Tonight we’re going to be looking at the last in the series that I entitled the Sanctified Series. Each week I’ve explained a little bit about what ‘Sanctified’ means, so I’ll just give a brief summary for those of you who haven’t been here for the last few weeks.
Sanctification has two meanings: on the one hand, sanctification means ‘to be set apart’ – and as Christians we have been ‘set apart to belong to God.’ When we become Christians we are sanctified, no matter our lifestyles, actions, whatever. Paul even called the Corinthian Christians ‘sanctified’.
On the other hand, it’s also dynamic. God isn’t satisfied with us remaining as we are when we come to Christ, He calls us also to become as He is – godly, holy, pure in our thoughts and actions. We can all agree that when we first come to Christ in submission, we don’t act much like Him. But as we walk a journey with our Saviour Friend, we begin to act more and more like Him. That’s God’s plan for our lives, and that’s what sanctification is.
If I can give it the same picture as last week; a surgeon sanctifies his scalpels and instruments by setting them aside, away from the cheeseburger he plans to have for lunch. They are sanctified for a specific purpose. But those instruments still aren’t useful to him until he sterilises them. Both the act of setting them apart, and the act of sterilising them are what we call ‘sanctification’.
My purpose in this three week series is to be used by God to sterilise us more and more; that we can be useful to Him in His healing work on hurting people of this earth.
God has called us to be sharp and useful instruments. And so when we come to Christ, we stop maybe swearing, stop stealing, stop abusing. But more than that we also need to sanctify our hearts and minds, the seat of our imaginations and ambitions and our memories.
Tonight we’re looking at having a sanctified memory. And I’m very excited about this one because it’s the one I’ve been thinking about the longest.
I’ll start by telling you how I came about this series.
Half way through last year I was in my final year of Bible College. Being in that position, I wasn’t guaranteed of a job. I didn’t know where in the country I’d be. I didn’t know for certain that I’d be in a pastoral position. You understand, while I hoped I’d be full-time with you, my Church family, there wasn’t at that time any guarantee.
At the same time, my lecturers were meeting with us to speak about ‘alternatives’ to the pastorate. It’s extremely unusual these days to get a call to pastor full-time.
So in those few weeks at the half-way point of last year I was beginning to be concerned. Not worried, exactly, but wondering how the Lord would undertake for me.
On one of the days when the concern turned to worry, however, I called my parents, who are firm rocks for me. I was speaking to my Mom, and what she said to me has stuck with me, and I hope will stick with you too. She said, ‘Remember all the times God has provided for you, Gregory. That’s why God has given you a memory.’
Just as we said with our imagination, and our ambition, God has also created us with this amazing ability to remember things. It is not a quirk of the human being. God didn’t create us and then say, ‘Oh, where did that come from? Isn’t that interesting…?’ God created us to be able remember the past.
Why? Why did God create us with this ability? God could have created us any other way; He could have created us to function just fine without remembering the past – He’s God, He would have made it work. But He didn’t, He’s given us the ability, the capacity, to remember the past. Why?
First, it is because it resembles Him, and we are created in His image; and second, because God wants us to choose to remember all that He has done for us so that we can trust Him with our future.
Created In His Image
Genesis 1:26-27 “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
We are created in God’s image. Every one of us, and every person. From your mother or child to your worst and filthiest enemy, to the poor handicapped beggar you find on the corner. Each person is created in the image of our Creator. That is why we are to respect and love and care for one another.
That man who cut you off in traffic and then swore at you while driving past – he did wrong, but he bears the image of our Creator. The thief who broke into your home and robbed you, stealing something more precious than things: stealing your sense of security – he did wrong, but he bears the image of our Creator. That beggar who keeps bugging you at the robot –he bears the image of our God. Being created in the image of God means a lot of things. We are complex, just as He is complex. We can reason, just as He can reason. We can relate to others, just as He is able to relate to others. We can be creative, just as He is creative. We are wonderful, beautiful creatures because we were made in the image of our wonderful, beautiful Creator.
Even though we are broken, His image still shines through, which is why sometimes you find the most depraved, sinful people doing random acts of kindness, faithfulness, creativity - doing things ‘outside of character’. They are broken, but they are still made in the image of God and part of that image is still visible in all of us.
One of the characteristics of the image of God we have been gifted with is the ability and capacity to remember. The Bible shows us a picture of our God who remembers. So many places in God’s Word that tells us, ‘He remembered His people Israel’, or, ‘He remembered His servant Abraham,’ or, ‘He remembered his covenant.’
And so we are able to remember because we’ve been created in the image of One who remembers. One last point: In our brokenness we also forget unwillingly. But God only forgets willingly what He chooses to put aside and remember no more. We are created in His image.
