Thursday, October 13

I saw a Seinfeld rerun recently that was pretty funny and also got me thinking. In the episode, Elaine was concerned about her permanent medical records and that doctors were indicating that she was a "difficult" patient. So she would try to see what was in the file, switch doctors, and more. But they always knew about her and wrote more notes in her permanent records. Finally, she recruited Kramer to act like a doctor and steal the file. It was a pretty funny episode.

The show got me thinking about my permanent records. Even when I was a kid in school, there was always the threat that if we misbehaved it would go in our "permanent record." I've always wondered what was in that closely-guarded folder. Or maybe I don't want to know! But now I have all kinds of permanent records. My doctor, eye doctor, and dentist all have permanent records on me. (Though I have to admit that my dental file probably full of dust and cobwebs since I never go.) When I need to borrow money to buy a car or a house, someone has to check my credit record. Annually, my car insurance company lets me know that they have been checking my driving record (which isn't necessarily a good thing).

Some folks think that God keeps a permanent record. Most religions believe that God keeps track of the good things we do and the bad things we do and compares them when we die. If the stack of good things is better than the bad things, then we are OK. If the stack of bad things is better than the good things, then we are in trouble. In fact, I think many who are Christians carry around this idea.

If that's the case, what does my permanent record with God look like? To be honest, not too good. There have been lots of failures. Lots of choices to disobey God. Lots of unkind words to others. Lots of selfish acts. In fact, God says this about my permanent record (and yours):

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.... For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 3:10-12, 23

If I have a permanent record like that with God, I'm in trouble!

But the good news is that my permanent record with God is clean because of what Jesus as done for me. Here is an example of what God says:

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him." Psalm 103:8-13

"If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared." Psalm 130:3-4

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." II Corinthians 5:21

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:13-15

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." I Peter 2:24

"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
I Peter 3:18

The good news is that when we are in Christ, our permanent record of sin has been wiped clean and we stand before God forgiven and welcomed as his child. Sometimes Satan likes to remind us of what used to be on our record, but we need to remember (and remind the devil) that Jesus has wiped all of that clean. We are accepted and loved by God.

I love the story of a priest who was continually racked with guilt over some of the things he had done while in college. There was a woman in his church who claimed to have dreams in which Jesus would come and talk with her. The priest was skeptical, so to test her he told her to ask Jesus what sins the priest had committed while in college.

A few days later, the woman returned to tell the priest that she had another dream in which Jesus talked to her. At this news, the priest felt his palms beginning to sweat. He asked the woman, "Did you ask Jesus the question I asked you to ask him."

"Yes, I did" she replied. "I asked Jesus what sin you committed in college."

The priest swallowed hard. "What did Jesus say?"

The woman answered: "Jesus said, 'I don't remember.'"

The permanent record was gone. The slate was wiped clean.

The next time Satan tries to accuse you of those things that Jesus has forgiven, remember that. The next time you are tempted to define yourself by your failures rather than by who you are in Jesus, remember that story.

And the next time you pray or worship, let this truth motivate you.

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