By John J. Blanchard
November 27, 2010
Good morning, everyone. We are often told that we are supposed to love our enemies. Of course, that is based on Scripture. I would like to turn to Matthew chapter 5 to start with. Let’s go to Matthew chapter 5 to start off this morning.
Matthew 5, verse 43 where Jesus Christ is speaking to His disciples here. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
To be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect is a very tall order. Of course, in this physical flesh and blood state that we are in, that is virtually impossible, but we need to be striving toward perfection, growing in character, constantly becoming better people. What does it take to grow in this type of perfection? What is it that we have to do? How is it that God is saying in this situation He is perfect?
It says that God is able to love His enemies, to care for the just and the unjust. That is really amazing, but there are some basic things when you start to think about what it takes to love your enemies. If God is perfect (and He is absolutely perfect), that also means He has a perfect memory. He never forgets anything, and that makes forgiveness very interesting. When God remembers a sin that we have and we seek forgiveness and He gives it to us, what does He do with His memory? What does He do with that memory?
OUR MEMORIES ARE TOO GOOD
We are made in God’s image and likeness. We are like Him, and we are to learn to forgive. We understand the part that we are to forgive our enemies. If we can, we are even to love our enemies. But we, like God, can have excellent memories. They are not perfect but excellent memories.
You have probably heard the saying, “I forgive, but I never forget.” That is a very human characteristic. To achieve forgiveness in our lives and to be able to forgive our enemies and those who hurt us is marvelous. So many of us can get to that point and go no further because we have such good memories. We are built in the image and likeness of God. We tend to remember the people who hurt us and how they hurt us. We remember how we were unjustly and unfairly treated. Though we may forgive, we just are not going to forget! That is not really Godly, and we are to be like God. We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
We all really appreciate the fact that God is merciful and forgiving. Let’s turn to Psalms chapter 25, beginning in verse 6. The Psalmist says here, and this is king David speaking: “Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake. O Lord.”
David had many sins in his life, some of which are recorded for us to read, and some of them were terrible. He told his Lord Jesus Christ, be merciful to me. Be merciful to me. That is something we appreciate. We all want God to forgive us so we can on some human element within us say, if I want to be forgiven, then I need to turn around and forgive other people. Though that is very difficult to achieve, most of us understand that is what we are supposed to do.
What if God could forgive like David asked but never forgot anything. He has that perfect memory, remember. If that is the situation, king David and we face an eternity of shame! Because some day when David or we have contact with God (hopefully) when we have our eternal life, we would know that whenever we went before God or Jesus Christ and we were sitting down to talk with Them, They would look at us. Maybe They would be smiling, but there would be a long list in Their minds of the things that we had done wrong in our lives. We would feel ashamed. There is a Biblical example of this.
If you would, turn to John chapter 8. There is an interesting incident in the life of Jesus Christ. John 8, beginning in verse 1: “But Jesus went to theMount of Olives. Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.’” We caught her sinning, red handed!
Verse 5: “‘Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.” They wanted to set him at odds with Moses.
Continuing in John 8, verse 6: “But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.” He was pretending He did not even hear the people talking. He just stooped down, and He started writing in the dirt.
Verse 7: “So when they continued asking Him [and pressing Him for an answer], He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’ And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’ Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world, He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’”
How was He letting His light shine? He let His light shine by literally listing the sins of the men present. You know the oldest it can be said to have been the wisest, but in this case I think they were all accusing this lady and wanted to stone her. They wanted to catch Jesus in a mistake. I do not think these people were all that wise whether they were the youngest there or the oldest, but certainly the oldest had the longest list of sins. I think Jesus Christ was just writing things out so they could look while they kept accusing, watching what this guy was doing. He is not even listening to us! The oldest turned away and left and said, that is an awful long list I have! The next oldest said, yes, that is a pretty long list I have, too. Eventually they all left in shame, and that is what I am trying to say.
What if we went before God knowing He had a whole list forever and ever. Every time he saw us, He could say I remember you! Page ten million six hundred and seventy-six and counting. There are many pages here! Wow! You have a whole list of sins. We just would not enjoy our contact with God the same, unless we knew He could forget our sins. How did God handle it, and how are we supposed to handle it? We handle it with perfect forgetfulness as much as possible.
REMEMBER TO FORGET
Let’s turn to Psalm chapter 103, beginning in verse 11: “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
God remembers we are just physical people and that we all make mistakes. He takes our sins, and He removes them as far as east is from the west. How far is the east from the west? They keep separating from each other forever! They go in opposite directions. So when Jesus Christ and the woman were standing there in the middle of east and west, He was saying your sins are fleeing as far from us as possible, and they will keep going away forever. I have nothing to condemn you for. Just go and sin no more.
That is how we are told we are supposed to be. How does God do this even though He has a perfect memory? He uses His free will to forget. He remembers to forget if we respect Him and if we ask for forgiveness. He remembers to forget if we work at being more perfect like He is. Then He says, I will forget. I will Myself to forget, so when you come before Me, there is no shame. The woman did not need to be shameful. She could just leave free of guilt! It is amazing!
Let’s go to Isaiah chapter 43. We will look at verse 25 where God is speaking: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”
He says, you are made in My image and likeness. I want you to be like Me. When you are better like a Father loves his children, it reflects on Me. I want to blot your sins out and help you become as perfect as possible.
