When God No Longer Remembers, We No Longer Remember

Sometimes we forget things. (Hopefully most of the things we forget are not worth remembering anyway!) Interestingly, the Bible says a lot about forgetting. Among the biblical points concerning forgetting, two are most important:

First, when we are saved, the Lord no longer remembers our sins. God does not forget in the sense that He loses the power to think of our mistakes, but rather that He justifies us—removing sins from His record. When this is done, we are perfectly innocent, just as if we had never sinned. God says of every new Christian, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more” (Hebrews 8:12, quoted from Jeremiah 31:34). The apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, especially chapters four through six, dwells on this theme of “justification.” We have indeed sinned, but God keeps no record against us, because Christ’s sacrifice has already paid the penalty for those sins (see Romans 4:8).

Second, because we are saved, we can forget much of the former heartache that sin brought into our lives. This point is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, when captive Israel could look forward to restoration after her bondage in a foreign land:

“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name. They shall forget their shame and all the treachery they have practiced against me, when they dwell securely in their land with none to make them afraid, when I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies’ lands, and through them have vindicated my holiness in the sight of many nations” (Ezekiel 39:25-27, emp. added).

The Christian life’s glory far eclipses the darkness of our former, sinful life, which was lived in the devil’s service. Paul taught that there are many awful things about our former lives (prior to our new birth into Christ) that need no longer remain in focus: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, emp. added). Unavoidably memories of sins haunt us from time to time, but our current salvation allows us to confidently push those thoughts from our minds (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

One final point: Just as Lot’s wife was not to look back longingly to her life in wicked Sodom (Genesis 19:17, 26), we must not look back longingly to sins that characterized us prior to our conversion. In the words of Christ, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62, emp. added). Rather than rejoicing in the wickedness of the past, we rejoice in our present salvation in Christ (1 Corinthians 13:6).

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