Waves of memory have been crashing over me this week, especially today. I just finished writing my sermon for Sunday – Gospel Driven Slaves, and I’ve been reminiscing about my life, my salvation, and my calling. I’ve been a Christian for thirteen years. In many ways it feels as though I became a Christian yesterday, but in other ways it seems as though it was a lifetime ago. Memory is a reality that we all struggle with.
Do you know what I mean? Isn’t it easy for us to forget where Christ found us? We become a new person, with new friends, new passions and desires, new dreams and aspirations. We literally have new lives and a fresh new start. The old slate has been wiped clean. That’s glorious! Right? Or can you even remember? Does that feel like a lifetime ago? Have you forgotten?
I’ve been reflecting on this as I’ve been studying for and writing my sermon this week. God has been preaching to me with a ferociousness like never before. Ferocious is a peculiar word for me to use to describe the way God has been preaching to me because it so often carries the idea of anger, but even though anger had nothing to do with it I feel that it’s the best word to describe the way He has been speaking to me. He has spoken with such force and passion and love that He has appeared ferocious. Ferociously in love with me.
The text that I’m preaching on Sunday (Romans 1:4-7) has forced me to reflect on where I was when Christ invaded my life. Oh my! I shutter when I think of it. I have good reasons for wanting to forget about the man I was. That guy was a wicked, vile, selfish man, whose remembrance brings me shame. He did nothing worth remembering! What good can come from remembering him all those years ago?
God has taught me the value of remembering more than once. When God forces me to think about where I was when he found me the memories always arrive carrying shame and regret. That is why I always chase them away when I see them coming. Do you do that too? You see them in the distance coming your way and you feel dirty and nasty before they’ve even made it to you, so you shutter and quickly slam the door not willing to acknowledge them. That’s what I find myself doing every time, except when God forces me to remember, like He did this week. It has been a glorious week to say the least because God has shown me afresh how ferocious His love for me really is. The Bible constantly call us to remember where we were when Christ invaded our lives. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
What is Paul trying to get the Corinthians to do? Is he trying to get them to look down in judgment on those who practice ungodliness. No! That’s not it at all! He is stirring up their hearts to remember where they were when Christ found them. The Corinthians were turning on one another. They were suing each other. Paul was outraged! He asked them, “why would you sue your brother in Christ? Why would you not rather suffer wrong or be defrauded. Don’t you know that the unrighteous are not going to inherit the kingdom of heaven?” Then he gives this list of examples of unrighteousness as a means of reminding them of who they once were. This was you, he says.
Why is it important to Paul that they remember? Why is it important to God that Toby Jenkins remembers that he was a wicked man who hated Him? Why would he want me to remember, with such haunting detail the time I pointed my finger toward the heavens and cursed Him to his face? What good could come from me remembering how much I hated Him? What good can possibly come from such blasphemous memories?
The great good of remembering who you were when he invaded your life is overwhelming. In remembering my ferocious blasphemy I am forced to face the ever greater truth that he took that blasphemy as His own and bore the guilt, the shame, the infinite wrath of an angry God in my place. It was His wrath and His judgment that were provoked by my wickedness and He bore His wrath and His judgment on that cross. The memories of these things and the knowledge of what he did for you are a ferocious sermon preached by a ferocious God who has a ferocious love for you. How could we ever hold anything against anyone? How could we ever look down on unbelievers who are enslaved to their sin? How can we be impatient and angry with Christians who struggle with sin? Remembering who we were changes everything because we also remember that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)!
Christians, don’t forget who you were! Don’t forget how God, with a mighty love, died in your place, taking your sin upon Himself. He bore His own ferocious wrath for you. You wronged Him! You deserved it! He did not owe you salvation! The only thing you deserve is to die in your sins and suffer forever under His holy wrath, but while you were still His enemy, Christ died for you (Romans 5:10).
When the waves of memory crash over me, I find myself swept away by the raging waves of God’s grace! This is indeed is a ferocious God with an even more ferocious love. How could we live our lives not proclaiming such a gospel to a lost and dying world?
Bless His Glorious Name,