There is a story about a much-loved pastor who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed years before. He had repented but still had no peace, no sense of God’s forgiveness. In his congregation was a woman who deeply loved her Savior and who claimed to have visions in which Jesus would speak to her.
The pastor was skeptical, so he gave her this test: “The next time you are with Jesus, I want you to ask him what sin your pastor committed while he was in the seminary.”
The woman agreed, and a few days later, the pastor asked, “Well, did Jesus visit you in your dreams? What did he say when you asked him what sin I committed?”
“He said, ‘I don’t remember.’ ”
Why is it hard to understand that God forgives and chooses not to remember our sins?
I need forgiveness
You know the feeling; I know you do. You are a disciple of Christ, but there, whispering in your ear, is the past, reminding you of moments when you forgot you belonged to him. That awful lie. That business trip you took that led to so much temptation. The time you exploded in anger. That day you were needed but didn’t respond. That jealousy. That habit. That grudge. You cannot forget. You and I need forgiveness.
Why is it that sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself?
Jeremiah 31:34 says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” God doesn’t just forgive. He chooses not to remember. He erases the board. He destroys the evidence. He clears the computer. For all the things he does do, this one thing he refuses to do: He refuses to keep a list of my wrongs! The common word for “forgive” in the Bible literally means to “send away.” This is what God does with your sin.
Read Leviticus 16:6-22.
As you read about the Day of Atonement and the two goats, what is God teaching about how he forgives?
The people who sin against me need forgiveness
Why do we struggle to forgive? It’s because we have been wronged, and we need to be repaid. In fact, “debt” is one of the pictures Scripture uses for sin. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts” (Matthew 6:12).
When others sin against you, it is not okay! I tell my kids they are not allowed to say, “It’s okay,” when someone apologizes. Instead, tell them what you are really doing: “I forgive you.” I am sending your sin away! Why will I do this? It is because of how much more greatly God has forgiven me!
Read Matthew 18:21-35.
What are practical ways you can show others you forgive them (i.e. you forgive and “forget”)?
Author: David Scharf
Volume 107, Number 05
Issue: May 2020
- Q&A: Is anger sinful? - 2023/05/31
- Q&A: How can parents encourage adult children who wander from the faith? - 2023/04/30
- Q&A: Does the doxology belong in the Lord’s Prayer? - 2023/03/31