Forgetting and remembering

Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease, because it robs a person of his memory. People have had mates or parents ask, “Who are you?” Such loss of memory robs one of his life.

Normal people forget, too. Sometimes forgetting is a coping mechanism. Victims of accidents and other trauma often cannot remember the moments surrounding the event.

Sometimes it’s just natural for facts, truths, and ideas to get crowded out. Sometimes it’s lack of attention. At other times, it’s deliberate, such as when false teachers “forgot” the flood as evidence of the non-continuity of creation, in 2 Pt 3.5.

The Bible often calls for us to remember. Sometimes we ought to recall our conversion to Christ (see Rom 6, for example) or other happenings in our spiritual past. More often, Scripture uses remembering as a means of pulling us back to the teaching we have heard. Jesus speaks this way to the Sardis church, in Rev 3.3:

Therefore, remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come against you.

We might consider many of the Bible books as efforts to remind people of God’s goodness and teachings. For example, the book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last attempt to remind the Israelites of what God has done for them. The danger was great for them to enter the promised land and forget.

Again, however, pay very careful attention, lest you forget the things you have seen and disregard them for the rest of your life; instead teach them to your children and grandchildren, Dt 4.9.

We ought to forget the past — that is, our past — whether it be good, in man’s eyes, like the apostle Paul’s, or bad, full of sins and vices, or oppressive, when we suffered at the hands of others. We ought to remember Christ’s past: his life, death, resurrection, and future blessedness.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, Php 3.13-14.

This is why we need to be present every single Sunday, to eat the Lord’s supper with the church and remember the cross: “Do this in remembrance of me” Lk 22.19; 1 Co 11.24. What a travesty when churches think the Lord’s table is an event to be celebrated infrequently! The Lord wants us to remember every first day of the week, Acts 20.7. That act can carry us through until the next Sunday, along with reading the word of God and prayer and time with the family of faith.

We overlay Christ’s past over our own, so that we have no success, no failure, no suffering that can block our way to God. So we ought to remind one another constantly of him.

Therefore, I intend to remind you constantly of these things even though you know them and are well established in the truth that you now have, 2 Pt 1.12.

But I have written more boldly to you on some points so as to remind you, because of the grace given to me by God, Rm 15.15.

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, 2 Tm 2.8.

Many have spiritual Alzheimer’s. They have “forgotten about the cleansing of [their] past sins” 2 Pt 1.9. As a result, they cannot remember the promise of God. No disease is more terrible, no situation sadder, than the loss of spiritual memory.

What’s your take on forgetting and remembering as a spiritual function? As a spiritual error or failure? Comment below.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

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