Turn to Jeremiah chapter 31 and read verses 31-34.
To know and understand God means that when we go and meet God in the Millennium and beyond, there will be no record of our sins! He will have used His free will to destroy the list and blot it out from memory. We will have the freedom of knowing that when we come before God and have a conversation, that list is gone. It will be like it never happened! That is a marvelous thing to understand, and that is how God wants us to be with each other.
This new covenant is repeated obviously in the New Testament because since Jesus Christ’s coming, we live under a new covenant. Hebrews chapter 8 speaks of it. Turn to the New Testament now to Hebrews chapter 8.
Read Hebrews 8:7-13.
That old saying of never forget and bring the just rewards to people who have sinned, will have been done away. It will be a peaceful way of living without accusation and condemnation. There will be no lists and no diaries that we record at night of everything people have done to us. It is as if all the negative entries will be gone away. Only the positive things will be left. What a marvelous state of affairs!
Turn to Hebrews chapter 10, just over a page. Verse 16: “‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’”
He will absolutely forget them because of His free will. As good as His memory is, His free will is stronger! He says, I will remove from you your sins as far as east is from the west, and He means it. They are gone. I will never remember them again! We are challenged with the task of becoming like that.
Memory is a very, very difficult thing to control. Each and every one of us has a very good memory, especially for remembering the things that have hurt us and the things that people have done wrong to us. Let’s briefly look at the wrong use of memory.
THE WRONG USE OF MEMORY
To keep bringing up old hurts, whether it is personally in our private thoughts or to people who have hurt us, is the wrong use of memory. Carrying grudges and never letting go is the wrong use of memory. If we use our memories incorrectly, that can lead to bitterness because our minds are constantly infiltrated with the negative things people have done to us. We remember the times they have hurt us. We can literally blot out the good things.
How many times have we tried to resolve an issue with a brother or sister and we cannot get anywhere because we cannot show them what we have done right, because they refuse to see it. This is a common problem with human beings. We seem to hold fast to the negative and let go of the positive so easily, but God is the opposite. He is virtually the opposite. He looks for any good reason to get rid of the negative. You want forgiveness, We will forget that. You want mercy, I will forget that. You want to repent, let’s forget all of that stuff then. That is Godly, and that is what we try to attain. If we do not grow in that direction, brethren, we can actually undo forgiveness. Remember the saying, I am quick to forgive, but I never forget. We can undo our forgiveness if we just will not forget what people have done.
Turn to Hebrews chapter 12, verse 12: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…”
That is very serious, brethren. Once bitterness takes hold of us (and it is memory that makes that possible), it is very hard to get out. It is very hard to root out. Many people fall short of ever becoming more perfect because of bitterness caused by memory. We must learn to control our memory.
LESSONS FROM EXPERIENCE
There is a good use for memory. We need to learn to remember the lessons of the past, and this is a very tricky thing about memory. When we have offended someone or someone offended us and we go through the process of forgiveness and making peace with them, we need to forget what happened but remember the lessons. We do not want to repeat the mistake. That is a challenge, but it can be done. So remember the lessons learned from the quagmires and the pits we get into, so we do not repeat them. Otherwise history will repeat itself. Forget the hurt. Forget the pain.
Secondly, remember the pleasure of a burden lifted from someone when we say, I forgive you, and I am not going to remember it. Don’t you remember it. Just forget about it. I will not hold this against you. Forget about it, because I am going to forget about it, too.
The pleasure that comes over that person will be just like when we go before God for the first time. When we meet Him and we get to talk to Him, we will realize He really did forget everything we did wrong! He is not only not holding me accountable, He obviously does not remember it! That is a burden truly lifted, and we can offer that to other people and gain the pleasure of watching them set free from their guilt and their bad feelings.
Also remember that true friendship grows when those lists are shredded and burned. That is how friendship grows. Nobody wants to have a friendship with each person making a continuous list of what the other has done wrong. A true friendship is built on lists of the good things, the things we have in common, the things we have done for each other in the past, and the things we look forward to doing for each other in the future. We need to let those hurts go up in smoke like a sacrificial offering. That is what it is.
LOVE COVERS SINS
Turn, if you would, to I Peter chapter 4, verse 8: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” What is meant by this?
If we love each other with true friendship and brotherly love, we cover each other’s faults instead of exposing them. We say we will forget this. We are going to let it go. True love covers a multitude of sins and a multitude of faults. That is what love, mercy, and kindness are, and that is becoming like our Father in heaven. We all have long lists that He quickly wants to tear up, shred up, and burn up. When we are willing to do this for each other, it is a sacrifice.
Just turn back a page to I Peter chapter 2, beginning in verse 4. This is how we need to come to God. “Coming to Him as to a living stone [each human being is a living stone], rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Spiritual sacrifices are taking the hurts on ourselves like Jesus Christ did and dealing with them. It is having the capacity to say, forgive them God. They do not know what they are doing. And by the way, tear up the list. If they want to repent, tear up the list. Let’s not remember the negative things.
It is going to take a lot of effort, brethren, and a lot of practice, but if we want to grow in knowledge and grow in character and be like our Father in heaven, this is something we need to learn to do. We need to put forth the effort. We need to learn to remember how to forget. Learn to remember how to forget.