Have you ever asked yourself, “How could I do something so stupid?” Adding an extra cup of milk to a recipe or leaving our wallet on top of the car will often generate this question. But sometimes its our own sin that leads us the portals of why or how-could-I.
When we sin, we often suffer consequences. When repentance comes, God opens his arms of grace and forgiveness to welcome us home. In Luke 15:11-31 we read of the Prodigal Son. He took his inheritance and squandered it on prostitutes and lawless living. When he arrived home, his inheritance was gone, and yet he was quickly dressed in a new, clean robe. A ring was slipped on his finger and sandals were put on his feet. He was completely and loving accepted back into his father’s house. His father didn’t dredge up his son’s past sins. His son came with a repentant heart, and his father completely forgave him.
His older brother was a different story. He was angry that Little Brother went off in wild living and returned to a welcome-home party. The older brother wasn’t willing to forgive. When I stop and ponder this, I can’t help but think of my own siblings. When my adopted brother gave his heart to the Lord, I couldn’t help but rejoice. When I came across a letter that my deceased brother had written to me and read of his search for God and his prayers for direction, I wept knowing that he was seeking after God. And I can’t help but long for those in my family who are living in pain and chaos to come to the feet of Christ in repentance. Like the father in the story, I will rejoice when that day comes.
When it comes to ourselves, we are sometimes more like the older brother in the story. We struggle to fully accept that God has forgiven us. Isaiah 43:25 says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” And Hebrews 8:12 states, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” How often do we berate ourselves when we have sinned? We ask God for forgiveness which he graciously offers, and then he forgets our sin. Yet, we hold onto our sin. We beat ourselves up with guilt and try to fix it all the while continually groveling at the feet of Christ. Jesus wants to say to us. “Stop! Get up! I’ve already forgiven you. Look! The robe of my righteousness covers your shoulders.”
I once heard a story of a man who had taken some chairs from work, which he hadn’t returned. After quite some time, the Holy Spirit reminded him of those chairs. He went to his boss in repentance and sought forgiveness. I don’t remember what happened to the chairs. If he still had them and returned them or if this was years later, and he no longer had the chairs, but he was forgiven. However, he continued to riddle himself with guilt. In his prayer time one day he once again repented, “God, I’m so sorry about those chairs. Please forgive me.”
The Holy Spirit spoke to him, “What chairs?” he said. God was showing the man that his sin was forgiven and forgotten. If He had forgotten the chairs, then the man should forget them as well.
We don’t have to berate ourselves over past sin. If we have come to the foot of the cross in repentance, God has already extended his scepter to us, clothed us in righteousness, forgiven our sins, and forgotten them. We would do ourselves good to forget them as well.