At some point in the past we’ve all done something we’d undo if time travel were possible. I’d set the reverse time-o-meter to late teens / mid twenties and work that “if I only knew then what I know now” magic. Perhaps you can think one or two wrongs you’d make right. If you’re like most people — or me — you managed to compile a (dirty) laundry list of choices you lived to regret.
Thank goodness we needn’t wait for the advent of time travel to set things right. As believers, we know that if we confess, He is faithful and just to forgive. Nail it to the cross, and leave it there.
At least that’s how it should go.
But more often than not, I hear,
“I know I’m forgiven, but I just can’t forgive myself.”
While that emotion is completely understandable, God does not require self-forgiveness. He requires belief that we’re forgiven.
And that’s hard because we can’t forget.
Nevermind time travel – hand over the cerebral Magic Eraser. How nice would that be — to simply wipe the guilt and regret from our minds?!
But that’s not how God chose to do things, so perhaps it’s time to put emotion and erasers aside and see things in a new light.
You are not the forgiver. You are the forgiven.
Forgiveness is not about feeling forgiven or not. When we repent, we’re forgiven — period. We must make a conscious decision to take him on his word and receive his forgiveness.
It’s a choice.
When we repeatedly recall past regrets only to mentally scourge ourselves time and again, we are, in essence, shifting our focus away Christ and onto ourselves. We are shifting away from what he did onto something we need to do. Except there is nothing for us to do.
We cannot add to what has been perfectly accomplished. It’s done.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
Christ came to give us abundant life. The thief comes to steal it. Chained to the past, we are rendered useless in the present. Instead of experiencing abundant freedom and life, we aid and abet the enemy in our own destruction.
I know it runs counter to our natural understanding to believe that forgiveness is free. It is a radical concept. We’re guilty and feel like we should be punished.
“He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.” Psalm 103:10-14
Technically, we should be punished, but those who fear him are the blessed recipients of that which we don’t deserve — his radical grace and mercy.
Knowing that should evoke a tremendous sense of awe.
Perhaps that’s the reason we don’t forget. Perhaps the recollection of undeserved grace and mercy is meant to evoke a sense of reverence and deep gratitude.
Perhaps the recollection of undeserved grace and mercy is meant to help us demonstrate grace and mercy towards others.
“But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32
Perhaps the recollection of undeserved grace and mercy is meant to remind us to help others as we have been helped.
We will retain memories of our past, but they needn’t destroy our future. Rather, our future depends on our ability to put the past in its proper perspective. We choose to live either freely in Christ or as captives, stripped of our true identity.
Next time guilt knocks and temptation beckons you to a chamber of self-torture, refuse the invitation.
Instead of allowing thoughts to take you captive, renew your mind. Thank God that you’re forgiven. Pray for a brother or sister who is dealing with a difficult circumstance. Offer a word of encouragement. Visit someone who’s lonely.
Don’t put your life on hold until you can forgive yourself. Forget the past and look forward to the prize. Live today as one forgiven and free in Christ.
“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