In The Journal of Neuroscience, there was a man referred to as E.P. He was an 84-year-old retired lab technician. E.P. suffered from one of the most severe cases of amnesia ever documented. In his case, his amnesia was so bad he could only recall his most recent thought. So questions like, “Who is the President?” or “What did you have for dinner?” would be completely unknown to him. In the book Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer describes his encounter with E.P. and the amnesia he suffered.
When Joshua met with E.P. they decided to go on a walk. As they went on the walk the author observed several different things that were interesting about him. E.P. would go on the same route every time he went on a walk, yet if you were to ask E.P. to draw the map of where he would walk, he had no idea the route he went on. Often when he would walk, he found something. By the time he got home, as he was holding the object, he had no idea how he got what he had in his hand. As he passed by his neighbors, he would reintroduce himself to his them every single time as though they were complete strangers. As E.P. and Joshua concluded their walk, E.P. returns home to a place he doesn’t even recall is his own, walks down a street he doesn’t know the name of, and past neighbors he just met but doesn’t remember.
And as they approach the house, they walk by a car, and as they look in the tinted window of the car, Joshua asked E.P. “What do you see?” And as he stares at the reflection he answers, “An old man. That's all.”
An old man.
When you and I look in the mirror what do we see?
When I look in the mirror, if I’m honest I see someone who disturbs me. I see an adulterer, an addict, a thief, a liar. As I walk up to the tinted window of the car, all of the shame comes rushing back as the window says, “This is who you are. That’s all.”
But this is where the problem is for us. We are forgetful people. We have a “Gospel Amnesia” that forgets who we are in Christ. And in the midst of a reminder of our guilt, we often are not driven back to the cross, but instead to despair and shame.
This isn’t a new problem; God’s people have always been forgetting who they are. Rescued people forget they are rescued people. Forgiven people forget they are forgiven people. In Deuteronomy, when Moses is preaching to the nation of Israel who has been rescued from slavery he gives an important reminder.
When the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 6:10-12 ESV)
God’s people have always been forgetful people. The Israelites forget they’ve been rescued from slavery. The disciples forget the Savior they followed. You and I forget the God who calls us his own.
The problem isn’t with the mirror revealing what we really look like; the problem is that we forget what Christ says despite what we really look like. The problem is that we forget the very thing we need to remember and we remember the very things we need to forget.
This is why the preacher of grace, doesn’t come up with a new message every week but says the same thing in thousands of different ways. Because we keep on forgetting it. We forget:
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
And the things we hold onto are the very things that God himself says that he forgets.
I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25 ESV)
Tullian Tchividjian recently described a fitting story told by Rod Rosenbladt of a middle-aged woman who approaches her pastor in need of counseling:
She went to her pastor and said, “Pastor, I had an abortion a number of years ago?” “OK,” the Pastor replied. “Well, I need to talk to you about the man I’ve since married.” “Alright,” replied the Pastor.
“Well, we met a while back, and started dating and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. Then things got more serious between us and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. A while later we got engaged and I thought, I need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. Then we got married and I thought, I really need to tell him about the abortion. But I just couldn’t. So I needed to talk to someone, Pastor, and you’re it.”
The Pastor replied, “You know, we have a service for this. Let’s go through that together.” So they did—a service of confession and absolution.
When they were finished, she said to him, “Thank-you, Pastor. Now I think I have the courage to tell my new husband about my abortion.”
And the Pastor replied to her, “What abortion?”
What do you need to forget that God himself has already forgotten? What are you holding onto that Christ took away when he went to the cross?
What sins in your life do you need to hear from God himself, “I remember your sins no more” (Hebrews 8:13). The promise we hear over and over and over again is that we are sons and daughters by the blood of Jesus. As you walk by the tinted windows of the car, forgetting what Christ has said of you and reminded of the shame that destroys, be reminded that God has amnesia.
The sins that own you, he remembers no more. The person you see in the window, God sees as a son or a daughter. His amnesia cures mine.