doesn’t pull out a clipboard and say, “But I’ve already forgiven him for that five hundred and sixteen times.”
He doesn’t remember.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
“I will be merciful toward their iniquities.”
“Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!”
No, he doesn’t remember. But I do, you do. You still remember. You’re like me. You still remember what you did before you changed. In the cellar of your heart lurk the ghosts of yesterday’s sins. Sins you’ve confessed; errors of which you’ve repented; damage you’ve done your best to repair.
And though you’re a different person, the ghosts still linger. Though you’ve locked the basement door, they still haunt you. They float to meet you, spooking your soul and robbing your joy. With wordless whispers they remind you of moments when you forgot whose child you were.
That horrid lie.
That business trip you took away from home, that took you so far away from home.
The time you exploded in anger.
Those years spent in the hollow of Satan’s hand.
That day you were needed, but didn’t respond.
Poltergeists from yesterday’s pitfalls. Spiteful specters that slyly suggest, “Are you really forgiven? Sure, God forgets most of our mistakes, but do you think he could actually forget the time you … ”
As a result, your spiritual walk has a slight limp. Oh, you’re still faithful. You still do all the right things and say all the right words. But just when you begin to make strides, just when your wings begin to spread and you prepare to soar like an eagle, the ghost appears. It emerges from the swamps of your soul and causes you to question yourself.
“You can’t teach a Bible class with your background.”
“You, a missionary?”
“How dare you ask him to come to church. What if he finds out about the time you fell away?”
“Who are you to offer help?”
The ghost spews waspish words of accusation, deafening your ears to the promises of the cross. And it flaunts your failures in your face, blocking your vision of the Son and leaving you the shadow of a doubt.
Now, honestly. Do you think God sent that ghost? Do you think God is the voice that reminds you of the putridness of your past? Do you think God was teasing when he said, “I will remember your sins no more?” Was he exaggerating when he said he would cast our sins as far as the east is from the west? Do you actually believe he would make a statement like “I will not hold their iniquities against them” and then rub our noses in them whenever we ask for help?
Of course you don’t. You and I just need an occasional reminder of God’s nature, his forgetful nature.
To love conditionally is against God’s nature. Just as it’s against your nature to eat trees and against mine to grow wings, it’s against God’s nature to remember forgiven sins.
You see, God is either the God of perfect grace … or he is not God. Grace forgets. Period. He who is perfect love cannot hold grudges. If he does, then he isn’t perfect love. And if he isn’t perfect love, you might as well put this book down and go fishing, because both of us are chasing fairy tales.
But I believe in his loving forgetfulness. And I believe he has a graciously terrible memory.
Think about this. If he didn’t forget, how could we pray? How could we sing to him? How could we dare enter into his presence if the moment he saw us he remembered all our pitiful past? How could we enter his throne room wearing the rags of our selfishness and gluttony? We couldn’t.
And we don’t. Read this powerful passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians and watch your pulse rate. You’re in for a thrill. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
You read it right. We have “put on” Christ. When God looks at us he doesn’t see us; he sees Christ. We “wear” him. We are hidden in him; we are covered by him. As the song says, “Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”
Presumptuous, you say? Sacrilegious? It would be if it were my idea. But it isn’t; it’s his. We are presumptuous not when we marvel at his grace, but when we reject it. And we’re sacrilegious not when we claim his forgiveness, but when we allow the haunting sins of yesterday to convince us that God forgives but he doesn’t forget.
Do yourself a favor. Purge your cellar. Exorcise your basement. Take the Roman nails of Calvary and board up the door.
And remember … he forgot.