You want to be free from sin and shame in your life, and you know Jesus forgave you, but you still feel bad about what happened. You think, “How can God forgive me for what I did? How can he trust me again?” People say, God “forgives and forgets,” but you still remember, and you wonder, does God actually forget my sins?
Today we are going to answer this question. Does God forget our sins, and what does that mean for my life?
Does God Forget?
The answer is no. When we think of the word forget, we think of something we are physically unable to remember. Like where our keys are or that pesky password, we keep having to reset. If our lives depended on it, we could not remember.
Then we put this definition of God when we say he “forgets” our sins. Imagine this, though. “God, I know you forgave me, but I feel terrible for that sin I committed.”
God looks confused, “What sin?”
You know, that one I did yesterday.
“Wow, for the life of me, I honestly can’t remember.”
“God, it happened two hours ago.”
“What was it again? Murder? Or did you lust? Or maybe it was embezzlement, or was it gossip? I swear to myself, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“I got angry at the guy on the freeway and cussed him out.”
“Seriously? I guess I already forgot about that.”
Is this our God? One who cannot recall what happened in our past, even if it was this morning?
No. We do not serve a forgetful God.
Being all-knowing and all present, God can recall every little detail of all of history as though it were currently happening right now.
He can easily remember our sins better than we do. He can’t physically forget anything out of inability.
If God doesn’t physically forget our sin, what does he do?
God Chooses Not to Recall Our Sins
And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins (Jeremiah 31:34, NLT).
God tells us in this verse that he will intentionally plan not to remember our sins. The word “remember” in this verse is the Hebrew word “zāḵar.”Though it translates as “remember,” a fuller definition is “to recall, to be brought into remembrance, to cause to remember, to mention, to record something down, to make a memorial over something.”
God is saying that he will never bring up their sins again. He won’t write it down, and he won’t mention it. He won’t hold a grudge or build a memorial over what you did. He will choose not to dwell on it and never cause it to come into his mind again.
Though he is physically able to remember, he chooses not to.
God Infinitely Separates Us from Our Sin
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the West (Psalm 103:12).
How far is the east from the west?
If God said He would separate our sins as far as from the north to the south, then there would be a limit to how far we are from our sin. If I go up to the North Pole and then pass the pole and keep going, I am going south now. There is an end.
But not with east or west. No matter how far east I go, it will never become west.
Our sin is so removed from us in God’s mind that the two will never meet again. He will never see us in relation to the sins we have committed. Even if I fell into sin again, he will address it as a new sin and will not bring up something we did 10 years ago and say, “Again?”
He Blots Them Out and Throws Them Away
Have you ever done something, and someone recorded it down in their heart? Then every time you talk to them, they bring it up again?
God will never do that. He blots out the record of what you did, so no one can ever read it out again.
Isaiah 43:25 says, “‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions…’”
When we read that phrase “blot out,” we think it means God takes out a white-out marker and tries to blot out our sin. Sure, it’s gone, kind of. You can still tell, though, that it used to say something.
This word doesn’t mean “blot out” like white-out. It means “to obliterate, and utterly destroy.”
Once again, you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! (Micah 7:19).
The second we repent; God tears the page with our sin out of the biography of our life and throws it into a shredder. He then takes the shredded pieces, lights them on fire, and throws the ashes into the deepest crevice of the ocean. He utterly obliterates the record of them.
God doesn’t physically forget our sins, but he does violently cast them away from his mind and heart forever.
Why? For His Own Sake
Let’s look at the second half of Isaiah 43:25, “‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgression for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.’”
We think that God chooses not to remember our sins so that we don’t feel bad anymore or because he is nice.
But God says that he does this for himself.
God has made a personal vow with himself that once forgiven, he will never recall your sin to his mind again.
That is excellent news for us! That means it is unconditional!
If God tried not to remember our sins for our sake, then maybe we could do something so bad that enough would be enough. But because God is doing it for his own sake, that means even if we bring it up a million times, we will not be able to get him to budge!
He has chosen this for himself! He will not bring it up.
What a beautiful God we have!
We Are Not Going There
Conviction is when we sin, and God calls us back to himself through repentance. Condemnation is when the Devil keeps bringing up the sin to make you feel shameful about it.
When you feel convicted for sin, go to God and repent. But once you do that, you have to accept by faith that you are now clean. If your feelings still tell you how horrible you are for what you have done, realize that this is condemnation and is not from God.
If God could not physically remember our sins, that would be hard for us to follow his example. Because no matter how hard we try, that memory keeps coming back.
But if God chooses never to recall our sins, and casts them away from his mind, now that is an example we can follow.
When a past sin comes up, we must choose not to go there in our minds — proclaim, “I am forgiven,” and move on.
I’m sure the Apostle Paul felt terrible for killing Christians in his past. I imagine a conversation with God would go something like this:
Paul says, “God remember when I use to kill people who believed in Jesus?”
God responds, “Paul, I forgave you.”
Paul, “I still feel horrible, though.”
God reaffirms, “Paul, I dealt with it. We are not going there anymore. You must forget it and move on.”
Paul, “But how can I forget what I did?”
God responds, “Paul, I buried that with Jesus. It is separated from you forever, blotted out of the records. You don’t ever need to bring that up again. I won’t. It’s over and gone. In faith, move forward.”
In Philippians 3:13–14, Paul says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on.”
The word Paul uses for forgetting means “to neglect and no longer care for.” Paul is essentially saying, “I won’t nurture my past sins anymore. I choose to neglect my sins, and I press forward now on what is ahead, not behind me.”
Paul has become like his Creator. Though he is capable of remembering, he has chosen to “forget” his sins, and so must we forget our sins and the sins of those who have hurt us.
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Taylor Jensen is a missionary, pastor, and world traveler. His passion is to help equip believers with practical ways to ignite their faith and bring Jesus into the world around them. That is the goal of his personal blog Fireplace Faith. Want to Learn How to Hear God’s Voice? Subscribe here to get his Free Ebook “8 Proven Ways to Hear God’s Voice.” Reach out to him any time through his blog or through his social media accounts @taylorcjensen.