Pleasing God by Our Forgetfulness

W. C. Moseley
Los Angeles, California

To those who know that God demands diligence and steadfastness, the above caption may possibly sound strange. This is especially true in the light of such passages as Jas. 1: 25 ". . . he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deeds." Backsliding Israel was indicted by the prophet Jeremiah for having "forgotten their God" (Jer. 3: 21). Paul says, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). We see then, that God will not be pleased with us unless we forget certain things - those things which are "behind."

One major concern in the church today is how to get brethren to remain faithful. It is indeed heart-breaking to see one obey the truth, and shortly fall away. I am persuaded that one cause for this is that in teaching such people, we fail to show them that their former way of life is to be forgotten. They become, as a result of this lack of teaching, just like Lot's wife. After God had graciously allowed her to escape the terrible doom of Sodom, she no doubt having enjoyed many luxuries there, could not forget them, and had to take just one more look (Gen. 19). They pattern themselves after Israel, whom God had delivered from Egypt. When things began to be rough in the wilderness, they thrust Moses from them, "and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt" (Acts 7:39).

Sin always has a certain amount of charm; it allures and entices. When one comes to a realization that he is lost, he needs to put those things away from him that are sinful and opposed to God forget them just as surely as he allows his mind to drift back and dwell upon those things, they will not cease to tempt him. In effect, such a one has in his heart "turned again to Egypt," and will again become entangled in the very things that he found release from in obeying God's law of pardon. This is not to say that the former things will not come to our minds, but when they do, we ought to look upon them with remorse for ever having practiced them, and not look back longingly for them. Peter says that this person's "latter end is worse with them than the beginning" (2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10: 17). The Hebrew writer says that we "ought to give the more earnest heed to things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Heb. 2: 1). If men would pay more attention to the word which they have heard - the word that produces faith, they would think less about those things which are behind. Unfortunately, some prefer to give heed to the things they ought to forget. In our teaching, both public and private, we ought to exhort our hearers to forget the things that hindered them from obeying the gospel; that hinder them in proper service to God, and to let their minds dwell upon spiritual virtues (Phil. 4:8). God will not be pleased until we "forget those things which are behind."

March 1968