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Tomorrow is Memorial Day, which is a federal holiday in America where we remember and give honor to those men and women who died while serving our country in the armed forces. Therefore, contrary to popular opinion, Memorial Day isn’t the official start of summer, nor is it a weekend where we get three days off. Rather, it is a day where we remember those who died for our freedom and the victories they’ve won to keep us free.
And for us today, it should also be a day to remember a greater freedom won 2,000 years ago, a freedom from sin and death, and it was purchased at a very great cost as Jesus died upon the cross to set us free and give us eternal life.
But it is this word “Remember” that catches my attention and then what believers in Jesus Christ need to remember.
The word, “remember,” means to bring something back to mind, or to think about it again. But, in remembering, what we must remember is not to live there, but allow it to spur us forward, either through learning a lesson, or to strengthen us for the future.
Remember, then, is a powerful word. As believers in Jesus Christ, we’re told to remember the Lord and what He’s done for us.
The Psalmist said, “I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” (Psalm 77:11 NKJV)
We also use the word “remember” when we ask God to remember His promises and help us in our time of need.
King David, in Psalm 25 said, “Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.” (Psalm 25:6-7 NKJV)
When we remember God’s grace and mercy it helps us shore up our faith when things go don’t go our way. Therefore, we need to remember God’s wonderful deeds to see us through the dark days of doubt and despair.
So, what are the things we need to remember?
Remember The Good
We are to remember the good in others, not what is wrong or evil. And to do that, we need to forgive them and think the best about them.
Wow, talk about a tough proposition. This is what faced Israel as the Lord told them not to hate or despise the Edomites, because they were family, as well as the Egyptians, because the Egyptians had once done good towards them (Deuteronomy 23:7).
Yes, they did great evil toward them, but the Lord said to remember the good, not the evil.
There are always reasons to hate and despise others for what they did, but the Lord tells us, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9 NIV)
This all begins with forgiveness, and because we want to be forgiven by God, then we are to forgive those who have done such evil against us.
Jesus said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV)
To remember the good and not the evil begins with forgiveness. Therefore, it all comes down to the attitude of the heart. When we’re tested, we need to pray, “Lord change me, and help me remember how much you forgave me so I can forgive those who have done wrong to me.”
This is a hard prayer, but one that works.
Remember God’s Past Intervention
To create an environment of faith we need to remember what God has done for us in the past.
“You have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations because of you, for the Lord your God is He who has fought for you.” (Joshua 23:3 NKJV)
Joshua is telling them to look back and think about all God has done.
· Joshua remembered his former life as a slave to the Egyptians and how through many mighty miracles, God delivered them out of their bondage, including the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.
· Joshua remembered the manna from heaven, the water gushing out of the rock, and how God’s presence was with them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
· Joshua also remembered the people’s rebellion of unbelief and how God prohibited them from entering into the Promise Land, and then wandering the wilderness for 40 years because of it.
· And Joshua remembered how God parted the Jordan River, how He brought the walls of Jericho down, and the many victories they won because of their obedience.
If we want to create that environment of faith to stay in the presence of God, then we need to remember how God has intervened in our lives, both the good and the bad, because both help to mold and make us into that person God has created us to be.
Our present may stink, but if we recall what God has done, that’s our starting point, and that’s because we can never have faith for the future until we look back and thank God for our past.
This leads me to what you might call God’s purpose for remembering. And that is, God wants us to remember what He has done so we can expect something greater, that is, His new deliverance.
This is beautifully brought out by what God said through the prophet Isaiah.
“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NKJV)
I love what the Lord says through the prophet Jeremiah about our need to remember.
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, ‘that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.” (Jeremiah 16:14-15)
Jeremiah is assuring the people that God will deliver them from the bondage not only to the Babylonians, but even their most recent deliverance in their return to the land and becoming a nation back in 1948. In other words, their past deliverance is key to their future deliverance.
However, the idea of remembering the past, may be detrimental to our future, therefore, we need to not only remember, but we need to remember to forget.
