When God Chooses Not To RememberDecember 8, 2014
I’m going to begin by asking a series of questions, to each of which, in my opinion, there is one simple answer. Continue reading . . .
I’m going to begin by asking a series of questions, to each of which, in my opinion, there is one simple answer.
What is the single greatest and most imposing obstacle to your enjoyment of God?
What, more than anything else, keeps you at arms’ length from your heavenly Father?
What is it that makes you hesitant to draw near to God and to seek his help?
What is the primary reason why you don’t pray more than you do?
What is the primary reason that when you do pray you live in fear and anxiety that God either won’t hear it or if he does hear it he won’t answer it in the way you want him to?
Why are you restrained in your worship of God?
Why are you reluctant to share your faith with non-Christians that you know? What is it that causes you to think of yourself as unqualified to step up and serve in the local church?
What is the primary cause of your fear, worry, doubt, and self-contempt?
Why do you struggle to find energy and motivation to read your Bible on a regular basis?
Why are joy and peace so infrequent in your spiritual experience?
Now that, dear friend, is quite a list of questions! It virtually spans the spectrum of issues in the Christian life. And I strongly believe that there is one answer to them all.
The single overriding and most debilitating factor that threatens to undermine everything in our Christian lives and in our relationship with God is the failure to understand, embrace, and enjoy the full and final forgiveness of our sins.
The reason you and I struggle to enjoy God is because we live in constant fear that he doesn’t enjoy us. And how could he when our guilt and shame remain? And why do we experience this fear? Because we don’t understand, embrace, and enjoy the fact that God has forgiven us all our sins!
The reason we are so hesitant to draw near to God and bring our prayerful requests to him is that we live in fear that he’s angry with us. And why shouldn’t he be when our guilt and shame remain? And why do we experience this hesitation? Because we don’t understand, embrace, and enjoy the fact that God has forgiven us all our sins!
The reason we feel uncomfortable in being entirely free and joyful and heartfelt in our worship is that we wonder if perhaps God might still be disgusted with us. We worry that his wrath still abides on us and that we are still subject to eternal condemnation. The lingering memory of sins committed leads us to think that God looks at our worship and our service in the church as hypocritical. And why do we live in bondage to those crippling thoughts? Because we don’t understand, embrace, and enjoy the fact that God has forgiven us all our sins!
Now, am I exaggerating things a bit? Maybe. I suppose there are other reasons why we don’t live our Christian lives in the way that we know we should and with the joy and energy and zeal that we would prefer. But I’m still convinced that deep down inside many Christian souls is the lingering fear, the ever-present doubt, the crippling uncertainty that God has all of our sins in the forefront of his mind and stands ready to use them against us.
Feelings of guilt, shame, and self-contempt pose the greatest threat to a robust and joyful Christian experience. Nothing serves to undermine the intimacy of our relationship with God quite like the piercing pain of guilt, the lingering memory of multiple moral failures in our past, and the darkness of shame that so often accompanies it.
In other words, our fundamental problem is that we either haven’t heard or don’t recall or simply refuse to believe what God said in Jeremiah 31:34, words that are quoted in Hebrews 10:17 – “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” What haunts us and brings torment and unrest to our hearts is that we live as if those final two words weren’t in the text. If I could provide a more literal translation, God is saying: “I will never again, by no means ever, remember their sins or lawless deeds.”
What we feel deep inside is that God is constantly examining us and indicting us and declaring to us: “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds,” when in fact that is precisely what he declares he will do “no more”! No more! By which he means, “Never again! Never again!”
Even those who profess no faith at all in Jesus and operate on the basis of secular principles and a humanistic framework for understanding human nature will tell you that one of the most severely debilitating problems that anyone can face is guilt. Feelings of guilt can paralyze and intimidate and suffocate the human soul. Feelings of guilt destroy marriages and drive people to a multitude of sinful alternatives. Psychologists who largely reject the biblical gospel still agree with us that guilt and self-condemnation and contempt for one’s own soul is perhaps the most problematic issue people face.
But the great difference is that we who believe the Word of God do not tell such people that they need to recognize that they aren’t guilty. The answer isn’t to say: “Look, your problem is that you are in bondage to false guilt. You shouldn’t feel that way about yourself. You’ve done nothing to warrant this sort of mental and emotional agony.”
Christians, on the other hand, say: “Your problem isn’t that you feel guilty but that you are guilty. But the gospel of Jesus Christ has a permanent solution to your pain: the blood of Jesus Christ brings complete and eternal forgiveness! Your conscience can be cleansed forever. Your heart can be set free from condemnation, forever. Your emotions need not be damaged by self-contempt but can be redeemed and renewed and enjoyed, forever.”
I say this because of what the author of Hebrews says that God says. There it is for us to see and read and hear and behold: God promises never ever to remember our sins or lawless deeds! Hebrews 10:17 is one of the most glorious declarations in all of Scripture, and I want you to hear it with a force and energy you’ve never experienced before. I want you to hear it in a way that actually changes your life and your relationship with God.
To be continued . . .