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The Importance of Remembering

October 12, 2014 Preacher: Michael Lawrence Series: Standalone

1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:1-7)

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “We’re a forgetful people.” I know I have, and I’ve even used that phrase many times before myself, and generally I believe it’s true. We are warned in Scripture about this shortcoming and tendency we have to be forgetful people. Just a few weeks ago Bilal brought us a very convicting message from James 1. Do we remember it? In James 1:23-24 we read…

23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (James 1:23-24)

As I was preparing this message, I’ve come to realize something about myself in this regard, and I wonder if maybe it rings true with anyone else. And that is that I have the ability, I think all of us have the ability, to remember what is important to us.

The human brain is an interesting and marvelous gift that God has given us. It actually acts like a recorder for us, doesn’t it? Everything you hear, see, or experience in your lifetime is stored in a cell in your brain. There are so many of these cells that nothing is ever really forgotten at all. It is all stored there. 

In some of my research on the brain, I found the following statement: “research has demonstrated that even memories which have not been rehearsed or remembered are remarkably stable in long-term memory.” So when you recall this information and when you relearn it and apply it, you expand that storage capacity, so the more you use something and the more you hear it and apply it, it stands to reason that it occupies a greater part of your thinking process.

So it makes sense then that the more you hear and read the Word of God, the more it begins to take over a larger portion of your thinking process. The brain is truly an amazing instrument that the Lord has given each of us and called us to be good stewards of, and to use to glorify Him.

With that as a backdrop, as I said earlier, I believe we have the capacity to remember things we want to remember, and not just fuzzy details, but specific, minute details. So I’d like to share a short little story with you all this morning to demonstrate how we can remember the things we want to remember.

My entire childhood was centered on the game of baseball. I’m being transparent with you all this morning, and I’ll start by saying in retrospect that that is an embarrassing statement, but nevertheless, it’s true and not an exaggeration. My dad had me catching and hitting a baseball as soon as I could walk, so naturally I couldn’t wait to join my first little league team at age 9.

I will fast forward to the age of 12. The details of this particular incident are as clear in my mind today as they were when they happened some 45+ years ago (notice I’m vague on the exact number of years, that is on purpose). Our team was in post-season tournament play. I was playing center field and it was the bottom half of the last inning, and we were winning by one run. There were two outs, and they had a runner on second base. The batter grounded a single past the pitcher and into center field, headed straight for me. I knew that if the runner on second scored, it would be the tying run and would at best case send our game into extra innings, and worst case we would have lost had the opposing team scored once more that inning, thus ending our tournament hopes.

In slow motion I can recall every detail of this play. The ball coming toward me and disappearing into my glove, stepping forward and releasing the ball, the flight of the ball toward home plate, looking at the runner heading toward the catcher as the ball was in flight, our catcher catching the ball on one hop cleanly and applying the tag on the sliding runner, the umpire raising his clinched fist signaling out, game over. Advancing to the next round was the first thought that entered my mind. Then looking over to the stands behind first base and seeing my father jump in jubilation and hug other excited fathers in the stands next to him.

So why did I go into all this detail on this? To make a point that I believe we can remember those things that are precious to us, and remember them well. Who knows why I’ve run through this memory countless times in my mind; obviously it was important to me.

Perhaps you have similar memories you can recall the details on. I have others since this one that makes this one pale in importance, like the day I was saved some 20 years ago. I can recall the exact message I heard, who preached it, what he was wearing, exactly where I was sitting in the sanctuary, and most importantly the conviction and hope I felt, and the effect this life-changing event had on me. So that is why my message today is on remembering.

What exactly are we supposed to remember? And why is it important for us to remember? What is the danger of forgetting? These are some of the things I’d like to focus on this morning. But before I get into the what and why of remembering, let me first address why I even selected this topic for this morning…

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. 15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. (2 Peter 1:12-15)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no Peter, nor are any of us for that matter, but we as elders here do have one thing in common with Peter, and that is that we have been called to be overseers or shepherds of God’s people, and I think one of our primary roles could be summed up as the ministry of remembrance. Simply put, to bring you the truth of God’s Word and help establish you in the truth, and then to remind you, and keep reminding you, as we remind ourselves, of these same tried and timeless truths within the pages of the Scriptures. After all, the last thing a congregation should long for from any pulpit is novelty and new ideas.

I remember an interesting conversation I heard at the Shepherd’s Conference in California a few years back. I was standing in line getting some coffee in-between keynote speakers, and one of the women serving coffee asked the man in front of me if he was enjoying the conference. He said, “Yeah, I guess.” Then he paused for a second, and went on to say, “I’ve been coming here for the last four or five years and I keep hearing the same old thing.” There was this awkward silence, and I looked up at the lady to see what she was going to say, then all of a sudden he said, “And that’s exactly why I keep coming back, because they aren’t bringing anything new and trendy to this conference, but instead they’re faithful to keep preaching the same Biblical truths year in and year out.”

