Where Are the Sins God Has Forgiven?

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Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.  Micah 7:19

Gospel song of the 1950s…

You ask me why I’m happy, I’ll tell you the reason why: My sins are gone.

And when I meet the scoffers who ask me where they are, I say, My sins are gone.

They’re underneath the blood of the cross of Calvary, as far removed as darkness is from dawn.  In the sea of God’s forgetfulness, that’s good enough for me, praise God, my sins are gone.

(second verse)  When Satan comes to tempt me, and cause me to doubt, I say, my sins are gone.  You got me into trouble, but Jesus got me out. I’m glad, my sins are gone. (then the chorus)

It’s a good song, take my word for it!

Some lessons God’s children have to keep learning…

She was a faithful member of the church I had gone to right after seminary.  I was 27 years old with a lot to learn about ministry.  But I knew something about her she thought no one else did.

One day the church secretary had blurted out to me that a year earlier Gloria Mae had had an affair with a man she worked with.  “And she thinks no one knows it!”  Well, it’s impossible to unknow something once you hear it.  And I was sorry to know this.  But God used that…

One day sometime later, while making my morning hospital rounds, I noticed that Gloria Mae had been admitted as a patient. I went in to visit her.  “My ulcer is acting up,” she told me.  As we visited, she said, “Pastor, one of these days there is something I need to tell you. Something that bothers me.”

I said, “I’m available any time,” and continued to stand there by her bed talking and listening.  And because I was patient, she began pouring out the sad tale of her sin.  She wept and my heart broke for her.  Finally, I said, “Gloria, has God forgiven you?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, “He has, but I can’t forgive myself.”

I said, “So, you have a higher standard than God. Is that right?”

She was almost offended.  “Brother Joe! Whatever does that mean?”

I said, “Well, listen to you.  Sure, God forgave me.  It’s easy for Him.  But I’m harder on myself than He is.”  I paused to let that sink in and said, “Gloria, if God forgave you, why don’t you forgive yourself?”

We prayed together and left that sordid business at the cross, where it belonged.  One year later, I received a note from her saying, “It was a year ago today that you visited me in the hospital.  And you said exactly what I needed to hear. I am well today. Thank you.”

Her sins were gone.  And how good is that???

Question: Where were her sins?  What had God done with them?

Scripture has so many ways of saying what God does with our sins when He forgives them.  Here are some…

–They are washed.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us of all iniquity” (I John 1:7).  We are cleansed.

Read the opening of Psalm 51 and see how David longed to be clean.  We’re told this was after his sin with Bathsheba and his guilt was destroying him.  I know the craving to be clean, and I’ll bet you do too.

–They are nailed.  He took the “certificate of debt against us” and “nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).  Every time you see a cross, imagine your sins nailed to that post, and Jesus paying for them with His blood. If that won’t humble you, you’re not paying attention.

–They are removed from us. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us” (Psalm 103:12). So, how far is that?  I think the answer is “infinity.”

Now, had the psalmist said God removes our sins as far as the north is from the south, that would be different.  Because you can walk northward on our planet and eventually, at the top of the world, you take one more step and you’re now going south.  But travel east and there is never a point where you are now going west. Your sins are gone forever, friend!

–They are buried.  “Yes, you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19).  The wonderful Corrie ten Boom would quote this verse and say, “He buries our sins in the depth of the ocean and erects a sign saying ‘no fishing here.’”

–They are forgotten. “Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17, quoting Jeremiah 31:34).  And how good is this!  You will never see your sins again!

I sat in the courtroom in Columbus, Mississippi, where City Judge Tommy Wallace presided.  Tommy was a member of my church and I wanted to see what he did. The cases were all misdemeanors–no murders or bank robberies come to city court–but Tommy said to one defendant, “Sir, we’re going to retire this charge to the files.  But I’m telling you, if you are ever in my court again–I don’t care if it’s only for spitting on the sidewalk–we’ll pull this out of the files and you will pay for it.  Are you clear on this?”  He was.

Later, I told my friend what an effective tool that was, I felt, but we can be glad that when God forgives us He does not “retire our case to the files” to be re-opened at some later date.  When He forgives us, the charges are off the books.  ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!’ That’s Romans 8:1 and it’s as good as it gets.

And what does that mean to us?  A lot of things.  For instance….

–We may rejoice. The Lord told His disciples, “Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in Heaven” (Luke 10:20).  That is cause for rejoicing, my friend!

I draw a lot of people, and invariably I tell them to “look at me and smile.” You would be surprised how many people–even in church!–say, “I don’t smile.”  I’ll say, “You don’t smile?  Man, are you saved?” (They’ll say they are.)  “Then you ought to be giggling–I’m saved! My sins are gone! My name is written in the Book of Life! I’m going to Heaven!”

Are you rejoicing, friend?

–We should remember. The Apostle Peter gave us a list of Christlike virtues–faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love–and then promised that if we have these qualities, we become fruitful in Christ.  He added, “But the one who lacks these qualities is short-sighted and has forgotten that he was purged of all his sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9).  Don’t ever forget, friend!

Don’t grovel in the sins God has forgiven, but never forget that He has!  It’ll make you humble and always appreciative of such a Savior.

–We should shout it out. “Rejoice because your names are written in Heaven!” (Luke 10:20)

The opening of Romans 8 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Now, if you have a King James Version, it reads different.  We’re told the oldest manuscripts have it just as I typed it here.  But somewhere along the way, hundreds of years after Paul wrote this, some monk (or scribe or something!) felt that this was just too good, that surely we must keep ourselves saved, so he moved the phrase from verse 5 (“who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”) to verse 1.  The result is the truth of the Gospel was corrupted, leaving people to feel they must keep themselves saved, something I think you will agree is beyond human capacity.  The God who saved us will keep us saved, friend!  Rejoice in that.

–We should stop groveling in our past and forgive ourselves. Why should you do the work of the devil for him?  In Revelation 12:10 Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren.” But friend, in Christ you have been forgiven, and God has forgotten your sins.  How about forgiving yourself!!

–We should forgive others.  Jesus said, “Freely you have received, so freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

–Teach this and spread the good news. It’s the reason the Gospel is such good news!  We are saved forever! and shall not come into condemnation but have passed from death to life (see John 5:24)! How good is that!

–And we may bask in all those wonderful scriptures that celebrate this good news.  That includes texts like Psalm 40:1-3 and 103:2–5.  Texts like Ephesians 2:1-10 and Hebrews chapter 10.  I suggest you read these again and again, memorize them even, and delight in them often.

In the early days of the American west, wagon trains crossing the prairies on their way to California would sometimes come upon a frightening scene.  In the distance, they would see a prairie fire headed their way.  It was consuming everything in its path and headed to the wagon train.  In time, someone got smart.  When they spotted the massive fire coming toward them, they stopped and set a fire behind them.  After it burned off a few acres, they pulled the wagon train onto the burned over place and waited.  The huge fire arrived, found nothing in front of it to burn, and went around the travelers in the wagons.  

One of these days, the fires of God’s judgement are going to fall on this world.  But there is one place and one place only, where the fires of His judgement have already fallen, and that’s the cross of Jesus. The cross is the only safe place in the universe, my friend.  

Get to the cross and never leave.  Give thanks for the love of God and the blood of Jesus, my friend. And every day of your life, praise Him for taking your sins away so that there is no condemnation.  You are saved forever! And how good is that!

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