I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.
We have relentless memories. Our failures hang onto us like an evergreen’s leaves. We grow, and they grow with us. Even when we come to Christ and understand his pervasive forgiveness of our sins, we can't seem to get rid of them. Our memories aren't as broken as we wish they were. The record may be smashed, but the song still plays in the echo chambers of our hearts.
God knows this. He is not surprised by our inability to forget our sins. And in some ways, our memories serve us well. We avoid certain sins because we have learned the consequences. Our memories do have a sanctifying effect. But there is a profound danger in placing these memories on the walls of our life, like a wedding portrait of an ex-wife. The past may haunt the basement, but it shouldn't adorn the entryway.
We tend to use our past sins and failures like a prosecutor. We bring them up at the right time to convince us that God doesn't love us and could never use us. Furthermore, Satan and his demons use them too. They only have to press play on the video tape of our minds, and there we are, stuck in the past we can't get escape. Like a Facebook video, it just starts playing as soon as the screen scrolls to it, intruding damnation.
But that's not what God does. That's not what he sees. He has dealt with our sins completely. Jeremiah 31:34 is now not only a promise of what will be but the reality of what is. "For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
Isaiah 44:22 sings out to us. Like a song in the midst of war, it calms our heart. God is wooing us with his mercy. He's reminding us of the standing we have with him because of Christ. The Holy Spirit pauses the video and scrolls away. He projects a new show - one where the sin we can't forget fades like a cloud in the Summer sun. It reveals to us Christ upon the cross bearing the penalty. We are free, and condemnation will never come because it has already come to Jesus.
The mist of sin fogging our mind clears and there stands the risen Jesus without a frown. His smile is upon you. He has redeemed you. Before his glory, the clouds have parted and he remains faithful and sure, mighty to save.
John Bunyan struggled to see the pervasive forgiveness of God in Christ. He tells of this in his book, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. He believed it for others but could not believe it for himself. He felt he had committed the unpardonable sin. He felt he had told Christ to depart from him, and so he had. But it was not true. And the Lord called Bunyan to return to him. One day, in the midst of his struggle, he felt the Lord speak to his heart, "I loved thee whilst thou wast committing this sin, I love thee before, I love thee still, and I will love thee forever."
Bunyan hated his sin and felt the condemnation of it. Jesus hated his sin and bore the condemnation of it. Bunyan was free. All he had to do was to return. He needed only to see the everlasting broadcast of Christ's love.
He saw it in the deep love of God. "It was thus made out to me, that the great God did set so high an esteem upon the love of his poor creatures, that rather than he would go without their love he would pardon their transgressions." God loves us so greatly that he would forgive us before he would condemn us.
When the video of sinful memories starts playing, let the Lord put on the new show of the gospel. Return to him, for he has redeemed you.