Do You Remember When?

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Do You Remember When?

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My wife, Valerie, and I will never forget our visit to a World War II concentration camp named Mauthausen a few years ago. It is a contradiction in that the camp is located along the beautiful Danube River countryside of Austria and yet it was the scene of the suffering and death of tens of thousands of human beings. The survivors cannot forget what they saw and experienced. These painful experiences are so deeply etched in the mind that they affect a person for life. Rape, abuse, persecution and suffering all carry scars that stay with humans.

But good memories stay with us as well. I am part of a club made up of people who grew up together in the Coal Branch of Alberta. The towns closed down close to 50 years ago, but hundreds of people come back every five years for a reunion and to recount the stories from the past. Those memories are enjoyable and we bask in their warmth.

Memories bring us to God

Our minds also contain memories of shameful things we may have done and sins we have committed. At the right time God revives those memories for us to lead us to Him.

Our loving Heavenly Father created us this way for a great purpose. Paul writes about some reasons in his book to the church in Rome. Romans 5:3-5 Romans 5:3-5 [3] And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; [4] And patience, experience; and experience, hope: [5] And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us.
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tells us, "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Verse 8 tells us, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Memories are indelible in our human minds. These imprints are needful because they keep us from repeating mistakes and they also remind us that the Creator judges our every word and act. Jesus said, "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36 Matthew 12:36But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
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).

King David expresses his agony at remembering his sin in Psalm 51. In verses 3 and 4 we read, "For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight -- that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge." Job expresses the necessary human response when he said, "Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6 Job 42:6Why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
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).

What God forgets

Once converted people recognize their sin and repent deeply, they can be forgiven by the precious sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Savior. Our problem is that often we do not forgive ourselves because we cannot forget. It does take faith to accept the forgiveness that is free and undeserved from God.

In Isaiah 1:18 Isaiah 1:18Come now, and let us reason together, said the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
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God says, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Psalms 103:12 Psalms 103:12As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
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reassures us that "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." These scriptures are very reassuring. God tells us often of His love and forgiveness. He does not remove the memories of our past sins from us. We are left to walk in faith every day in the assurance of His promise. He says that He can "forget" our past lives.

Our dilemma is in trusting God fully and letting go of the guilt for sins we have committed in word, deed or thought. We are not created with the ability to totally forget our past. That may be why we sometimes wonder if God really loves us. We are frequently reassured by God, but our minds will not always set us free.

We know that a converted alcoholic is still an alcoholic by definition. He may never drink another drop of alcohol in his lifetime and be under full forgiveness for his past -- yet he cannot fully forget what he was. Former prostitutes, thieves, murderers and such can be forgiven, but their sins will ever be before them. One need only to look at the life of King David. He was forgiven for his sin, but his nation, family, friends as well as his personal life were all profoundly affected. He never forgot what he did!

Paul tells us that we are to be renewed daily (2 Corinthians 4:16 2 Corinthians 4:16For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
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). He was also inspired by God to tell us in Romans 6:22 Romans 6:22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life.
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, "But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life."

Thus we see we are to walk in Christ's footsteps every day of our lives. Our guide is the Word of God. Though our past will not vanish from our minds, we can say "that is what I was -- I am not like that anymore." Walking with God every day is the only way to bury the memories and thoughts that sometimes plague us. We need to replace the bad with the good. The time does come when the past is only a distant memory and someday it will be totally removed.

Becoming like God

The Bible gives us a vision of a future when all who have received Christ will also have eternal life. Surely that will be the vast majority of all humans who have ever lived. It is inconceivable that David would live eternally with Bathsheba and Uriah and constantly feel the guilt of his acts. There must be a time when humans will be able to totally remove unwanted memories from their minds.

God has this ability, as we have read. He can choose to forget. At this time in our existence, we cannot do that. John tells us, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:1-2 1 John 3:1-2 [1] Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. [2] Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
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).

In the end of the story, humans will be like God. We will have a different mind with much greater capabilities. One of those new developments will be the ability to erase our past sins from memory. We will also be able to "forget" any evil act done against us by another human.

That is a future worth remembering!