April 7, 2019 Remember Sins No More
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
For these Sunday in Lent, we’ve been using an outline from a retired pastor in our circuit, Larry Harvala of Osage, who is also the cong’l care coordinator for our District. His outline looks at the word ‘remember’; it’s used around 200 times in the Bible. So, it’s an important word. Pastor Harvala enjoys funny stories; and this is one of those:
….a story about a city man who was visiting a cattle ranch. He was fascinated by the rancher’s cattle dog. Responding to different whistles from the rancher, the dog herded the cattle into the corral, and even reached up & latched the gate with her paw. The city man said, “Wow, that’s some dog. What’s her name?” The forgetful farmer thought a moment, then asked, “Um, what do you call that red flower that smells good and has thorns on the stem?” “A rose?” “That’s it!” The farmer turned to his wife. “Hey, Rose, what do we call this dog?”
WE think of ‘not remembering’ as ‘forgetfulness’; & it’s a common condition of ours that comes with age, or with being too busy, or with not learning something well in the first place. When things ‘don’t come to mind’, it’s a human weakness. Since God has no weaknesses, *does He ever ‘forget’? Not in our sense, but He does ‘not remember.’
With God, remembering and not-remembering are not signs of weak thinking; they are signs of either ‘doing’ or ‘not doing’. We can relate to that: either you remember to pick up milk on your way home, or you do not-remember; & the result is: you arrive home with or without milk. When God remembers, He does something; when God does not-remember, He doesn’t do something == and both of those are on purpose.
Our theme word today is in Jer.31: God says, “I will remember their sins no more.” ~v.34. On purpose, God ‘forgets’ and doesn’t do anything to us because of our sins. Instead of doing to us what we deserve, God Remembers Sin No More So That All People Know God as the Forgiving One. +++++++++++ So far in our Lenten series, we’ve looked at 4 things God remembers: /we are dust, /His wondrous works, /Jesus’ words, /& His covenant; in those things, He acts graciously toward us.
So our theme word is ‘remember’. But today, the word is used for the opposite: ‘not remembering.’ God does not remember our sin, so He’s not doing something to us, and so we are blessed. On the other hand, people do the opposite of God: people remember their sin. So, instead of people knowing the grace of God in His forgiving their sin, they can only see God as the angry judge, who is out to condemn them for their sins = which -actually- He IS.
So, we hear Job say, “When I remember, I am dismayed, and shuddering seizes my flesh.” Job 21:6 And in Psalm 77 we read: “When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints.” & in Isaiah 64, “Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.”
God does prompt us to remember our sin; but it’s not supposed to stop there. To rightly see & ponder our sin is necessary; by it, the Lord would move us to repent = that is, to sorrow & turn away from sin, confess it & be afraid to do it again = that leads to forgiveness.
These verses imply that they were stuck in moaning about their sin, & groaning under the spiritual weight of punishment. That’s what it’s like for UNbelievers: they see God only an angry judge. But God wants all people to know Him differently. God’s children -by faith- know Him as He really is: He’s the Forgiver = the God who remembers sin no more.
*What about US? *Are we afraid of God, only remembering our sins, & forgetting that God is not remembering them? That’s what happens when we avoid God, or take a ‘vacation’ from listening to God == we forget who He really is. Our old nature makes us forget when we stay away from the places where God is reminding us of all that He is. *What places?
HERE, where His Word is taught & proclaimed; / wherever 2 or more of His people are gathered around His Word; / when we take devotional & prayer time with His Word. In those places, He reminds us that He is gracious to not remember our sin for Jesus’ sake.
So, we do that sometimes: we remember our sins while God wants to forget them. We DO need to know that God is our Holy Judge; not so that we moan & groan, but so that He leads us to repent. Before our Judge, we have no excuses for our sin. Like: ‘Hey Judge, it’s not my fault; that other person /that situation made me do it’; // or ‘com’on Judge, everyone else is doing it’; // or ‘what does it matter, as long as I’m not hurting anyone.’ Excuses is what criminals do.
Excuses; that’s what sinners do: they ‘un-sin’ certain sins; they measure right & wrong by our culture, not by the Judge’s Word. Who would’ve guessed that -in our day- /it’s a worse thing to make a woman feel uncomfortable than to let an unwanted baby die on a hospital table; / it’s worse to use the wrong gender pronoun than to fake a hate-crime & rile up a whole city; /it’s okay to destroy a small business owner because they support traditional marriage, instead of supporting whatever perversion the ‘LGBTQ’ group wants to do. Satan loves this chaos; the unbelieving culture redefines sin to convince us that we have nothing to repent of. They say that the church just needs to change with the times.
