The Prison of Memory

The Prison of Memory
Robert Wurtz II

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12–14 NKJV)

Paul was determined to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of him in the beginning. The Lord met him on the Demascus road and apprehended him for a purpose. He was given a commission. We know from reading the latter portion of 2 Timothy that he will, in fact, finish his course. How did he do it? One of the keys is found in our passage; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. 

It is proper that Christians be careful to reflect on God’s goodness in the past. These things we ought always to remember. There is even a sense in which Paul remembered that he was once “chief of sinners.” Nevertheless, Paul knew that he must not dwell upon the past in such a way that it hindered him, rather than helped him, in his “pressing towards the goal for the prize.” Our failures and sins have been forgiven, so we must not dwell upon them to our hurt. Moreover, the achievements made in service of Christ, by His grace, must not occupy our mind in such a way as to prevent us from fully apprehending what God has designed for us. 

The Prison of Memory

Many people are imprisoned by their past; some literally, and others figuratively. I am inclined to speak to those who are in bondage to memories of past sins. Consider for a moment what it would have been like to be Paul. He had committed horrific sins against people who he thought were enemies. He compelled them to blaspheme Christ, and in some cases, was responsible for killing them. Once his eyes came open, he must have been mortified and vexed. I doubt he slept well for some time. Can you imagine the nightmarish things that would have plagued his mind? Seeing women and children crying and begging you to stop and yet you keep on mercilessly? The memories alone could have locked Paul into a prison for life and thrown away the key. How could he ever get past what he had done? Was there any way to forget?


The most illusive key to getting past our past is allowing others to get past theirs. What good is it to confess our sins to God and then refuse to forgive others? What sense does it make to want our sins forgotten, and yet refuse to allow others to forget their own. Think about it. Many people would like to forget all the bad they have done, but keep bringing up other peoples sins. This is why they are imprisoned to their own sins. Why should I receive peace if I am not willing to allow others to be at peace? I’m convinced that many people could walk out of their prison today if they would repent of their own unforgiveness. One simply cannot receive forgiveness and the peace of mind that comes with it and at the same time withhold it from others. It is impossible.

Another illusion the enemy sets up is the notion that God will forgive everyone elses’ sins except ours. This thinking pattern is clearly a stronghold of the enemy. Have you ever considered that God has the supernatural ability to forget? He can choose never to bring an incident up before His mind again. What did He say? For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:34b, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 10:17) He has the ability and is inclined to exercise it, to refuse to be reminded of our sins ever… again. Ponder that for a moment. Moreover, the prophet Isaiah wrote, Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. (Isaiah 38:17 KJV) It’s as if God launched my sin over His shoulder and walked off, forever. Amen. 

Oh the love that drew salvations plan: 
oh the grace that brought it down to man; 
oh the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdoned soul found liberty… at Calvary  

 (Newell)

Walking Out of the Prison

Some people are put-off from reading the Bible because of fear of what it says. They fear passages that describe sin, so they figure, what I don’t know can’t hurt me. Yet, the Bible is full of grace and truth. God stands willing to forgive and give us the grace to walk out in victory. The Blood of Christ will cleanse our conscience from dead works so that we can come face to face with God again, and serve Him confidently. (Hebrews 9:14) If we will acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Nevertheless, we cannot walk out alone. We must allow others, even our supposed enemies, to walk out with us. We can’t expect to have our sins forgiven and forgotten, and others retained and remembered. Who is it, if anyone, do you refuse to let them forget their past? Who is it, if anyone, do you insist on remembering their sins? We can’t leave them in bondage and go out scot-free. We go out together or not at all. This is the pattern of it.  

   



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