8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. 9 He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:8-12 NLT
I have always loved these words. How cool is it that a God so loving and perfect can look past our failures to see our potential? Have you ever thought about that? In many ways, it's like being the parent of a young child. No matter how many mistakes that child makes, you choose not to give up on them. You know that their failures cannot outweigh the potential they have. Can they walk when they are born? Of course not. But it doesn't mean that they won't run like the wind one of these days. Are they the best talkers? Only if you speak unintelligible blubber. But (most) will grow up to speak eloquently--and probably refuse to shut up on most occasions.
These verses offer us such great hope. But, there is a contingency clause. I hope you got it and didn't read right past it. It's right there in the middle of verse 11--"toward those who fear Him." Now, keep in mind, the word fear does not mean to be afraid. On the contrary. God longs to have an intimate relationship with all of us. Fear simply means a proper respect--the kind of fear that keeps you from crossing your parents' wishes (hopefully) yet keeps you coming back to them for the deep love and affection that a parent should show.
Here's what bothers me most about this verse: If God clearly gives himself permission to forget our sins once we ask for forgiveness, why do we feel we have the right to remember them? Not only our own but everyone else's as well. I can still remember bad choices that I made in elementary school. Fights I had with friends, lies I told to classmates, bad choices I made to disobey my parents. But Psalm 103 says he remembers them no more.
So, what's the good news for you and me this morning? Glad you asked. Rebellious child, you can go home again. God can remove your rebellion and you can be free. Adulterous husband, your love can be pure again. God can remove the stain of your past and give you another chance at your first love. Jealousy? Anger? Greed? Lust? Hatred? You name it, God's got a cure for it. And it does not rest on the opinions of other people and what they think about your past. Thank God (literally). It's only because He throws my sin as far as the east is from the west (rather than a man throwing a baseball, it feels like to me it's a catapult throwing a gigantic boulder sometimes). And because He has done this on my behalf, I stand totally right before Him. No fear, no guilt, no shame. Just the UNFAILING LOVE of a God who knows me intimately and still chooses to love me deeply. Interested?