Why Remember Your Sin if God Has Already Removed It?

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul (Acts 7:57-58).

This is a turning point in the book of Acts. Jesus had told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. He told them that once the Spirit fell, then they should wait no more. Rather, they should move outward and be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

The Spirit fell at Pentecost. Peter preached. Thousands repented and believed. The church was born…

And they stayed in Jerusalem. And stayed. And stayed. In fact, it was not until this moment when Stephen – one of their own – was stoned that they actually began to move out into the world. And that happened only because with the execution of Stephen came an onslaught of further persecution and violence. So the believers were dispersed. That’s when it turned.

But this is also a turning point because this is the first time that we are introduced to Saul. Saul, who was the coat check guy at the stoning. Saul, who then went on a rampage against believers. Saul, who was so zealous for protecting what he thought was true that he missed what was actually true. Saul, who finally met Jesus and went from the violent persecutor to the greatest theologian and missionary for the gospel the world has ever known. In fact, much of the rest of the Book of Acts is spent following Paul and his journeys to share the gospel with the known world.

We read about beatings, whippings, insults, and all kinds of other travails on these journeys, and yet Paul kept going. Kept preaching. All the way until he was eventually back in Jerusalem, arrested, and addressing the crowd. And in that moment, he remembered:

“And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him” (Acts 22:20).

Surely it wasn’t the first time that bloody day had come to his mind. But should it have? After all Paul, as a former Pharisee, would have known a passage like this from the Book of Psalms:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:11-12).

Even further, he was the one who himself wrote:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:12-14).

Who was Paul to remember so vividly what God had put away? But let’s not stop there, because all of us are in this position at one level or another. We all have things from our past that still make us cringe when we think about them. Things we wish we could take back. Who are we to remember our sin when God has put it away through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ?

The answer is actually in the question. It is precisely because Jesus has born our sin that we can own our sin.

Owning our sin is not the same thing as bearing our sin. It is not feeling a sense of condemnation for the sinful acts we still commit. Nor is it trying desperately to earn our way back into God’s good graces. Jesus has taken care of those things already. Instead, owning our sin means acknowledging our sin without self-justification or equivocation.

  • It means we do not have to feel the need to offer a circumstantial explanation of why we were forced to do the wrong thing.
  • It means we can freely apologize and ask for forgiveness without feeling the need to explain ourselves.
  • It means we can humbly stand under the temporary consequences for our sin without feeling the need to escape.

It is a strangely beautiful thing to behold, a Christian who humbly acknowledges their sin and yet is not crushed by the weight of it. But such is the confidence of who knows they have been found, now and forevermore, in Christ and in Him alone. Yes, we all have a past. We all have sin that Christ has born the full weight of. And now we can stand up under it because we have been made new in Jesus.

Subscribe to MichaelKelley.co

Never miss a new post. Subscribe to receive these posts in your inbox and to receive information about new discipleship resources.

You have successfully subscribed. Click here to download your bonus.