Forgetting Former Sins

2 Peter 1:3-12 contains three kinds of ideas: first, areas for discipleship-growth contained in verses 5-7; second, explanations of why this is important; third, challenges to make the effort. Of the second category—reasons why growing as a disciple is such a great idea—there are two negative reasons given. This is the first of those that we’ll look at:

Whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:9)
“What would it mean if we decided not to bother with all this discipleship ‘effort’?” How could we even ask this question?! Well, sometimes a Christian “lacks these qualities”—that is, they look at this list and they feel like, “Sheesh, isn’t God a God of grace? Why do I have to bother with all this?”

We can all relate. You hear of a class at church, or someone recommends a book, or you think about reading the Bible or praying or journaling or serving in the community or giving to a mission or trying family devotions or attending a marriage retreat or… or… or… And it’s just not enticing. “Of course,” you say, “it’d be good—I’m not saying it won’t be good. And of course it’d be good for me—I’m not saying I’m perfect! But really. I know things aren’t so good I don’t need to grow; but then again, my walk with Jesus and His people is not so bad that I really need to fuss about it!” So we just… let it pass.

Then what happens? We come to the place Peter describes: we “lack these qualities.” Maybe our temper begins to flare up, or depression begins to creep back. Maybe sin-struggles begin to drip steadily again. Maybe we find ourselves going through religious-motions, but can’t remember the last time we had a heart-to-heart with Jesus. The graces that the Spirit wants to guide us into begin to be more noteworthy for their absence than for their presence in our lives.

This lack is a sign of something. It’s a sign of being so “nearsighted that [we] are blind.” What does it mean to be “nearsighted”? Nothing wrong with prescription eye-wear! No, this has to do with a nearsightedness about history. Specifically, our personal history in relation to the Gospel. It’s short-term thinking; living in the moment to the extent that we’re stupid, governed by how we feel. Peter says that we become so nearsighted that functionally we’re blind.

Blind to what? Blind to the realities of the Gospel in our own story: “so nearsighted that you’re blind, having forgotten that you were cleansed from your former sins.” Have we forgotten the Gospel? The love of God? The Grace of Christ? No. But we’ve forgotten what this had meant for us. We’ve forgotten what the love and grace of God had freed us from and cleansed us of.

The implication is that we are in danger of sliding back into those former sins. Like Tom Kitten, cleaned and dressed in his Sunday-best for tea, we work our way out of these graces and back into the filth and ruin of our former sins.

We all have “former sins.” Of course, we all have current sins too. But there were things in our lives that made forgiveness seem wonderful to us. What were those things? They’re still out there, aren’t they? What happens to us if we don’t hike out and away? If we forget where we were? Maybe we head back.

Disinterest in discipleship is a sign that we’ve forgotten what the Gospel did for us. Or--stating it positively--if we remember where we were before we met Jesus, we will be motivated to “grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord.”
So Peter is admonishing us to feel the Gospel personally. That is, to remember that I was cleansed from my former sins. Remember what God’s forgiveness did to me. Peter’s not saying, “Think of Jesus dying on the cross for you!” Cue the sad string music. No, Peter’s saying, “Don’t you remember what that was like? Before? Don’t you remember how great it felt to be free? To be washed clean and made new?”

Because if we remember this, if we feel the Gospel, we will want to keep making effort in our discipleship.

So today, lift up your eyes… to your own story. Remember what the Gospel meant for you. Remember what forgiveness felt like.

We hike into the love of God, despite the blisters and the aches, because we can see back to “the City of Destruction,” “the Slough of Despond,” “the Castle of Despair,” “the Valley of Death,” and “Vanity Fair.” (from Pilgrims Progress) We can see from whence we flee. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:2)

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to become captivated by the tyranny of urgent pressures and feelings. But it’s so worth it to remember. It’s so worth it to keep your history with the Gospel in view. Remembering who I was pre-Christ is a big part of remembering who I am in Christ. And nothing puts strength in my soul like remembering who I now truly am.

To Consider:
What were your former sins?
How have you become forgetful about them? What might that nearsightedness do to your spiritual growth?
Who were you? Who are you? What difference does Christ make? What difference would He like to make?

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash