In the previous “Remember” I described overwhelming feelings of regret I experienced when on retreat in Kalbarri.
These regretful emotions were grounded in remembering past decisions/actions which I now judge to be wrong. They well up from a testimony my conscience gives against myself. This forces me to admit I have a problem much like Old Testament believers for whom the sacrificial system was a continual “reminder” of their sinfulness (Heb 10:1-3).
Scripture however spells out a way of escaping our condemning consciences (cf. 1 John 3:20). In the Bible’s thinking about intimacy with God “perfection” is not moral blamelessness but divine authorisation to approach God in worship; we “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (Ex 29:9; Lev 4:5; 21:10; 1 Pet 2:5).
Christians do not strive for a blameless moral character in order to be able to approach God but enter into the rest which Christ has attained for us in his Father’s presence. Whenever we sense that “haven’t quite made it with God” we have forgotten to remember this rest (Heb 4:11).
For busy Christians to abide in such a spiritual rest will require a radical transformation in thinking about the Trinitarian love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Anger THE Problem
That sin separates us from God is widely accepted; what is less understood is how God’s wrath removes people from his presence (Isa 59:2; Luke 12:5).
It was the Lord who drove the fallen Adam and Eve away from his glorious presence in Eden (Gen 3:22-24). This action of an angry God has imprinted on the consciences of lost people that none of their efforts can satisfy his just demands (Ps 7:11).
Let me apply this insight about divine anger to a puzzling contemporary issue called “phobia-isation”, most obvious in relation to homosexuality. Anyone disagreeing with homosexuality is guilty of “homophobia” i.e. hating gays.
That many gay advocates do feel hated by Christians is clear, but what is not so apparent is that this conviction is a state of mind to which they have been handed over by the wrath of God (Rom 1:28-32).
It is not particular sins, such as sexual immorality, that are the great obstacle between sinners and the Lord, but their deeply repressed hatred against a God whom they feel hates them (Ps 68:1; Rom 1:30; Col 1:21; Rev 6:16-17).
Underneath the wrathless deity of progressive Christianity, the naturally “angry God” of fundamentalism and the irate God who cannot exist of atheism is a deep spiritual confusion about divine wrath. This confusion can only be dispelled through the revelation of the Son of God.
Whilst on retreat I had a distinct insight into the nature of Trinitarian love which can help set us free from our confusions and fears about divine anger (1 John 4:8; 17-18).
The Wrathless Father
All humans have had profoundly traumatising experiences of anger.
Anger in all its forms, from frustration with a crying infant to the indignation of a judge sentencing a convicted person, creates a sense of relational separation. Anger always separates us from the pleasures of intimacy with others.
Thankfully, the God we worship is not like us.
If there was ever any anger in God the absolute intimate oneness in love of Father, Son and Spirit would be impossible (John 17:22-26). Lacking perfect access to one another the Persons of the Trinity would be divided. Jesus became a human being to show us what God is really like in himself.
As a sinless human person Jesus experienced the Father exactly as he had in eternity, wrathless. The purpose of Christ’s death was to impart to us this vision of an angerless Father (John 17:5).
When on the cross Jesus bore God’s wrath against our sin he became the place where in anger the Lord fully remembered our evil and so were fully separated from him. When God fully remembers our sin Jesus feels fully forgotten as a Son (Rom 3:25; 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:24).
The terrible cry of dereliction from the cross can be paraphrased, “My God, my God, why have you forgotten me?”” (Mark 15:34). Jesus feels forgotten by the Father so we might never feel forgotten by the Lord.
But for this to impact our lives we must have our thinking refashioned by scripture (Rom 12:1-2).
The “remembering” of the Bible is vastly different from the notion of mere mental recollection.
In Hebraic thought to “remember” is to act. When God “remembered” Noah he blew away the waters of the flood, when he “remembered” his covenant with Abraham he delivered the Israelites from Egypt, and so on (Gen 8:1; Ex 2:24).
The new covenant’s promise “I will remember their sin no more” means there will be no judgement on sin (Jer 31:34). When Christ commands us “Do this…in remembrance of me” this does not mean we should strain our brains to recall how much Jesus means to us (1 Cor 11:25).
This divinely commanded remembrance takes us directly into the power of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In the Spirit we are actually present in/with Jesus on the cross and at the emptying of his tomb. His triumphant “It is finished.” is by grace the cry of our hearts (John 19:30). Through divinely inspired remembrance we are united with Christ’s own work for us.
Let me use an illustration to clarify.
Praying over someone recently I sensed the Spirit taking me back into a revelation I had several years ago in Asia.
The presence of God in the here and now of Perth was just as real and strong as it was in that past time and faraway place. By the power of the Spirit the remembrances of God in Christ transcend space and time. Such Spirit-led remembrances are so powerful that we cannot remember Jesus and have regrets for past actions at the same time.
As the sinless Christ never had a sense of doing wrong or being under the wrath of God as his Father, by faith we can be free from all our past bondages. Sharing in the guilt-free conscience of Jesus I have perfect access to God in heaven (Rom 5:2; Eph 2:18 etc.). Why then regret things from the past?
The Lord once deeply regretted creating our humanity and angrily decimated the population of the earth (Gen 6:6ff).
But the Father has no regrets about electing and adopting us in his Son (Eph 1:3ff). In Christ I am never a wrong person trapped in regret, in Jesus I have always been a person in the right with God (Rom 5:1; 8:1).
Since by Christ’s blood and sacrifice my conscience is cleansed before God I have been “perfected for all time” (Heb 9:9, 14; 10:10). This does not mean moral blamelessness but worshipfully sharing in the complete access Father, Son and Spirit have to each other in love.
God has provided us with a simple means to grow in such a grace at the personal and corporate remembrance. (John 8:32-35).
Firstly, I can be bold enough to ask Jesus to remember me. The wicked thief who requested, ““Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”” was granted paradise (Luke 23:42-43; Rom 4:5). When Christ remembers me he will send his Spirit to connect me to the power of his saving work (Gen 8:1; Rev 1:10).
Beyond our private devotions the greatest gift I can give to my brother/sister in Christ is to continually remind her/him of Jesus (2 Tim 2:8; Heb 10:24-25).
At the centre of Christian community is the communication of Christ! As we personally and corporately remember Jesus we enter into the depths of the love Father, Son and Holy Spirit have for each other.
Here we find that God is perfectly at rest in himself and at rest with us; so then let us rest in him. No more regrets!