When my brother and I were preteens, our family attended an Easter service at Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. The pastor's sermon on that special Sunday in the life of the church was entitled, "Remember No More," and spoke of the promise God makes to His children - that He will "forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." During his message, the pastor shared with the congregation a number, then challenged us to do our best to forget the number he'd shared, just as God forgets our sins. In the weeks and months following that sermon, someone in our family would ask, "What was the number we were supposed to forget?" and, in unison, we'd immediately shout out the same number. Years later, the topic of this sermon would inevitably be raised and still, we all remembered that number. The implications were clear and two-fold: 1) forgetting can be a difficult undertaking, and 2) our family is not adept at following instructions!
One weekend about ten years ago found our family together again, reminiscing about things past. Not surprisingly, someone asked, "What was the number we were supposed to forget?" and, in unison, we immediately shouted out a number. Interestingly enough, we'd each shouted out a different number! My brother is convinced that he is the only one who remembers the proper number and, because I'm an incredible sister, I don't argue the point. But I digress. It had taken nearly forty years for the correct digit to escape our remembrances. Again, the implications were clear and two-fold: 1) forgetting can be a difficult undertaking, and 2) forgetting takes time!
I reflect on that Easter Sunday sermon often, and realize that many of us, myself included, tend to walk through this life, looking back and remembering. Of course, we remember pleasant experiences that represent a joyful part of our past. But we also recall our own errors, failures and atrocities. We cling to and become burdened by the guilt, shame, anger and pain that often accompany these darker recollections. We remember. But God chooses to forget it all:
"This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” ~Hebrews 8:10-12 NIV
How difficult it must be for God to forget the transgressions of His children, to remember their sins no more. After all and because God is perfect, His recall is also perfect. If He desired, God could recount with clarity His children's every error, failure and atrocity, then exact a lasting punishment for them all. And yet, He chooses to "remember their sins no more." The Wiersbe Bible Commentary puts it this way: "He (God) deals with us (His children) on the basis of grace and mercy, not law and merit. Once sin has been forgiven, it is never brought before us again; the matter is settled eternally." How is this possible? Wiersbe explains: "It is possible because of the cross, for there God treated His Son as though He had done it!"
In an unfathomable gesture of mercy and grace, God allowed His Precious Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer the consequences for our offenses. Jesus was treated "as though He had done it" and became recompense for our collective wrongdoings, by dying on a cross. He did that for you; He did that for me. Despite the magnitude of my transgressions, God forgot them all when I placed my trust in the One who paid their price with His very life. Isaiah 1:18 assures me: "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." If I continue to hold fast to the memories of those "scarlet" sins and allow them to color my life, I imply that Jesus' death was somehow insufficient to satisfy my debt, thus diminishing the gifts of mercy and grace that God has offered. I do the same when I accept God's extraordinary gifts of mercy and grace but fail to make changes in my life that honor Him: to sin less, as I strive to be sinless.
So today I will challenge myself to finally and permanently set aside memories of the sins I've committed along life's way. To reject the guilt, shame, anger and pain that are sin's by-products, and instead endeavor to follow God's example, to remember my sins no more. Still, there is one thing I hope I will never forget. One thing I hope I will always recollect with humility and thanksgiving. And that is the immeasurable love that God has for His children, a love so profound that it inspired the greatest sacrifice the world will ever know. Now that is something worth remembering!