But another reason that we’ve been created to remember is because God wants us to choose to use it so that we can learn to trust Him for the future.
God Wants Us to Remember
Do you know what memory is? Anything that we remember from more than 30-seconds ago is actually our long-term memory, where it can be stored for months, years, decades. And we move a memory from short-term memory into long-term memory by the process of association and rehearsal. What’s important to us we rehearse, and we associate it with other things.
For example, my graduation I can remember because I thought about it a lot in the weeks afterwards, and because I associate a lot of things with it. I don’t live in Randburg anymore because I graduated. I don’t study anymore because I graduated. I work at the Church full-time now because I graduated.
This is why we can remember, oftentimes, our graduations, weddings, the birth of a child, better than we can remember what we had for lunch yesterday. Can you remember what you had for lunch yesterday? We remember those things because we go over them again and again in our minds, and we associate lots of others things with those events.
We need to learn to realise that the blessings in our lives, even the ones that don’t seem like blessings, are from God. We can know this from James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift comes to us from the Father in heaven.”
Can I ask, do you know what the most common response to God’s provision is - even incredible, miraculous provision? We forget. It’s our tendency to forget. The hour that God provides there’s great rejoicing. Usually the whole day there’s a sense of lightness and happiness, Praise God, He can do anything! And He’s so gracious! Go to sleep thinking about the good that the LORD has done. And the next morning, another day another problem.
The Israelites are an incredible illustration of this. For 400 years they are kept in bondage to the Egyptians. The difficulties they suffered go from bad to worse and they cry out to God for deliverance. They are being tied up and forced to work. They are kept in poor locations, given just enough food to keep them strong enough to work. They have no freedom to travel, to worship, to rest.
After 400 years, God raises up Moses and says, “I have heard the cry of my people, Israel. I will now deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians.” God Himself fights the battle for the Israelites. If they all banded together and fought for freedom, they would have been wiped out. But God graciously has them sit back and watch the devastation that the LORD pours out on their enemies. By the time He’s done with the Egyptians, the Israelites are begged to leave, the Egyptians are even throwing their gold at the Israelites and begging them to take and go. That’s how thorough God’s provision and deliverance is.
The Israelites walk out, free men and women and children. When they hit the Red Sea and the Egyptian army comes after them, God could have told them to swim for it, but instead He parts the water and lets them walk through on dry land. And just to show them how FOR THEM He is, He demolishes the chasing Egyptian army by throwing the sea back on them.
They get through safe and sound, Moses and Miriam are leading them all in incredible worship, that’s the first half of Exodus 15.
But just a few verses on, they’re grumbling. They are thirsty. God miraculously provides water.
Chapter 16 vs. 2, they’re grumbling again. God miraculously provides food.
Chapter 17 vs. 3, they’re grumbling again. They’re thirsty.
Instead of saying, “LORD, we remember, You gave us freedom from slavery, and made us Your own people. LORD, we remember, You gave us water and food before, please can you do that again,” instead of trusting the LORD by remembering what He has done for them in the past, they whine and complain and gripe and buck against God. They didn’t associate their present need with their experiences of God’s past provision. They didn’t use their memories to support their trust in the faithful provision of God.
Don’t you realise, we’re exactly the same. I’ve seen God miraculously provide for me, and the very next day, I’ve forgotten about it. One day I’m asking God to provide, the next day He gives me what I need, and the following day I’m grumbling because, ‘God never takes care of me!’
Do you do that? In times of need, do you remind yourself of all the ways that God has provided for you in the past, and trust that He can and will do it again, or do you just worry?
And this brings it back to where I started. In my time of crisis, my Mom had to remind me to remember that God had always provided in the past. I stand here, a 24 year old man, I’m not dead. God has provided every meal, every breath, every event necessary to get me to this point. If He hadn’t, I’d be dead.
I am a walking, talking testimony that God does provide for our every need. You are a walking, talking testimony to the fact that God does provided for our every need.
And yet we still worry, we still doubt. Why? Because we’ve forgotten what God has done for us in the past.
We need to learn to associate our present needs with God’s past provision. We need to learn to use our memories in a way that will honour Him, and will build our trust and our faith.
My challenge for us for this week is to start taking note of all the times God provides.
Grace before meals is not a burdensome obligation, but an opportunity to remind ourselves that God’s come through again: ‘God, I needed this meal, You’ve given me all I need. Thank You!’ Take note of your blessings – the warm and safe homes, the gift of a family, a bed to sleep in and good clothes to wear – take note of these; And then – LEARN TO ASSOCIATE YOUR PRESENT NEED WITH GOD’S PAST PROVISION – teach yourself to, when you face a need, to say, ‘God has provided this in the past, so I will trust Him and not worry about that.’