I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief.

—1 Timothy 1:13

Forgiving is a spiritual function, but forgetting is a biological function. We shouldn’t get the two confused. Our brains can store at least 600 memories per second. Everything you do is seared into your mind electrically and chemically. So when you ask people to forget about a past failure or offense done against them, you are asking them to do the impossible.

There are also benefits to remembering offenses. Think about the apostle Paul. Before he was a Christian, Paul did some horrible things. He was a zealous Jew who tried to stamp out this heresy called Christianity. He had Christians imprisoned, tortured, and put to death. All of that changed when Paul met Christ as his Savior. But that didn’t erase his memory of what he had done. Paul spent the rest of his life being confronted with his sin, but he saw some benefit in that. In 1 Timothy 1:12-16 he said, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.”

There are at least three benefits of remembering your sin. First, such memories encourage gratitude to God. Paul said in verse 12, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me.” When God brings those memories to mind, or the chemicals and electrical impulses bring them to mind, you can use that as an occasion to thank God for what He has done for you.

Second, remembering our past offenses extinguishes pride. Look at verse 15: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” Anytime Paul was tempted to get puffed up about being a great evangelist, he remembered what he had been--and that extinguished any pride.

Third, remembering our past helps us exhibit God’s grace. In verse 16 Paul said, “For this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” Whenever Paul remembered how terribly he had sinned against God, he used that as a way of saying, “I am Exhibit A of the grace of God. If God can forgive me, then He can forgive anyone.” Paul used his past as a way of exhibiting the matchless grace of God.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Forgiving without Forgetting” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.