Yesterday pastor Dave Simmons at Three Lakes Community Bible Church (where I used to pastor) preached a message entitled: “Forget our Sins, but Remember Me” from Psalm 25 to prepare us for communion. In the Psalm, David prayed “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions” (v. 7). Pastor Simmons spoke about forgiveness of sin and how the word used in the New Testament means to “wipe the slate clean,” I was reminded of how many years ago when my folks were able to charge groceries at neighborhood market, they would go in at the end of each month to pay their bill and that amount would be removed from the ledger (or slate) and they had a zero balance. It was as if they had never had a debt. Something else I remember well is that for each $10 they paid, we got a candy bar! (of course, then they were only 10 cents.)
Scripture teaches that under the Old Covenant, sacrifices were made to atone for, or “cover” sin, but those sacrifices had to continually be made. The writer of the book of Hebrews says: “And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins…” (Heb. 10:11). So, when one priest died, another had to take his place. There was also no chair in the Tabernacle or Temple, implying the priests’ job was never done. But the passage in Hebrews goes on to say: “but He (Christ), having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:12,14). Earlier in Hebrews we read: “And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:23-25). In Heb. 8:12 it says (quoting from Jer. 31:34) regarding our sins, “And I will remember them no more.” The Psalmist, David, truly knew what it meant to experience God’s forgiveness (see Psalm 32 and 51), and he wrote: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness (mercy) toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psa. 103:10-121). The prophet Micah, in speaking of the promised millennial blessings for Israel, wrote: “He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:19… And as someone said, “He will put up ‘NO FISHING’ signs!).
So, when we trust Christ as our Savior, does He really no longer remember any of our sins? And when we sin as a Christian and confess it to God, does He really forget it? God, who is omniscient, knows all things, but His promise is that He will not hold those against us. He “put them away” when He bore them on the Cross on our behalf. “He (God) made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:20). Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). In Peter’s sermon in Jerusalem at the Temple, recorded by Luke in Acts, he said: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). The Greek word translated “wiped away,” or “blotted out,” is exaleipho (ex-al-i’-fo) and means to smear out, to obliterate, to erase, to blot out, to forgive sin.
This was all made possible, because “…Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own. Other wise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26). Here the Greek word for “put away” is athetesis (ath-et’-ay-sis) which means to cancel or to disannul. So, indeed, through Christ’s substitutionary death, He has “wiped the slate clean.” And that is why “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). Christ’s death, by the way, paid for our sins in full—past, present and future. I confess sin as a believer, not to be saved again (that’s impossible), but to renew my fellowship with Him, The penalty was already paid at the Cross.
To all this we can say, hallelujah, Praise the Lord! But, along with this we have a responsibility for we are told by the Apostle Paul that we are to “…forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). So, when we forgive someone, while our mind may never “forget” what they did to injure us, we must “wipe the slate clean,” not ever holding it against them again. When we forgive, we are willing to pay the price for what they did to us, and to keep our promise of forgiveness, never bringing it up again or using it against them. In the great chapter on love, I Corinthians 13, Paul wrote that love “does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered” (v. 5), i.e., it does not keep a record. When forgiven, the “slate is wiped clean.”
Maybe you still have a ledger of wrongs done to you. How about forgiving those who injured you and getting rid of the list. It is our duty as a Christian, and it will set you free from the bondage you are in to them that unforgiveness brings. Oh, and then of course, if you need further incentive, we have the sobering words of Jesus recorded by the Apostle Matthew: “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, your Father will not forgive your transgression” (Mt. 6:14,15).