My God, He Knoweth None
My friend Rod Rosenbladt told me a story about a middle-aged woman who needed help from her pastor.
She went to her pastor and said, “Pastor, I had an abortion a number of years ago?” “OK,” the Pastor replied. “Well, I need to talk to you about the man I’ve since married.” “Alright,” replied the Pastor.
“Well, we met a while back, and started dating and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. Then things got more serious between us and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. A while later we got engaged and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. Then we got married and I thought, I really need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. So I needed to talk to someone, Pastor, and you’re it.”
The Pastor replied, “You know, we have a service for this. Let’s go through that together.” So they did—a Service of Confession and Absolution.
When they were finished, she said to him, “Thank-you, Pastor. Now I think I have the courage to tell my new husband about my abortion.”
And the Pastor replied to her, “What abortion?”
The hardest thing for me to believe over the last two and half years in light of my own sin and guilt is that the forgiveness God grants is full, free, and forever. Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that he could dismiss half of his patients immediately if he could simply assure them of forgiveness.
For some reason, we have come to believe that it is a mark of spiritual and emotional maturity to hang onto our guilt and shame. We’ve sadly concluded that the worse we feel, the better we are. The declaration of Psalm 103:12 has been the most difficult for me to grasp and embrace; “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” And Hebrews 8:12 has been equally unbelievable; “For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”
In other words, the sins I don’t forget, God doesn’t remember.
If you struggle with guilt and shame (like I do), then all of this seems too good to be true.
For me, the reason it seems too good to be true is that I continue to experience the very real and far-reaching consequences of my sin. And I have often made the fatal mistake of confusing those consequences with God’s condemnation.
What I’ve discovered is that when I am in the throes of consequences from the foolish and destructive things I have done, my only hope is to throw myself on the forgiving mercy of Jesus, remembering that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). In fact, the kind of suffering that comes from the consequences of sin is like a brushfire that burns away every thread of hope we have in ourselves and leaves only the thread of divine grace and forgiveness.
What seems too good to be true is actually the most comforting, hope-giving, renewing truth in the world: regardless of what you have done or failed to do—what you are guilty of or how miserably you have failed—you are right now under the completely sufficient imputed righteousness of Jesus. You are, in other words, clothed in an irremovable robe of forgiveness. Your pardon is full and final. No strings attached. No ifs, ands, or buts. No conditions.
The good news is that—before God—you are forgiven. You are clean. It is finished. Your “sin is cast into the sea of God’s forgotten memory.”
As the old hymn puts it:
“Well may the accuser roar, of sins that I have done;
I know them all and thousands more, my God he knoweth none.”
(His Be the Victor’s Name)