I realized just how profound this man’s answer was. He, like us, didn’t want any new-fangled ideas, or souped up Gospel that is more relevant to our current times, modified to fit in with today’s culture or speak to this current generation. No, we want a steady diet of the same unaltered truth that Jesus taught the Apostles, then the Apostles in turn gave their lives for, the same Gospel that John Huss was burned at the stake defending, the same Gospel that Martin Luther refused to recant at the Diet of Worms during the Reformation. These are the truths we need to be reminded of.

What are we supposed to remember? Well first of all, to put it simply, the things of old. We don’t need new revelations and we don’t need new visions, we just need to remember the same timeless, eternal, divine principles that glorify God. After all, there’s enough of those to keep us plenty busy committing to our memories for the rest of our lives. I think that’s one reason the Lord left us with the ordinance of the Lord’s Table, to continually remind ourselves of His sacrifice for our redemption, as He says in Luke 22:19, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

So let’s look at what some of the Scriptures say about remembering the truths that we’ve been taught. We’re going to be spending some time in Deuteronomy 4. Here Moses implores the people to remember and obey the statues of the Lord, and remember that they are a great nation set apart by God, that they are to be a witness to other nations around them, just as we as believers today are set apart and are to be ambassadors for Christ to those we come into contact with.

7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? 9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children (Deuteronomy 4:7-9)

1 The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:1-2)

Moses is not giving them any new truths or new revelations here, is he? No, he’s encouraging them to remember the old truths – “remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you.”

11 Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Deuteronomy 8:11-14)

This is a warning about prosperity, is it not? Oh how it can be a curse for us if we are not careful, for it can make it so easy for us to forget our Lord and our need for Him daily.

So what is it that we are to remember, that these verses point out to the believer? We are to remember who we are, that we are no longer our own, but we are children of God, and that is not to be taken lightly. We are children of a great and mighty God, the creator of the heavens and the earth, the Alpha and the Omega. The one that, when asked this question by Moses in Exodus 3:13, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 

This is such an intriguing and powerful passage. John Piper had the following to say about it: “He did not say that was his name. He said, in effect: Before you worry about my name, where I line up among the many God’s of Egypt or Babylon , and before you wonder about conjuring me with my name, and even before you wonder if I Am the God of Abraham, be stunned by this: “I Am Who I Am. I absolutely am. Before you get my name, get my being. That I Am Who I Am — that I absolutely am — is first, foundational, and of infinite importance.”

Then verse 15, “God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord,  the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

This is what we are to remember, and who we are to remember we belong to. No matter what condition we are in, good or bad, when we’ve lost a loved one, when we feel alone and unloved, when we are out of work and seemingly unable to provide for our family, when we are betrayed by a spouse or relative or close friend, none of these circumstances can alter our position in Christ if we are children of God. These are the truths that we must remember and remind ourselves of often, so that when we face these times in our lives, and we all will, we will not be double minded and lose hope and lose our sense of direction.

Another important thing to remember is what it means to be a child of God. In other words, to ask, “What is the magnitude of our salvation?” Now you may be saying, “Oh, I would never forget that I was saved.” I’m not talking about the actual idea of remembering you’re saved, I’m talking about remembering all that your salvation should mean to you. In order to understand and appreciate the majesty of our salvation, we first of all have to remember our past, and what we were delivered from.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating dwelling on your past by any means, but don’t you think it would be difficult to grasp the magnitude of your salvation if you had no recollection of your former state? That you were dead in your trespasses, spiritually blind.

One of the most impactful testimonies in the Scriptures for me is found in the Gospel of John in the 9th chapter. It’s the account of Jesus giving sight to the blind man, the man that had been blind from birth. If you recall, Jesus spat on the ground and made mud with His saliva, then rubbed it on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam, which the man did, and then miraculously he could see for the first time in his life. Well, all of the man’s neighbors who had seen him begging his whole life prior to this were astonished. It was a big spectacle, and they brought him to the Pharisees, and well, we know how they reacted, right? They couldn’t have Jesus showing them up, so they made a big deal about this event taking place on the Sabbath and how that was a sin, and they interrogated this poor fellow multiple times, asking him the same questions over and over about how this happened. They didn’t believe he was really blind from birth, so they tracked down his parents, and sure enough, he was, so they continued with the questioning. I want to read a small passage of this account…

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”

32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:24-25, 32-33)

A couple of verses later, this man professes faith in Jesus as his Lord, and is spiritually healed. My point here is, this man was ecstatic because he was once blind and now he could see. A simple, yet no doubt a powerful testimony. “I was blind, now I can see, and it is because of that man, Jesus, that healed me. You all can wrangle over Him doing this on the Sabbath, and claim because of that he’s a sinner, but you can’t deny what happened, or the power of this man, and you can’t deny He is from God.” This man no doubt remembered what it was like to be blind, both physically and spiritually, yet his life was changed forever by this meeting with Jesus.