Remember and Forget
We are told to remember how God has helped and comforted us so that we can help and comfort others who are in need.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV)
But at the same time, not only are we to remember, but we are also told to forget, and by that I mean we’re not to allow the past to hold us back from God’s future.
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)
And so, while we are encouraged to remember our past to help those in our present, we are also encouraged to forget our past mistakes and sins so that we can move forward into the future God has in store.
Remember God is Present
David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 NKJV)
David was able to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death because God was with him.
God not only promises us His power in the valleys, but His presence as well. When we know God as our Good Shepherd, we’ll never walk alone through the valleys of life. He’ll be with us all the way.
Through the prophet Isaiah God said, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” (Isaiah 43:2 NKJV)
No matter what problems we might face, God will be with us every step of the way. Therefore, we have nothing to fear because God is near.
There’s something else we need to notice. There’s a change of language in Psalm 23. Verses two and three David uses the 3rd person when referencing God.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness.” (Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV)
But in verses four and five when David gets to the valley of the shadow of death, David changes to 2nd person.
“You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me; You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil.” (Psalm 23:4-5)
What does this mean?
It’s in the valleys of life we come face to face with God. In the valleys we don’t want to talk about God, we want to talk to God. This is where religion changes into relationship. It’s when we’re in the valleys that God becomes real and says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)
“All the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:24 NKJV)
The way it reads is that people need to realize that it is the Lord God and Him alone that wrought this wonderful miracle of stopping the waters of the Jordan River allowing them to cross over on dry ground, and not the gods that the Egyptians or the people of the land of Canaan.
The Lord is telling His people not to forget who the real God is, and not all these false and strange gods that the other people and nations worship.
We see this in God’s warning to the people
“Beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage … You shall not go after other gods … for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you, lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 6:12-15 NKJV)
Moses is reminding them that it is God who delivered them, therefore, they shouldn’t be chasing after other gods, and I believe that this is the same warning God is giving to us, which is the first commandment, to have no other gods before Him.
What we need to remember is that it is the Lord God who delivers, not the many gods we seem to follow today, the gods of finance, capitalism, medical technology, and scientific breakthroughs. Now, God can and does use these secondary causes in His overall plan, but make no mistake about it, it is the Lord that is in control.
I remember an instance where God had answered a prayer, and I said, “Thank God.” Now the person who had been involved and that God used to help deliver His miracle said, “Hey, don’t thank God, thank me. I did it!”
Now, while I did thank him, I tried to explain how God uses others in working out His will, but the person never got it and became a little upset. All I did at that point is to start backing up not wanting to get in the line of fire when lightning came down from heaven.
Seeing what God has done and how He has kept His promises, this should lead us to fear the Lord.
“You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.” (Deuteronomy 6:13 NKJV)
Now, this word, “fear,” means to show respect and reverence for God. It is to stand in awe and amazement, and to worship God for who He is and what He has done.
To take oaths in His name means to be loyal to God, and our loyalty stems from not only our fear or reverence to God, but also from our remembering that it is the Lord who remembers us.
To the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love.’” (Jeremiah 31:3a NKJV)
It is this everlasting love that the Lord says is indelible, that is, it can never be removed.
Look at what He said through Isaiah, “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.” (Isaiah 49:16a NKJV)
God has indelibly engraved our names into His hands, hands of power, hands of authority, but most importantly hands of love. And it was on the day of His resurrection that Jesus appeared and showed His disciples His hands, and in essence said, “See, here is where I have inscribed you.”
Memorial Day is A Day to Remember
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NKJV)
Again, as I said in the beginning, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who died while serving in America’s armed forces. It is a day to remember those who died keeping America free, which should then be a vivid reminder that freedom is never free. It is a precious gift that cost the lives of so many.
But there is a greater freedom won 2,000 years ago, freedom from sin and death, and it was purchased at a very great cost as Jesus died upon the cross to set us free and give us eternal life.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:2 NKJV)
There truly is no greater love than this, as Jesus took our place and died our death so that we can be set free from the power of sin and death, and be given His righteousness and eternal life in its place.
Therefore, let us remember those brave men and women who gave their lives so that we can be free, and let us always remember what Jesus did upon the cross as He died to set us free.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study