Perhaps the title this month’s article caught your attention as a possible “typo.” You may have thought I meant to write “Faithful to Forgive.” Not so fast! To be sure, our God is absolutely, 100 percent faithful to forgive all of our sins.
“If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9, NLT).
Now, inasmuch as our God is faithful to forgive, He has also absolutely, 100 percent faithful to forget all of our sins too.
“…I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds” (Hebrews 10:17 NLT).
Now, make no mistake, God is not forgetful like we are. If you’re like me, you forget where you left your car keys. You forget to bring the shopping list to the store. You forget where you left the remote control for the TV. This is not the case with God. God is omniscient; He knows everything all the time.
So what is the writer of Hebrews telling us about our God? He is saying that our God is so gracious that He will never bring up any of our past sins to accuse us. He has placed our transgressions as far away from us as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He has hurled our iniquities into the depths of the sea, never to be seen again (Micah 7:19). Every sin has been nailed to the cross and covered by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
As if we had never sinned
In his devotional, Faith’s Checkbook, Charles Spurgeon, often called “the prince of preachers,” put it this way:
According to this gracious covenant, the Lord treats His people as if they had never sinned. Practically, He forgets all their trespasses. Sins of all kinds He treats as if they had never been, as if they were quite erased from His memory. Oh, miracle of grace! God does here that which in certain aspects is impossible to Him. His mercy works miracles that far transcend all other miracles.
I remember hearing this truth expressed this same way as it relates to our justification. When we are justified (declared righteous) by God, it’s just as if we’d never sinned. What an incredibly gracious and merciful God who has called us into His service. Because of the cross work of Christ, we who are in Him — by grace through faith — are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and seen by God the Father as perfectly holy. God will never remind us of our past sins because He has made this promise: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
If you are struggling with feelings of guilt or shame from any past sin in your life, commit Hebrews 10:17 to memory and keep it at the forefront of your thinking every time the devil causes you to think about it. Remember, as long as the devil can keep you focused on some past sin, he succeeds in keeping you from faithfully serving God and others in the present.
Lessons from the past
When we appropriate God’s incredible promise to forget all our sins, it strengthens us to treat the past as a school. We can and should take every lesson from the past and learn everything we can from the past, but we are never to live there. God has chosen to “remember no more” every time we turned away from Him. Knowing that our spiritual slate has not just been cleaned, but actually broken and thrown away, we are freed to make forward progress in serving our Lord. We are freed from the strongholds of past sins.
Think of just a few of the biblical examples of this great truth lived out in the lives of some of the saints in Scripture. To be sure, this was good news for both Peter and Paul. Peter denied even knowing his Lord in the courtyard to a servant girl on the night Jesus was arrested. Only by knowing that Jesus would remember his sins no more, would Peter be able to rise above the rubble of his sinful past and advance confidently into fruitful and faithful service to his Lord. As for Paul, when he was known as Saul, he was the great persecutor of the early Christian church. He was arresting and imprisoning all the Christians he could find. But on the road to Damascus, Jesus showed up and called Saul into a new life as the apostle Paul, who penned much of the New Testament. Like Peter, only by knowing that Jesus would remember his sins no more, would Paul be able to rise above the rubble of his sinful past and advance confidently into fruitful and faithful service to his Lord.
So, if this month’s message finds you in the grip of any past guilt or shame, take it to the cross and lay it at the nail-pierced feet of Jesus. You have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in the newness of life . . . His life, not your life . . . His past, nor your past. You live under the victorious banner of the finished work of Jesus Christ, and that includes the truth that God sees you just as He sees His Son Jesus: He sees you as perfect in every way because He has chosen to remember your sin no more.
Let that truth set you free from anything that has you chained to the past.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that…Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.