Psalm 103:12 --As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
“You know just how far the east is from the west, From one scarred hand to the other.” – Casting Crowns song “East to West”
It was a Thursday morning when God decided to have a little chat with me. I know it was Thursday because I was behind the garbage truck coming out our road. The water company is working on the road, laying new pipe, and that means we get stopped and have to wait our turn, alternating with traffic on the one available lane on an already narrow road.
Sitting behind a garbage truck doesn’t give you the best view, but I am a person with an active imagination. I think about weird stuff, like “hey, we produced two of the hundreds of bags of garbage on that truck.” Yep, doing our part. Then I began to wonder about what all kinds of things were in all those bags of garbage and where it goes and what happens to it. The wait is getting longer and the smell of the garbage truck has finally made its way to me. Now I am a little less interested in the hidden treasures of the garbage truck and more interested in them hurrying up and letting us through. That’s when the Lord chimes in.
He asks me if I would like to follow the garbage truck to the landfill and dig through the pile to find my old bags of garbage. I am taken a little aback by this question. Of course not, I say. I threw that stuff away and I paid to have it hauled off so I don’t ever have to look at it again. It has probably rotted and decayed and smells even worse that this garbage truck. Why would I ever want it back? I don’t know, He says, why do you keep going back to your past, dwelling on sins that I have already forgiven? Why do you go looking for them when I have already paid the price to have them washed away and removed them as far as the east is from the west?
Great question. I wish I had an equally great answer, but the truth is I don’t know why we do this to ourselves, but we do. I don’t know why we allow “stinking thinking” (a Zig Ziglar term, if you are familiar with him) to take over. I don’t know why sometimes I take a trip down memory lane, open the skeleton closet, and make myself examine all the old and ugly things that are in there. These are things that I have done that I am ashamed of, things I wouldn’t want anyone to know, things that unfortunately some people do know about, and I can’t undo a single one of them. Those kinds of thoughts can snowball and get you to thinking that you are the worst human being ever and what is the point of trying. That’s when we have to check ourselves and remember that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). When I repented and asked Jesus to forgive me and be the Savior of my life, He forgave me my sin.
Isaiah 43:18-19; 25 -- “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we should forgive ourselves. It simply says that we must trust God. We trust that when we repented and asked for forgiveness of our sins that Jesus washed us clean. Our sins are covered by His blood and can no longer be seen by the Father. They are cast away as far as the east is from the west. We often hear people say that they have been cast into the Sea of Forgetfulness, another term you will not find in scripture either. It is a reference to Micah 7:19.
Micah 7:19 -- He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.
While we aren’t specifically told or directed that we need to forgive ourselves, it is something we should be able to do. Jesus takes our sin, our guilt and our shame. If we continue to carry it around with us, instead of trusting Him with it, we are saying that He isn’t strong enough or powerful enough…we’re saying that our sin is bigger than Him, and that’s just not true. It’s a big lie and you know where it’s from. Once we give our sin and shame over to Jesus it is no longer ours. He has already paid the price for its removal, and it’s His now, just like the garbage man who comes and takes away your trash. It’s not your garbage anymore…it belongs to the waste removal company. Jesus covers our sin, takes it far away from us and leaves it in a place to no longer be remembered. Yet, we manage to find our way there, dig it back up and put it back on display, and then we worry about what others would think if they knew what we have done. So what if they did? The Bible may not say anything about forgiving yourself but it says plenty about forgiving others, and it says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Matthew 6:14-15-- “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Colossians 3:12-15 -- Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
I have found most people are compassionate and forgiving, but I have met my share of unforgiving people, too. It makes me sad that they have an unforgiving spirit. Forgiveness sets you free, not necessarily the person you are forgiving. It’s nice to be forgiven, but I can’t make someone forgive me. It would be nice to know that all is forgiven and we can have peace between us. However, all I can do is repent and ask them and God for forgiveness. I know God will forgive me, but the person has to make that choice. Forgiving isn’t always easy to do. I have had to ask the Lord to help me forgive in some cases, and He did, but it took some time. The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins, meaning when we love each other like Christ loves us, we can find our way to forgiveness.
Luke 9:62 -- But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
It’s a common saying that you can’t move forward if you keep looking back. When we go back to the rotting garbage, we get stuck there, more rooted in our past than invested in our future. God wants to use each one of us. He has a plan for our lives. He is a “now” God. He is a “future” God. The past is gone. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” We cannot serve God and fulfill the plan He has for us if we keep beating ourselves up over the things in our past.
Jesus has already taken out your garbage and He won’t ever bring it back to you. It’s forgotten. So how would you feel if the garbage man brought back all your garbage from the past year and dumped it on your front lawn? You would be upset, irate and maybe even a little indignant. You would be calling the garbage removal company to give them a piece of your mind. You paid good money to have that garbage removed and they had no right to bring it back; it’s not your problem anymore. I wonder if that’s how Jesus feels when we keep bringing our sins back up and reliving the shame and guilt. He paid the highest price possible to remove those sins, and we really have no right to try to hold on to them. They are no longer our problem.
Forgiving can be hard, but forgetting is even harder. Since the morning that I was stuck behind the garbage truck, I have tried to quit my stinking thinking. I am coming to the understanding that forgiving me means trusting Christ. I never meant to make Him feel like He wasn’t enough; I just struggled with the idea that I really could be forgiven for what seemed to be unforgivable things. I did worry about what people would think if they knew the bad things I had done. I worried that I could never be good enough to deserve His mercy and forgiveness. I realize now that I will never be good enough in myself because that’s not how it works. His love covers the multitude of my sins, and that’s enough. His grace is sufficient.