This should be our story as well. We should never forget our former state of utter despair, and by not forgetting it, it puts us in a mindset to praise and glorify the one, the only one that could ever do anything about it: Christ. We all have stained pasts, some perhaps more ugly than others, but lost is lost, and blind is blind. And not only remembering these things in your mind, but living it out, letting others around you know who you once were, and what He delivered you from, “who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion” (Psalm 103:4).

When is the last time any of us have told someone of His goodness in our lives? That we were blind, and we can now see, and it was because of Him, that man – Jesus Christ, the Son of God – and Him alone.

Another aspect of our salvation that is important for us to remember is the origin of our salvation. Now what do I mean by the origin of it? Well first off, think about the actual regeneration or rebirth that takes place in a believer when they are saved. We know from Scripture that no one, and I mean no one, decides that he wants to be saved on his own devices and seeks the Lord. Jesus says in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” The Greek word translated “draw” is ἑλκύω (helkuo), which means “to drag.” This same Greek verb is used elsewhere in the New Testament…

And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. (John 21:6)

But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. (Acts 16:19)

Clearly the net had no part in its being drawn to the shore, and Paul and Silas did not drag themselves into the marketplace. I think the Scriptures are clear here, that you and I were passive in the salvation process. Not acting, but being acted upon. The Father drew us, or dragged us, some of us kicking and screaming perhaps, into an intimate relationship with Him.

Scripture should always be used to interpret Scripture, so I’d like to share just a couple of verses that speak to the Lord calling us into a relationship with Him.

4 Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:4-5, 11)

The Scriptures are clear that we were enslaved to our sin, totally depraved, and completely unable to believe apart from a supernatural work of God..

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

So we must remember, and never forget, the origin and author of our salvation, that it emanated from God, that He pursued us, that we were totally depraved, spiritually dead, an enemy of His, and while we were in this deplorable state He sovereignly called us with an irresistible, effectual call into an eternal relationship with Him, sealed by the Holy Spirit.

13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

May we always remember these glorious truths.

We must also remember the power, the power that is bestowed upon us at the time of our salvation.

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)

Divine power! Here’s what Charles Spurgeon had to say on the topic: “What stupendous issues are grasped in that term, divine power! It was this which dug the deep foundations of the earth and sea! It is this which guides the marches of the stars of heaven! Divine power, it is this which holds up the pillars of the universe, and which one day shall shake them, and hurry all things back to their native nothingness.” And he goes on to ask a very telling question that each one of us should ask ourselves on a regular basis. “Now, can we say today, that we have a life within us which is the result of divine power? And have we, upon searching ourselves, reason to believe, dear friends, that there is that within us that distinguishes us from other men, because we have been called out by mankind by the glory and energy of the divine power?”

If each one of us has been granted “everything we need for life and godliness” as the text says, then we can easily deduce that we are lacking nothing when it comes to handling life’s issues, right? I mean, we have everything we need to deal with these issues, given to us from the creator of the universe, and we believe all Scripture is God breathed, and therefore true. So if we all agree to that, then what that means to me is that a believer, a true believer that has been drawn into a relationship with Christ and placed their trust in Christ and Christ alone for their salvation, should never have an excuse to say, “I can’t. I can’t change. I can’t be a better husband/wife. I can’t be a better father. I can’t be a better son/daughter. I can’t stop committing that particular sin, I can’t ______.” You fill in the blank.

We are all guilty of this kind of thinking and speech in some form or fashion, are we not? “I’ve tried to talk to her, but I just can’t get through to her. I’ve tried everything, you just don’t know what it’s like in my home. I’ve basically given up, the situation is hopeless, and as a result I’ve lost my feelings for her and our marriage is over.” I understand that life’s trials and tribulations are difficult, but if we go back up to our verse, and we still all agree on the inerrancy and veracity of the Scriptures, then the only thing that I can come up with is that all of those “I can’t” statements that we hear and say are all lies that are coming from some false source. Maybe from our flesh, or from the world, but not from the one true source that we have, not from the Word of God. Because we just read that we’ve been given everything we need for life and godliness, and it was given to us by whom? By God Himself. So what are we saying? That He is impotent? That we have a situation in our lives that is greater than His divine power? Really? He created the earth and the heavens and everything in it in six days, and we have an issue in our life that is too big for Him to conquer?

