In Victor Hugo's Les Miserable, Jean Valjean spends the night in the home of the Bishop of Digne. Despite the generosity of the bishop towards him, Valjean rises during the night, and takes valuable silver from a cabinet. Hearing the noise, the bishop awakens and walks into the room where he sees Valjean stealing his belongings. Valjean knocks him to the ground and flees.
Later in the day, the police arrive at the rectory with Jean Valjean in handcuffs. "He claims that you gave him the silver," one policeman scoffs. "Yes, of course I gave him the silverware," replies the priest. "Valjean, why didn't you take the candlesticks too? They are worth at least two thousand francs." Turning to Madam Gilo, the bishop orders, "Go and fetch the candlesticks. And offer these men some wine. They must be thirsty."
Left alone together, the bishop holds Jean Valjean by the shoulders and looks deeply into his eyes. Valjean is confused. Speaking softly through restrained emotion, he asks, "Why are you doing this?"
The bishop answers with passion, "Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil. With this silver I've bought your soul. I've ransomed you from fear and hatred and now I give you back to God." With tear filled eyes and an expression of disbelief Valjean stands before the priest, speechless.
Forgiveness. It is a troubling concept to the morality policemen of this world. In the calloused world of morality, meticulous records are kept which clearly reflect the debt one owes. But in the land of divine mercy, moral accounting is exiled to nothingness, the books are burned and record-keeping is declared taboo.
God has destroyed the record of your sins. It simply no longer exists. He has "canceled the certificate of debt that was against us" and has forgiven us for everything we owe. (Colossians 2:13-14) " There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
What are we to do when we have sinned? Simply acknowledge the love and forgiveness bestowed upon us by our High Priest. Accept it. You may feel better to wallow in guilt for a while, but to do that is an insult to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. To nurse self-centered guilt is to suggest that Christ bearing your sins isn't sufficient. It is a subtle effort to pose as deity by somehow sharing in the shame of sins committed. Christ dealt effectively with our sins. To try to take them upon ourselves is nothing short of idolatry by suggesting that what we do is necessary in addition to what He has already done.
Have you done something in your life that gnaws at your conscience and causes you to feel guilty? Here’s the good news inherent in the gospel: Your sins have been forgiven. You owe God nothing for the things you have done. In Christ He has taken your sin upon Himself and eternally disposed of it.
The announcement of the grace of God is the incredible news that you will never answer to God for what you have done. He wants you to accept His acceptance and to let go of the things that have brought you a sense of shame and tormenting regret.
The Bible doesn’t say God forgets our sins. What He has done is better than that. People sometimes talk about the “Sea of Forgetfulness” many have heard mentioned at times, but that phrase is not in the Bible. The idea was taken from Scripture and it is found in Micah 7:19 where it says: "He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." That’s probably where the idea of a “Sea of Forgetfulness” comes from, but note that’s not what the Bible says. It says He will separate our sins from us forever. He doesn’t forget but he does remember them no more. In other words, He will forever refuse to join our sins to us or our past guilt to Himself. He will not remember them! If He had only forgotten them, it’s possible they would come to mind again, but what He has promised is to remember them no more.
To illustrate the literal use of the word in a positive way, think about what Jesus said at the Last Supper to His disciples. When they partook the meal together, He told them, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25, emphasis added).
What did He mean by that? He meant, “As often as you partake of this communion meal in the future, do it in a way that you are appropriating the reality of your connection to me.” He wasn’t telling believers that when we take communion, we are to think in our minds and pretend that we are there watching His crucifixion. He is telling us to re-member, to affirm by faith that we are inseparably joined to Him and we affirm that reality again and again when we partake of the elements. Again, we are affirming and yes, even experiencing, our union with Him on the cross, in His burial and now in His resurrection life.
So our Father does not remember our sin anymore. Being omniscient means He knows everything so He hasn’t given up His omniscience and forgotten our sins. He simply refuses to ever “member them” to us or to Himself again.
God wants you to live without self-consciousness about anything you’ve done that was a dishonor to Him. He has taken the dishonor of your sin upon Himself and it is no longer yours to bear. To wallow in ongoing remorse about sin is to express the worst sort of insult toward the one who has removed your sins and forgiven you for having ever committed them in the first place.
To paraphrase the words of the priest to Jean Valjean, Jesus has declared to you: “You no longer belong to evil. With my blood I've bought your soul. I've ransomed you from fear and hatred and have given you back to God."
Like Jean Valjean, you may stand speechless in total awe. The news of the gospel of grace may seem almost too good to be true, but believe it. Don’t express contempt for the crucifixion of Jesus by insisting on carrying the shame of sins you have committed. Don’t despise what He has done for you by refusing to gladly accept the forgiveness He has given. Affirm the reality that your sins are gone, never to be mentioned again.
Live in the joyful freedom that can only be known by those who have embraced their forgiveness. Don’t listen to even a whisper of self-condemnation that may try to find a place in your thoughts. Reject it immediately by thanking God that what He accomplished at the cross on your behalf is indeed sufficient.