What Do You Remember?

 

The passing of an old year brings to our minds many memories. “Don’t you remember?” is often asked when we strain to recall a certain experience or incident. My father has one of the greatest memories I’ve ever known. When I visit with my father, he recalls the names, locations, and happenings of childhood as though they had taken place yesterday. These memories bring forth an expression of pleasure as he relives his boyhood days in Arkansas.

A good memory is most assuredly an asset. We live in a day when people take special courses to improve their faulty memories. However, a good memory can be a disadvantage when it is used to recall certain unpleasant situations–such as sins, bitter experiences, and tragedies that have visited our lives uninvited.

A friend of mine once shared with me that after she has given her heart to Jesus, she made a few mistakes which caused her to feel God had not forgiven her. Because the church she attended was very strict and did not teach a gospel of forgiveness, she carried her guilt instead of giving it to Jesus. As a result, she fell deeply into sin. Instead of going to church and living for the Lord–whom she never stopped loving–she took up her old, sinful life for 18 months. Her spirit was crying out to God, but because she didn’t know what His Word said about forgiveness, she felt hopeless and lost.

Out of desperation she prayed, “God, either take me back, or let me die.  I’m sick of the way I’m living, and if I can’t live for You, I don’t want to live.”

The Holy Spirit spoke to her, saying, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

She immediately began to read God’s Word, and she soon realized that she must depend on His Word, not upon her feelings. The Holy Spirit brought people into her life who were able to teach her the beauty of forgiveness according to the Word of God.

Many of the people I minister to and have private consultation with bring up old sins about which they still feel guilty. As I listen to these guilt-ridden individuals, I sense a lack of joy and enthusiasm in their lives. The first question I ask is, “Have you asked God to forgive you?”  They usually respond with a shocked expression and immediately answer, “Yes!” But their apparent lack of knowledge of the Word of God is evident. They are therefore defeated, feeling unworthy to approach the Father.

As the new year begins, let us look into God’s Word to discover what He says about forgiving and forgetting. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the two key words that present themselves are forget and remember.

Paul the apostle wrote this letter to the church at Philippi while he was a prisoner in Rome. It is one of the most personal of all Paul’s letters to the churches he founded. Ten years had passed since Paul and Silas has responded to the “Macedonian vision” and obeyed the Lord by going to Philippi. These, his first converts in Europe, were very dear to Paul’s heart. They had on more than one occasion collected funds for Paul and aided him while he was in prison. This was a thank you letter, and as was his custom, Paul added practical Christian admonition:

“Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the (supreme and heavenly) prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward” (Phil. 3:13, 14, AMP).

The word forget in Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary means “to lose the remembrance of; to let go from the memory; to fail to recall; to be unable to remember; to overlook, omit, or neglect unintentionally.” Here we are speaking not of the act of forgetfulness which is unintentional, but of being able to forget as an act of our own will.

The word forgetting is stronger in the Greek.  It means “to lose out of mind”–in other words, to forget completely. We can use this as a focal point in our own lives in two ways: First, we should not dwell on the spiritual experience of the past, but continue to grow in Christ and go on to new heights in Him. Second, we should forget those things in our past which cause so many Christians to dwell in gloom and defeat–their own past mistakes or the mistakes of others.

Paul says in verse 12, “Not that I have now attained or am already made perfect…”  After that he uses the illustration of a Greek runner completely forgetting his opponents whom he is leading in the race. A runner’s speed is slackened if he thinks of those behind him, or if he becomes distracted by the pounding of their feet. In the same way the Christian’s onward progress is hindered when he dwells on his past with its failures, sins, discouragements, heartaches and disappointments. As long as a Christian has made things right with God and man, he should completely forget the past.

It is easy to tell others they should forget, but it is often difficult to achieve. The human mind was created to be active. When it is functioning normally, that activity goes on continually. When something is taken away from our memories, we have an immediate need to fill that vacancy. Paul took this into account when he further admonished the Philippians in chapter 4:8,9:

“For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things–fix your minds on them. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace–of untroubled, undisturbed well-being–will be with you” (AMP).

Paul had learned the secret of forgetting the injustices, sins (which involved participation in the stoning of the first martyr, Stephen), and persecution he had perpetrated against the church. He put those things out of his mind by an act of his will, and fixed his mind on the things of the Spirit. This gave him complete peace. He forgot his sins by remembering what God’s Word said about sin in Isaiah 43:25:

“I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Friends, this is what God’s Word says about the matter of sin in the life of the believer. Realize that you are not the only person who has missed the mark. Forget your past sins and failures by remembering those things which are true, just, pure and excellent. You have a part to play in this. It is not as simple as having your memories erased or even healed. You must take God’s Word to heart and be a doer of the Word, and not a hearer only. Many of us are waiting for God to do everything for us. However, you will find that if you are going to grow in the Spirit, it will only come by the Word of God being acted upon in your life. Maturity does not come only with years; maturity develops when one abides in the Word of God and allows the Word of God to abide in him.

We are running a race. Last year is over, and a new day is beginning. Paul uses the words “straining forward” (AMP) which comes from a Greek athletic term describing the runner whose “eye outstrips and draws onward  the hand, and the hand the foot.” The word means to “stretch forth after.”  Press literally means “pursue.” Toward is from the preposition meaning “down” and has the idea of “bearing down upon” in the direction of the goal. And the goal–the mark–is Christ-likeness: a moral and spiritual target.  Paul was saying:

“Brethren, as for myself, as I look back upon my life and calmly draw a conclusion, I am not counting myself yet as one who has in an absolute and complete way laid hold (of that for which I have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus); but one thing I, in fact am forgetting completely the things that are behind, but am stretching forward to the things that are in front; bearing down upon the goal, I am pursuing on for the prize of the call from above of God which is in Christ Jesus.” (Quoted from Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament.)

The most joyful Christians I know have developed this ability Paul writes about.  They forget by remembering the good things God has given them.  They mediate upon His Word, and in every circumstance of life have developed the ability to join with one of the champions of faith, Paul, praising God that this year will count for something. They will spread the good news that God has forgotten their transgressions. And they will remember His infinite grace and mercy.

(From It’s A New Day Magazine, January 1977.)


5 Comments

  1. Sherry Agron

    V. J. blessed my life when she came to
    L.A. years ago and held monthly prayer meetings for
    a time. I will always be thankful for her
    kindness and ability to speak His word on an
    individual basis….

  2. Susan Palmer

    I have only recently heard of dear Vicki’s passing. The Lord once gave me a composition for her, to her ministry name, “it’s a new day”. Though it wasn’t used at the time by her, I thought of it again today, and am singing it for her graduation to heaven.

    Vicki dear, “IT’S A NEW DAY”, for sure. Sing us into this last greatest revival ‘from the other side’.

    Love, Susan

  3. Vicki was the most Christ exalting minister of the gospel of grace that I have ever met. She was genuine in her love for God and her compassion for other people.

Leave a Reply