I have had at least 30 checking accounts over the course of my life, maybe more. There is shame in this statement. I never balanced my checking accounts when the bank statements came in. Since I was probably seventeen, my solution was that when the stack of bank statements from my bank got tall enough, I opened a new account at a different bank. It was confusing, messy and a little nerve-racking, but it was easier than math or regular accountability to my spending habits. You may think I'm kidding; I'm not. My wife went back through my bank accounts when we got engaged and balanced them all. It took her ten days. She then took away everything but one credit card and my ID from me. This was the beginning of many other demonstrated wise decisions on her part. By the way, we now have only one checking account and I do not see it or know what is in it. Irresponsible? I consider it the appropriate outsourcing of a skill I clearly do not have the demonstrated capability or interest to manage.
Somewhere through my life, the notion that God was a sin-banker got into my spiritual DNA. The whole concept is murky, but the basic notion in my belief system was that when I sinned, I was forgiven by Jesus' sacrifice (Romans 2:23). However, there were some caveats. Like I said, it was murky. Forgiveness left a residue of sin because I could still remember the sin. Not only could I remember it, but I could also feel bad about the sin all over again even though it had been forgiven. This residue was like the little bit left in an account somewhere that I knew existed, but I did not know how much was in it and I would have to pay for some day.
Santa has a naughty and nice list and maybe Jesus does as well. I know it sounds ridiculous, but if I am forgiven, why can't I shake my sinful memories? Why can't I lose the guilt completely? Speaking for myself, I have some big sins. I am not kidding now but I am not telling you or anybody those particular ones. God knows them, and I have asked for His forgiveness. I believe He has forgiven these and all of the others I have committed through Jesus' sacrifice (1 John 1:9). Where do the memories come from? The feelings of shame that hold me back from embracing the true love of God and His eternal gift of salvation. Somewhere I created an IRS audit in heaven and I created a belief that I was going to come out on the losing end of the process.
The lie is that God keeps a sin score at all.
This reminds me of an old joke I heard-
A woman approaches her pastor after service one Sunday and tells him, "I have a message from God for you." The pastor wants to be cordial, but he is used to people who are a little "off" approaching him, so he puts her off by saying, "thank you and God bless you." The next Sunday, the same woman comes up and says, "I have a message from God for you." The pastor again says, "Thank you and God bless you." A third Sunday, the same woman returns and gives the pastor the same message. The pastor now exasperated says, "If the message is from the Lord, then I will ask forgiveness from Him this week for a sin I have committed, and if you come back and can tell me what it was, then I will listen to the message." On the fourth Sunday, the woman approaches the pastor and he says, "Well, do you know what sin I prayed for forgiveness this week?" The woman looked at the pastor with some trepidation and said, "The Lord said that He forgot."
Jesus tells us to "Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:37). Notice He doesn't say wallow. He actually doesn't leave a lot of time for wallowing and nor should he as we are pretty busy doing His work every day. If Jesus is not the one asking us to keep track of our sins and hold onto our guilt, then who would it be? The enemy has a strong desire for distraction, and the deep desire to keep us weighed down in the guilt and shame of what we were as well as the mistakes we make now are great distractions. Jesus wants us closer to the Father and is cheering us on to get closer. He is opening up the fast lanes to do it. Guilt, shame, and the belief that there is no complete forgiveness in God's love get in the way of His promise.
At this point in the chapter I think that I am supposed to write some wise way to do all of this. I am supposed to give you a way to clean yourself of your past residue of sins and let you feel the cleanness of God's grace. I do not have a special trick.
I will tell you when I forget my sticky residue. I forget it when I am thinking about something else. That's it. The mind can be clouded with only one thought at a time, that's what happens when we feel like we can't concentrate. It also happens when we are overwhelmed, and our head seems to be thinking about a million things at once. You are not. You are trading out one thought at a time very quickly, so quickly that it feels like you are thinking about two or more things at once. You can only think about one thing at a time. If you are thinking about the residue of old sins it is because you are not thinking about something else.
What are you going to think about? There are lots of spiritual ways that you can use to keep your mind on God. You probably already have your own list by now. Those are really great. You can call one of your Christian friends and talk- about anything. I like to close calls like that with a prayer. Prayer fills the mind and the heart and erases worthless residue thoughts. I'm a big fan of prayer and scripture reading, but those were probably on your earlier list. Podcasts and videos of sermons are a really great gift that technology provides for us that you can feel good about without the nagging sensation that you are overusing technology. I mean the video or podcast is about Jesus, right? It's all-good.
It's simple; sin residue is the enemy's way of clouding your thoughts. Trade out your thoughts and you will trade out some of those guilty feelings. I am open to any other practical ways. Please send your practical and personal thoughts to me by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear and share them. Spoiler alert: Please write it to me as if I am a child. Please tell me your story as you do act rather than, as we should act. I have had a dozen years of Christian education and I am filled to the brim with what those answers can provide. I want to add to those educational instruction answers with those of personal practices. As for being full to the brim, Thank God for the Bible. I can't get full.