Monday, May 1, 2017

When Forgiveness Equals Forgetting, Restoration Can Come

My morning Bible study today focused on the issue of restoration after forgiveness. When we repent of our sin, we're instantly forgiven. (1 John 1:9) Our slate is wiped clean before the Lord and He never remembers it again. (Hebrews 8:12)

Being forgiven, however, is not the same as being restored, especially if the sin for which we've been forgiven was a public error that resulted in loss of position of service. Restoration comes after, but it is never withheld. 

We see this principle all through Scripture. 

Abram went to Egypt during a famine rather than continue on the route God had given him. While there, he lied about his wife to protect himself and made a terrible mess of things. Later, he lied in the same way again. 

When he finally got back on track with following God, Abram was forgiven. Later, he was called "a friend of God." (James 2:23) Never once do we see God call Abram (or Abraham) "that lying wife-risker." We're the ones who remember Abram's mistakes and take comfort in them. 

God forgot Abram's mistakes when He forgave them.

David committed adultery and murder to have the momentary pleasure of a woman for whom he lusted. 

There were God-given consequences (death of his child) of his sin that could not be avoided. Despite the consequences, David was called "a man after God's own heart." What God didn't do is call David, "that cheating, murdering lust-monger." We're the ones who remember David's mistakes and take comfort in them. 

God forgot David's mistakes when He forgave them.

The apostle Peter denied Jesus three times on the night of His arrest and trial/crucifixion. He wept bitterly, repented, and was forgiven. Despite his sin, Simon Peter became known as "the rock" on which Christ built His church. Jesus never called Peter the "denier" after He forgave Him. We're the ones who remember Peter's mistakes and take comfort in them.

God forgot Peter's mistakes when He forgave them. 

God always forgives and forgets. We're the ones who hold to our memories of the sins of others like they're hidden treasures to be savored and protected at all costs.

Henry Ward Beecher once said, "'I can forgive, but I cannot forget' is only another way of saying, 'I will not forgive.' Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note - torn in two and burned up so that it never can be shown against one."

If we are to follow our Lord as He intended, we must also forgive and stop remembering as He does, as well. 

Once forgiven and forgotten, God's pattern is to redeem the lost time and to restore the fallen one back to useful service.

The beautiful thing about God's restoration is that He gladly offers huge jobs. Moses wasn't confined to picking up garbage on the side of the street. He was given the job of speaking for God and shepherding God's people for the rest of his life. David continued to be king. Saul became Paul. Peter became a great evangelist and writer.

Why is God so generous with sinners?

I believe the answer is found in the words of Jesus. "I tell you, her sins - and they are many - have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love." Luke 7:47 NLT

Those who've been forgiven for many sins know it and they love big. God doesn't have to keep bringing it up. They never forget their debt of forgiveness, nor the redemption that bought it. 

Love is the natural response to that kind of forgiveness.

It's God's way to bring all who fall back to a place of service. That may not be instantaneous and it may not be in the same place of leadership as before, but He never consigns His repentant people to the far reaches of the kingdom because of forgiven and forgotten sin.

In Joel 2:25-26, one of my favorite passages, God promises restoration for what the locusts have stolen. He promises both provision, and satisfaction in that provision. Whatever God does will be enough. 

Have we been wounded by the sin of someone else? Our job begins with forgiveness and forgetfulness, but God never stops there. He brings restoration to service for the truly repentant, as well. 

If God is willing to allow restoration to fellowship and service, shouldn't we do the same? 

I'm not suggesting we allow a repentant child molester to keep the nursery. That would be foolish and both an unnecessary risk and unnecessary temptation.

We've all been forgiven of sin, and we must do the same for others. Forgiveness is not fully accomplished, however, until some degree of forgetting and God-directed restoration has been given. 

For today, let's thank God that He not only forgives but also restores. Thank Him for the ways He's allowed us to serve despite our failures. Ask Him, too, if there is anything more we should do to completely forgive one who has wounded us. 

"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14-15
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