Memories are powerful things.
Sometimes remembering is easy. You look at pictures, you hear a song, you smell a smell, and suddenly you remember without even having to think about it. Other times, though, remembering is hard. Perhaps you’ve had the experience, as I have, of typing the same password day after day or using the same garage or lock combination time after time and then one day your mind suddenly goes blank. You can’t remember. And it seems like the harder you try to remember the less you actually can.
Easy and hard, depending on the moment. Our memories are like that, for we are a fickle and forgetful people by nature. We need to be reminded sometimes to remember. We know it… and God knows it too.
It’s not a surprise, then, that when we come to the Bible, God doesn’t leave our memory to chance. In fact, in one version of Scripture, the word “remember” appears over 200 times in Scripture. Sometimes it’s a plea from a person to God – it’s a prayer for the Almighty to remember His promises, His great love, His covenant. Other times, it’s a command straight from God to His people. For example:
- “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).
- “Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God in the wilderness. You have been rebelling against the Lord from the day you left the land of Egypt until you reached this place” (Deuteronomy 9:7).
- “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
- “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent. But if you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come against you” (Revelation 3:3).
But here’s something else we should remember, at least in a sense – we ought to remember our sin. We should be aware of what we are capable of. Why is that? I mean, our sins are forgiven in Christ. We are no longer held prisoner by our past, for there is now no condemnation for those in Christ.
That’s gloriously true. But we can – and should – remember our sin while not being held prisoner or feeling the guilt and condemnation of it. We can, in other words, live in the freedom of Jesus while being conscious of what He’s delivered and saved us from. In fact, the only we can remember and be conscious of our sin without being crushed by it is through the freedom of Jesus. Why, then, should we remember? Here are a few reasons:
1. To guard against a fall.
“Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall,” says Proverbs 16:18. And this is a statement of pride. We look at those around us – whether in the news or in our personal relationships – and see their struggled with whatever. Our first thought might be shock or concern for their family or dismay at how things have gotten to bad, but if the next thought that comes into our minds is as prideful as this, then we think very highly of ourselves indeed. Part of guarding against sin is recognizing that this could absolutely happen to us, because we are absolutely capable of such things apart from the grace of Jesus. Remembering our own sin reminds us of this.
2. To forgive greatly.
What is the secret to forgiveness? How are we able to move forward in relationship when we have been deeply and irreversibly wronged by another? How can we go to war, and win, against the anger, bitterness, and disappointment in our hearts? It starts with remembering that we are first a sinner, and only secondarily sinned against. God will move in us to forgive mightily when we remember that we are mighty sinners.
3. To value the gospel.
If the gospel is no longer the best news to us; if we feel our affection for Jesus growing stale; if what was once bubbling out deep from our souls never now escapes our lips; then perhaps we have lost sight of just how desperate our situation is apart from Jesus. The good news of Christ will not be good until the bad news of our sinful state is truly bad. When we remember our sin, it serves to leave us breathless that God has washed us clean. We remember our sin not so we can wallow in it; we remember our sin to bring great value in our hearts to the gospel.
If you’re a Christian, then the best thing in the universe has happened to you. You need not fear because you are right with God, right now, and forever more. You have been adopted into His eternal family. And because our footing with Him is sure, we can remember – not to be condemned by guilt, but instead to stoke the fire of gospel-driven holiness, forgiveness, and gratitude in our hearts.