But, according to the One Holy Judge, & His one Word of Truth for all, repentance of sin -which leads to forgiveness- is crucial, because it’s the only way that spiritual law-breaking can be dealt with. When God identifies sin & leads us to repent, we confess our sin to Him, & wait for the Judge’s decision. He hates sin; but He is willing to show mercy. God forgives. This is what we learn when we keep hearing that God will remember sin no more.
Another aspect of this is: ‘Forgive & forget’. We know that’s really hard to do; nigh impossible. So *how can God forget something = since He’s all knowing; *how could God not know people’s sin? But we relate ‘forgetting’ to the idea of ‘thinking’ = like a thought that doesn’t come to mind; but it’s more than that. To ‘not remember’ doesn’t mean to ‘not think’(or know)
it really means to ‘not act’ on it. In this way, to forgive means the same thing as to forget.
When God forgives a sin, it doesn’t matter what He’s thinking or what He knows;
what matters is that His forgiveness is a solemn vow to never bring it up again = ever. And if that sin can never be brought up again in His courtroom, it can’t ever be used against us. When God forgives, He treats us as if that sin never happened.
And so, when God purposely forgets like that, He causes us to remember Him as /the Judge who excels in doing mercy; /He’s the Judge who exonerates the repentant criminal; /He’s the Judge who expunges our record & wipes it clean. So, God knows everything, but He forgets our sin. So we can ask: ‘how could the all-knowing God forget something?
But a better question is: *what has caused the Judge to cancel our deserved punishment, and -instead- show mercy? That’s a good question. At His Word, we are to stop remembering our sin; we are to remember The Judge’s mercy.
So, what has caused the Judge to proclaim that He ‘forgives & forgets?’ Of course, this is why the faithful church focuses on God-the-Son, Jesus.
We don’t focus on Jesus because he was the ‘model-man,’ very religious, nice & loving.
In the heavenly court, none of that would matter. What does matter is the gospel truth = the fact that God does not remember our sin because He sees the atoning blood of Christ covering that sin. God remembers sin no more, and doesn’t take any action against His children, because the action of condemnation was taken out on His Son – the one appointed substitute. 2Cor.5: God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And Eph.1 says, “In Him we have redemption thru his blood, the forgiveness of our sins.”
So, we remember our sin long enough to repent; because we know God knows everything & hates sin. And then, at God’s promise, He puts it behind us because of Jesus; and He’ll never bring it up again. That means WE don’t need to bring it up again, either.
He brings us to repentance; and after our confession, we receive His forgiveness; now WE will ‘remember sin no more’, because sin that is confessed & forgiven is given to Christ & His cross; it’s gone from God’s sight or remembrance. Many Christians know of this total removal from Psalm 103: “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” He wants us to believe that; so that we don’t keep dredging up our old sins & groan; so we don’t keep bringing up other people’s sin & moan. God’s way of dealing with sin is far better: Forgive and forget.
So that we will remember that, we observe our season of Lent. We observe ashes and we remove our alleluias for a time. It is necessary for our faith that we remember how difficult it was for Jesus as he suffers & dies for all of us; the punishment of hell was upon Him. But -thanks be to God- it stands as a permanent solution. As we cling to His cross, we are living a life of daily repentance; so that we will always be covered in His blood of forgiveness == the blood of forgetfulness.
Every cross we see reminds us that our Judge is both holy and merciful; He is the perfect forgiver of sin; He is perfect at being forgetful. The Christian faith is the practice of forgetting some things = on purpose: forgetting our own sins brought to Jesus, and forgetting the sins of others who repent.
Two elderly women -who had been friends for their whole lives- were sitting at the nursing home. One said, “I’ve known you for years, but for the life of me, I can’t remember your name. Please don’t be mad, but tell me your name.” The other lady frowned & thought for a while, & then responded, “Why should I be mad at you? I don’t remember it, either.”
None of us wants to come to a point where we forget our own name. But God knows your name; He knows you & will never forget you. In Isaiah 49, God says He has ‘engraved your name in the palm of his hand.’ He is perfect at remembering.
And, in the name of Jesus Christ, God is also perfect at forgetting your sin. His promise is Jer.31:34, “I will remember their sins no more.” Our Judge is merciful; He is our Forgiver.