What I think we are really saying is, “I won’t change…I refuse to be a better husband until my wife gets her act together, or at least gives her 50%…I’m too embarrassed to bring my filthy sin before the Lord and ask for help to be delivered from it…I enjoy my secret sin too much to give it up to the Lord.” But “can’t”? No, that’s a lie. We can, we have the power to defeat all of these situations at our disposal, we have the power living within us through the Holy Spirit, but we choose not to.

We need to remember the power that has been divinely granted us, and when we remember it, we need to embrace it.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

Who we are in Christ, and whom we serve as children of God, the author of our salvation, the power of the Holy Spirit that each one of us as believers has been divinely granted and has taken up residence in each of us, the eternal truths of the Scriptures that we have been taught – these are the things we are to remember.

I mentioned earlier that there was a danger in forgetting, so I wanted to look at a couple of warnings in Scripture regarding the danger of the believer forgetting the truths they have been taught and perhaps taking their salvation for granted. 

Before I read the verses, let me give you a little background. If you recall, the Apostle John, while exiled to the island of Patmos, was commanded by the Lord to write what he saw in a book and send it to the seven churches in Asia Minor. The first church he addresses is the Church in Ephesus. An important thing to note is that the Church in Ephesus was by most standards a great church, it was a church that was pastored by Paul, and later Timothy, a church that was responsible for the founding of all the other churches of Asia Minor. It was a church known for growing godly elders, and being a tremendous testimony in the world. It was a church with solid theology that could discern false doctrine; this was a strong group of believers that did not grow weary and persevered for Christ’s name sake.

2 I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (Revelation 2:2-4)

Even with all those commendations from the Lord, this church in Ephesus seemed to have lost it’s way, didn’t it? It appears that in the early days when Paul and Timothy were there, this church was on fire for the Lord, they were out winning people to Christ, spreading the Gospel, teaching solid doctrine and training up strong men in the faith. So what happened? How did this once vibrant church find themselves in this predicament, of losing their fervor and being guilty of abandoning their first love? Well, I think they forgot. They forgot their first love, Christ. Maybe they got so busy working? I don’t know. But look at verse 5. How does it start? With that familiar word again: “remember.”

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5)

A strong command to repent here, to stop, right now where you are, turn around, and “do the works you did at first.” Go back and remember the truths that were presented to you by Paul and Timothy, and keep reminding and teaching your congregation these foundational truths and doctrines. These were our Lord’s instructions to the church in Ephesus.

Look at Revelation 3. “To the angel of the church in Sardis” We come now to another church. He says, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” He tells them to wake up and strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die. And how are they to do that? Well, He tells them how – once again, by remembering. Look at verse 3: “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” The Lord’s instructions are not only “remember what you have received and heard,” but what else? “Keep it,” He tells them. Keep reminding yourselves, don’t lose it.

How do you keep something that is precious to you? I think you guard it, you cherish it, you make an effort to put it somewhere you won’t forget it, maybe you commit it to memory. Kind of like that little baseball memory I shared with you in the beginning. Remember, I said something like, “Who knows why I’ve run through this memory countless times in my mind; obviously it was important to me.” How much more should the truths of God’s character and Word be important to us that we should cherish them and hide them in our hearts and keep them?

So I’d like to conclude this morning with some questions that we should be asking of ourselves…

Do we remember who we are? Sounds like an easy question…so maybe I should ask, do we always remember who we are? In good times and bad times, when things are flourishing and in times of despair?

Do we remember why we’re here? Again, an easy one for us to recite an answer to. We’re here to glorify God. But what exactly does that mean? So maybe a more appropriate question is, how do we glorify God? Well, one could argue that there are multiple ways, but if we look at the Scriptures, we see that when we emulate Jesus Christ, it pleases God the most. So, are we striving to live our lives in obedience to Christ, or is He an afterthought in our lives, someone we opt to look to and remember only after all our personal attempts fail us?

Do we understand and remember the power of the Holy Spirit we have living inside of us? Do we grasp the magnitude of this power, and remember the source of this power, divine power, to overcome our trials, or are we settling to continue to walk our Christian lives wrapped in grave clothes?

You recall the familiar account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave…

42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:42-44)

At that glorious moment of salvation, when we are revived and resuscitated and given new life, we no longer need to lie in our former condition, or stagger around bound up in a mummified state. No, we need to arise and walk. We need not be slaves to our old sin nature and allow it to bind us up and render us ineffective in our service to the Lord. No, we need to instead remember the truths that we have been taught. Truths such as these…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-23)

We have been bought with a price, a costly price. Let us remember and live lives worthy of our calling.

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