Thomas, the doubter; Lazarus, the dead guy; Mary the prostitute; Peter, the denier; Jessie, the girl with the freaky scars…
People have a funny way of storing memories. You can give of yourself unconditionally, but it only takes a moment to undo it all. Think of the world-renown Billy Graham. He served as a spiritual advisor for our presidents, turned nations toward the God they had forgotten, and he has spent his entire life involved in outreach. But a comment made by Graham in 1994 nearly undid everything. And even today, people will remember his poorly thought-out comment before anything else. Or consider C.S. Lewis, who spent over thirty years being a die-hard atheist. He emerged from that and went on to write the gospel-based Narnia series, among countless of other godly writings and books. But most people only remember him as being an atheist. A friend of mine in Missouri spent five years of his life on drugs. He recovered from his addiction and then became a ministerial light for the people of his small town. Still, there were many he never reached because they said, “Isn’t he that drug head?” And when it comes to me, I’m that girl with the ugly arms. I’m that girl in high school that was nearly expelled when my cutting tool of choice, a razor blade, was deemed a weapon at school. I’m that girl who wore long sleeves in 90° weather.
I’m also that weird girl who was always so quiet. I’m the creepy, quiet band geek that never straightened her unruly black hair. I’m the one that got suspended in middle school for smoking in the locker room. (Okay, so maybe I’m the only one who remembers that one.) I’m that kid who never had friends. I was always alone. And in college, where my high school names were sure to lose sight of me, I was still the fat girl. I still had crazy arms. I could never win.
And with man, you never will. See, by the worldly standards, we are known by our histories. But God said that when we ask forgiveness, our sins are cast as far as the east is from the west. And He is in the business of making all things new. In the book of Malachi, the first thing God says before anything else is, “I have always loved you.” And He promises the exiled Jews that they will be restored.
When you were on your bedroom floor, curled into a ball and praying for the nerve to kill yourself, God loved you. When you were taking downers to sleep so nobody would know you were on meth, God loved you. When you were being beaten by your spouse until your face was too swollen to see your eyes, God loved you. When you were molesting a child or raping a woman, God loved even you. When you were selling your body for ten dollars a trick, God loved you. And when you were digging razors into your arms until you could see tiny black veins, God loved you.
God loved you when you were hurting. He loved you when you were sad, when you were lonely, and when you were afraid. He loved you in your most furious anger, and in your deepest wounds. Yes, God loved you, even when you didn’t offer yourself to Him. He has ALWAYS loved us. And by keeping our eyes on Him, he has promised peace, prosperity, and salvation. When we obey Him and seek Him earnestly with all of our hearts and souls, we are redirected from death into life. We are given new names.
There are several examples throughout the bible of occasions where God has changed somebody’s name. Abram was later given the name Abraham to mean “father of many nations.” God told him that his descendants would outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore. And Saul, in Acts, murdered countless Christians. God intervened in his life, and he became the apostle we now know as Paul. God was saying, you’re no longer that person. When God gave someone a new name, He was giving them a new identity in Him; an identity that set them apart from the world. He makes everything new.
Man will remember you for the evil you’ve done, and for the mistakes you’ve made. Even after redemption, that’s your title among men; the sinner. That person is a sinner. When you heal from that sin, people still think you’re a sinner. Redemption leaves your heart wide open. That’s why it’s so important to guard yourself against the cruelty of the world. You are no longer who you were back then. That prostitute, that cutter, that abuser, that murderer, that harlot, that liar, that thief, that cheater, died the moment you accepted Jesus. If you’re going to live for Christ, you have to remember who you are. If you don’t, the open heart is open to damage.
You are REDEEMED. You are LOVED. You are NEW. You are REBORN. You are VICTORIOUS. And you’re a child of the living King. No, man will never forget who you were then. But never forget who you are now.