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Ideas have consequences. It is absolutely true that as a man thinks in his heart, so he is (Prov. 23:7). It is also true, however, that God is true, and every man a liar (Rom. 3:4). That is why the ideas we deny having are so often the ones that carry such difficult consequences. We say, for instance, that we believe Jesus died for our sins, that in Him we have complete forgiveness, that He remembers our sins no more, that our sins are as far from us as the east is from the west. But, when things are going well, while we would never speak such blasphemy, we seem to think that He must be quite pleased with us. And when things are going poorly, when we have to repent of our sins before Him, we seem to think that He stays angry with us. We say we are totally depraved, but, should anyone ever accuse us of an actual sin, we tend to react angrily, to defend our own honor. Perhaps that is why the proverb doesn’t say, “As a man confesses with his lips, so he is,” but rather, “as a man thinks in his heart.”
We would do well to recognize the frequent disconnect and the great gap between what we confess with our lips and what we actually believe. The mind ought to inform the heart, but it seems too often that our hearts overrule our minds. And that is the time to remember.
Consider Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. His exposition of the law of God is not something radically new. The notion that the law extends beyond our actions and covers the heart as well is already contained in the Ten Commandments as they were given. What, after all, is the commandment forbidding covetousness but the heart application of the command forbidding the ? It is no stretch to grasp that the command against murder would include forbidding murder in our hearts. Jesus was less revealing a new law and more reminding God’s people of the law as it had always been. He was encouraging His hearers to remember.
When our hearts and minds are out of sync, our calling is to bring them into sync, to actually believe what we say we believe. We are to remind ourselves of what we know to be true. When pride rears its ugly head and I begin to think that I somehow earn God’s favor, I need to remember the man who beat his breast, crying, “Lord be merciful to me, a sinner.” When despair overwhelms me and I begin to think that my heavenly Father is distant from me because of my sin, I need to remember that He loves me with an everlasting love, that nothing can take me from His hands.
In like manner, when Jesus told His hearers to cease their worrying about what they would eat or what they would wear and instead to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, this was not only not a new message, but it was also not one that would have shocked anyone. Of course, we shouldn’t worry about such comparatively petty things. Of course, our hearts and minds should be focused on the eternal, on those things that will out-last the final fire. We know that. If you were to ask a thousand evangelicals, “Which is more important, what you eat or wear, or the kingdom of God?” you would be hard pressed to find even one who would affirm the former. Yet, if you were to tap into the worries and fears that keep those same thousand people up at night, chances are it has more to do with their station in life, their circumstances, than the kingdom of God. We are a forgetful people, failing to remember not only all that God has already done for us but to remember all that He has promised us.
Because we are called to remember, we of all people should be students of our own history. We would better remember all that His Word teaches us if we were to remember that it is our Word, our story—that because we who believe are the sons and daughters of Father Abraham, the Word tells us about God’s grace to our family. We would do well to remember that church history is also our family story. It is the story of all God’s people across the centuries crying out, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and going home justified.
Because we are called to remember, we of all people should likewise be students of our future. We would better remember all that His Word promises for those who are in Christ. We would remember that just as during those dark days when our Lord lay in His tomb, that every dark providence is all a part of His sure plan for absolute victory. We would remember that the kingdom we are called to seek is an everlasting kingdom, unshakable, unstoppable, that even the gates of hell will not prevail against it. We would remember that when all things are brought into subjection under Christ, He will present the whole redeemed and remade world back to His Father. And we would remember that because we have been given His righteousness, we have been made joint heirs with Him. Because we have been given His righteousness, we have been adopted into the very family of God, made the children of our heavenly Father.
If we remembered these things, would we ever fear over the petty things? Would we squabble over our reputations and standing? Remembering drives us to joy and thanksgiving, which in turn push us to fulfill our true purpose—to worship and praise the living God, our Father.