For a long time after my conversion I avoided memories of my former life at all costs. I wanted a fresh start. I wanted a new life, with new memories that didn’t even come close to resembling the Christ-less ones I reveled in before God saved me. I battled guilt, shame, and fear that my past would come back to haunt me. At first, it was a really good thing for me to be far away from my former life. I needed a change of scenery and freedom from the temptation to fall back into sin. And the farther removed I was from the debauched life I once lived, the less that life defined me.
Last week we drove through the city I lived in when God saved me. For the most part it only holds bad memories, memories I would much rather forget and pretend never happened. As we passed the familiar signs pointing to a life that now seems so distant, I was reminded of the importance of memory. Now with many years removed, and a host of good memories made since then, I have a different perspective on it all. For so long I’ve wanted to run from that life, but as I’ve gotten older I have learned that if I run I can’t remember.
Remembering is an important component of the Christian life. We remember the Cross and the great salvation attained for us there. We remember good days and milestones. We remember when God saved us and how it changed us completely. We remember words to songs that moved us and helped us grasp the beauty of Christ. But in this fallen world we also remember the bad. We are flooded with memories of how we have failed to live up to God’s standards, memories of the sin that separated us from God and threatened to undo us.
It took me a long time to know what to do with the bad memories. All I felt was guilt and shame whenever I thought back to my life before Christ. Maybe you feel that way too. Often when we think of our sin we feel crushed by the sheer magnitude of it. It disgusts us. But there is good news for us. If we are in Christ, that sin no longer defines us. It has been paid for. Romans 8:1 says: “for there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That’s us! Satan wants nothing more than for us to believe the lies that our sins tells us—that we can never amount to more than the feelings of wretchedness. He also wants us to fail to remember, because when we forget what we were saved from we so easily forget how great Christ’s work on our behalf is.
It’s been a long process for me. For nearly eight years I couldn’t even imagine going near the places I used to live. It killed me inside knowing what my sin did to my family and my Savior. It also made me fearful, thinking that I would fall back into the same sinful patterns. But by God’s grace, last week I drove through that city, with my husband, and I was thankful. Thankful that God, in his great mercy, plucked me from my sinful state and made me his child. Thankful that my sin has been paid for and I no longer live condemned before the Father. Thankful that Christ’s righteousness is now my righteousness. Eight years ago I never would have imagined this for my life. But I am so very thankful that God takes sinful people, like you and me, cleanses us by the blood of his son, and makes us his own.
If you are feeling guilty over your sin today, or feeling like you can’t face the life you once lived, hear these words from the song, Before The Throne of God Above:
“When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see him there, who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; for God, the just, is satisfied, to look on him and pardon me.”
This is our story, dear Christians. Regardless of the sins you have committed, if you are in Christ, they are paid for by the Savior. You can face whatever past you may have with the hope that Jesus has changed you and made you a new creation, and your life can, and will, be a testimony to the amazing power of the cross for sinners like you and me.