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Have you ever lost an important file on your computer? That can be pretty disconcerting, but the fact is, people who know what they’re doing can actually recover most files.
That is reassuring to know when you are trying to locate information that you’ve accidentally erased. On the other hand, it isn’t so reassuring if you are trying to erase material that might be incriminating. Knowing it might still be in there somewhere is not a good feeling. So naturally, there’s a market for specialized programs that write over unwanted files multiple times so that they can never be retrieved.
Have you felt that way about your sins? Is there a nagging fear that God might not have really eliminated all your sins, that he still might be holding some of the worst ones over your head?
In Psalm 103, beginning in verse 8, we are reminded that “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” In verse 10, we’re told, “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.”
You can’t get much farther than “the east is from the west.” But despite such reassurances about the love and mercy of God, we still find it hard to believe that God has really put that kind of distance between himself and our sins.
Humanly, we often find it very hard to forgive and to forget. So we suspect that, just as in a computer, our sins are lurking dangerously somewhere in God’s memory. But like an electronic file that has been totally eliminated, our sins have been “written over” and totally eliminated. It didn’t need a specialized program – but it did need a special sacrifice.
The apostle Paul, of course, never saw a computer and could not have imagined one. But he did understand that for sins to be forgiven and eliminated, they needed to be “written over.” He pictured sin as a debt that was written down and needed to be erased or wiped out. Here is how he explains it in his epistle to the Colossians: “Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross” (Colossians 2:13-14, The Message).
Jesus, through his sacrifice, wiped the slate clean. Our sins are just not there anymore. They are not lurking somewhere in a heavenly file. They have been written over, and they are gone forever. When God says he has removed our sins “as far as the east is from the west,” he means it. He does not want us to live in lingering doubt about whether we are forgiven.
When the computer expert finds your missing file, you can breathe a sigh of relief. When God says he has totally eliminated the file of your sins, it seems too good to be true. But that’s why the gospel is called “good news.”