Posted on Sunday, Sep 26, 2021 by Scott Savage
Our memories work in different ways.
Some of us have vivid memories of childhood moments, while others of us have only vague memories of our early years.
The challenge of our memories, whether they be vivid or vague, is to discern what to remember and what to forget. We’ve all been through moments we’d like to hold tight for eternity, full of joy, life, love, and satisfaction. We’ve all been through moments we wish we could forget forever, with the pain, sadness, loss, and disappointment to match.
As often as the Scriptures call us to remember as a spiritual discipline, a tool to spread the Gospel, and a source of endurance, we cannot overlook the consistent reminders to forget.
In Ecclesiastes 3, the writer teaches us that there is a time for everything under the sun including, “a time to tear down and a time to build up,” then what should we forget, and what should we remember?
1. Forget the past that could hold you back from the future He is leading you towards
In Philippians 3:13, Paul implored the people to forget the past. “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead...” There is a temptation to get focused on the past in such a way that we are unable to follow God in all He has for us in the future. Paul warned us strongly against such a focus.
2. Forget the way God worked in the past, in order to leave room for Him to move in new ways
In Isaiah 43:14-17, God recounts the way He delivered His people from Babylonian attack. But then in verse 18, He commands them, “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.” Recently, I heard Shaun Marshall say, “Sometimes the greatest barrier between us and what God wants to do is the last thing God did. We end up becoming more loyal to what God did than to God himself.”
3. Forget the life you left behind in order to follow Jesus.
In the final part of Luke 9, Jesus invites a number of individuals to follow Him. Each makes an excuse about why they can’t right then and there. In his final comment on these conversations, Jesus said, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” There is a very real temptation to hold on to and remember the cost of following Jesus, but Jesus reminded His followers to look forward, not back.
It’s impossible to talk about forgetting without talking about remembering. They are two sides of the same coin. In choosing to remember, we reject the option to forget. In choosing to forget, we abandon the path of remembering.
So, if we forget what God calls us to forget, we also need to remember what God calls us to remember. In fact, it is in remembering what God calls us to remember that we become equipped and empowered to forget what God calls us to forget.
1. Remember God’s promises and His character as a promise-keeper.
After he talked about forgetting what was behind in Philippians 3, Paul went on to say, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Paul focused his attention on the promise of God, a heavenly prize, and God’s character as one who keeps his promise. Paul remembered his calling from God and put behind him everything else, forgetting what might distract his divine pursuit.
2. Remember that God is doing a new thing - don’t miss it!
After talking about forgetting His past great acts, God told the people (via Isaiah), “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” We all know what it’s like to miss something because we’re busy or distracted. The worst thing to miss because we were distracted by the old is the new thing God is doing. Don’t miss out on how God is already at work in your present and into your future because you’re fixated on the past.
3. Remember what Jesus promised to those who lost their life for His sake.
While some couldn’t forget what they left behind to follow Jesus, Jesus called them to instead remember His promises. Consider these words from Jesus in Matthew 19:29 to His disciples. “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” Jesus told them to remember his promises, which when fulfilled will far eclipse whatever they left behind.
In the final section of their song, "Living Water," Shane and Shane sing, “There our hope is secure. Do not fear anymore. Praise to the Lord of living waters.” I think that’s the real struggle of forgetting and remembering. We are afraid that our best days are our past days and our next days will be our worst days. We are afraid that God won’t keep His promises and what we left to follow Jesus was better than what He has for us.
RELATED CONTENT: “Living Water” by Shane & Shane
This is why we return to God’s word daily and we fill our hearts and minds with songs and hymns that root us in the truth. This is why we gather with other believers and experience a strengthening of our courage and resolve. This is why we remember how God moved in our past and the past of others. When fear comes in, we praise the Lord of living waters together, so that we can forget what’s behind and forge ahead for what God has for us.
Forget what is behind, remember what lies ahead, and press on today!
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer with the coolest last name ever. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani and they are the parents of three “little savages.” He helps hurting people forgive others through his Free to Forgive course and you can read more of his writing at scottsavagelive.com