And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them, after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws upon their heart,
And on the their mind, I will write them,
He then says,
“And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember them no more.”
My wife and I were able to attend a counseling seminar on Wednesday. The teacher spent some time discussing what confession of sin and forgiveness looked like. An aspect of forgiveness is not remembering the sin anymore. When someone confesses their sin, and receives forgiveness, this forgiveness implies releasing, letting go, or even forgetting. Growing up, we learned forgive and forget. It is something that is not easy for any of us. Even if we were to say the words I forgive you, it is not easy to fully live into that forgiveness. It is easy in relationships to bring up some past forgiven sin at the right time. It is clearly seen in children, but as adults we do it just as much. We just think we’re justified in doing it. In a marriage relationship, it can be hard to forget things we’ve forgiven if they seem to happen on a regular basis. This could become fuel for arguments. You see this too in parent-child relationships. Often a child will carry with them all of the perceived wrongs that a parent did against them when they were brought up even if many of those things had been forgiven. It is held against the parent without opportunity for forgiveness to heal the wounds. In reality there is no forgiveness because there has never been release of the sins done against them.
But this is not the way of our heavenly father, and what a glorious thing this is. He does not treat us like we ought to be treated. Instead, he has shown us favor when we didn’t deserve it, and he has forgiven those who have repented of their sin. Hebrews teaches us about Jesus’ sufficient sacrifice when he offered himself on the cross. His was the only sacrifice actually able to atone for our sins. Through the blood of Jesus Christ, the new covenant was enacted. This covenant was described in Jeremiah 31 which the author of Hebrews quotes. An essential aspect of the covenant was that God’s people would know God’s instruction and have forgiveness, ‘And their sins and their lawless deeds, I will remember them no more.’ This is the amazing thing about our God. God is omniscient: he knows all things from all times. But here he promises not to remember them anymore. Mike Lawyer, the teacher at the counseling seminar, was mentioning how amazing this is. This means that when we are forgiven, God has chosen not to bring back to his memory our offense against others and against God. For those of us whose sins have been covered by the blood of Christ, we are freed from the burden of those offenses.
There are two things that are transformed in our lives because of this. The first is that we no longer carry this weight of sin with us. ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.’ Our perspective in this life is fundamentally transformed. We see this world through the lens of hope that we will finish the race and confidence that evil will be dealt with.
The second thing is this: because God our father has forgiven us, we must forgive others. Jesus teaches this in Matthew 6 in the Sermon on the Mount. ‘For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ We are a forgiven people and so we must live like it. We must be always ready and willing to offer forgiveness to others. We must release others from their sins against us and we must remember them no more. In this forgiveness, we find freedom. Our relationships are no longer constrained by the way others have sinned against us. Instead, they are defined by how we seek to outdo one another in showing charity. May this be true of us as we grow into the likeness of Christ.