When God Chooses Not To Remember (2)2
Our focus in both the previous article and this one is the remarkable statement found in Hebrews 10:17 where God declares that “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (Heb. 10:17). Continue reading . . .
Our focus in both the previous article and this one is the remarkable statement found in Hebrews 10:17 where God declares that “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (Heb. 10:17).
It’s important for us to remember that God does in fact “remember” many things and we should be grateful for it. Frequently in the OT we are assured that God remembers his people, the promises he has given them, and especially the covenant that he has made with them (see Pss. 74:2; 105:8, 42; 106:45; 111:5). But when it comes to our sins, well, that’s another matter!
You and I certainly remember our sins and evil deeds, all too often! We can’t shake free from them. They nag at our hearts and haunt us and torment us and oppress our souls. There is a constant piercing of the conscience. And the only way to break free from that remembrance is to remind ourselves that God does not remember!
God doesn’t gain knowledge. God doesn’t lose knowledge. He neither learns nor forgets. He knows all things instantly and eternally, now and forever. So, when he says he won’t remember our sins he means: “I’ll never bring it up and use it against you. I’ll never take your sins into consideration when it comes to determining who is granted entrance into my eternal kingdom. I’ll never appeal to your sins as grounds for condemning you.”
There is obviously a difference between “forgetting” and “choosing not to remember.” Forgetting is unavoidable. It happens by nature, not by choice. You can’t choose to forget. It just happens. It doesn’t require any effort to “forget” something. You get busy, distracted, tired, and things slip from your mind.
This is not what happens to God. God cannot forget in the literal sense of the term and certainly not in the same way you and I do. God doesn’t suffer from mental lapses. His mind is infinitely perfect and powerful. Rather, God willingly chooses “not to remember.” Thus, it isn’t so much that the knowledge of our sins and lawless deeds has been erased from God’s mind. Rather, God promises to us that he will “not remember” our shortcomings and sin. He will not remind himself of our failures. And he will not remind us of them. They play no part in determining or shaping our relationship with him. He will never throw them in our face or subtly drop hints about the ways we’ve failed.
“But wait a minute! Doesn’t the Holy Spirit still convict us of sin and call us to confession and repentance?”
Yes, he certainly does. Although that may seem to conflict with v. 17, it makes perfectly good sense when you keep in mind the vitally important distinction between our eternal union with Christ and our experiential communion with Christ.
Our eternal union has to do with our salvation and our status in the sight of God. We are united by faith to Christ and nothing can change or undermine that reality. This is the author of Hebrews had in mind when he said in v. 14 that we “have been perfected for all time.” And God’s promise to us is that our eternal union with Christ will never be threatened or altered simply because we have a bad day which in turn causes God to have a bad day such that he decides to “remember” our sins. That will never, ever happen.
But our experiential communion with Christ is something that can change from day to day. Our enjoyment of that eternal union and the peace in our hearts that flows from it can fluctuate dependent on our obedience. I am always and forever united to Christ by faith but I don’t always feel it or enjoy it or experience it from one day to the next. Disobedience and sin can greatly affect my communion with Christ but never my union with him.
Our fear is that when we fail and sin God will say: “Ah hah! Gotcha! I remember now when you did this before. I gave you a free pass. I gave you a second chance. And there you go again. You’re such a disappointment!” No! Never!
So let me ask you a question: What would your Christian life look like if you woke up each day, went about your tasks and responsibilities, and fell asleep each night with the unassailable confidence in your heart that God will never remember your sins and lawless deeds? Think again about the questions I asked at the beginning of this message.
To know without hesitation or qualification or the slightest doubt that when God looks at you and thinks about you and hears your prayers that he refuses to remember your sins or lawless deeds, not because there aren’t any, not because you’ve been especially good this week, but solely because Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice in your place once and for all time, . . . to know this and to experience the joy and power and peace it brings, is simply too marvelous for words.
Now let me close with an appeal and an offer to anyone who does not yet know Christ as Lord and Savior. Do you agonize over your sin and lawless deeds? Do you live daily in distress and fear that God will reject and judge you, now and forever? Do you desire that God would never again remember your sins? That can happen today, right now, and it will last forever.
I offer you Jesus Christ, or better still, Jesus offers himself to you, he who gave himself as a sacrifice for sinful men and women like us. Through that sacrifice he has atoned for sin; he has satisfied the wrath and justice of God. And now all that is required is that you acknowledge your need of a savior and that you repent of those sins and lawless deeds and put your trust and hope and confidence in Jesus alone. The moment that happens, God says to you: “I will remember your sins and your lawless deeds no more.” And that means forever!