James E. Woods

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A Family Mystery


A Family Mystery

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
— Ephesians 1:7

My father’s father, who is known to me as Grandpa Renner, immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1927. When he left Germany, he left everything behind — his family, his history, and literally any knowledge of his past.

As an immigrant in 1927, Grandpa worked hard to make a new life as a good, godly man. But his previous life in Germany was a subject that was not discussed. Even my father didn’t know much about his father’s previous life in Germany, as it was considered an off-limit conversation. It seemed there was something about his past that he did not want known.

Approximately ten years after Grandpa and Grandma Renner passed away, an elderly friend of Grandma Renner called my mother and said, “I want to tell you something about Mr. Renner that you have a right to know. It’s something confidential that no one has ever told any of you about his life in Germany before he came to America. Please meet me, so I can tell you something secret that you need to know.”

But before my mother could meet this elderly friend of the family, this friend unexpectedly passed away — and when she died, she took the grave whatever it was that she knew and wanted to tell my mother about my Grandpa Renner. Now many years have passed, and I still know almost nothing of the history of our Renner ancestors or what happened in my grandfather’s previous life in Germany.

 

Over the years, I’ve wondered what it was about my grandfather’s past that he so meticulously hid. I even tried to unearth information about his life in Germany. But no matter how hard I tried to find information about a “secret” that may have occurred in his earlier life, this information is simply not available. I even hired genealogists who could provide me with legal information from Germany, but their efforts didn’t yield even one clue. Whatever the big secret was — and for whatever reason my Grandpa refused to acknowledge his past — it is something that my family will never know. The last possible link to that knowledge was Grandma Renner’s friend who took that secret information with her to the grave. When her grave was closed, the case was closed forever.

After years of frustration in trying to dig up whatever I could about our family’s secret past and hitting wall after wall, I realized one day that God didn’t intend for us to know that hidden information from the past. Why should I be seeking it out, anyway, since Grandpa didn’t want us to know it? Besides, he had become a blood-cleansed believer, and God didn’t hold it against him, anyway, whatever “it” may have been!

Jesus’ blood utterly wipes away the past. Whatever we did before Christ is buried by God forever. As far as God is concerned, the past is irretrievably gone and forgotten!

In Ephesians 1:7, the apostle Paul stated this glorious truth of forgiveness when he wrote, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” The word “forgive” is the Greek word aphiemi, which means to permanently dismiss, to liberate completely, to discharge, to send away, or to release. It was used in New Testament times to mean to cancel a debt or to release someone from an obligation of a contract, a commitment, or a promise. It means to forfeit any right to hold a person captive to a previous commitment or a wrong he has committed.

So when Paul used this word in Ephesians 1:7 to describe the forgiveness of sins, he was saying that God has permanently dismissed our past sins from us. We are liberated completely from them. He has discharged them from us; He has sent them away; and He has released us from them. The debt we once owed due to past transgressions is canceled, and God has freed us from the guilt of those previous actions. Because the blood of Jesus was shed for the payment of our sin, God has forfeited any right to hold us captive for that which we have already received forgiveness.

Isn’t this what we’re told in Psalm 103:12? It says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”

If God said He removed our sins from us as far as the north is from the south, we would eventually meet our sins again, because there is a north pole and a south pole. However, if you go east and you never change direction, you’ll never meet west because you’ll always be going east. Likewise, if you travel west and never change direction, you’ll never meet east because you’ll always be traveling west. East never meets west, and west never meets east — and that’s how far God has removed our sins from us! He has removed your past sins from you forever. In fact, Micah 7:19 declares that once God has dealt with your sins, He throws them into a sea of forgetfulness.

God has put your sins behind His back forever, never to look at them again. He has chosen to release you from those sins completely — as if you never did it. God doesn’t have a poor memory. He could remember if He chose to, but He has chosen to never remember them again. He has thrown them into the depths of the sea, where He will never retrieve them to bring them up to you again.

The “sea of forgetfulness” is clearly where Grandpa Renner’s past ended up. Whatever it was that he wanted forgotten, it was irretrievably removed from memory and from any existing records. And finally I came to understand the power of redemption reflected in our inability to find out anything about my grandfather’s past. If God had put it away, I needed to put it away, too, just as I would want my own past regrets put away and forgotten. So I chose to close the book on that question about Grandpa’s secret past and to never try to reopen it again.

What about you? Since you are in Christ and therefore have received forgiveness from God by the shed

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blood of Jesus, why do you keep dragging up your past again and again, as if God were reminding you of it? If He has placed your past actions into the sea of forgetfulness, shouldn’t you leave all that past mess where He has left it? Why don’t you make the decision today to leave your past messes in the depths of the sea and allow yourself to be released from them once and for all by the power in the blood of Jesus? That is exactly what God wants you to do!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY


Lo
rd Jesus, words fail to express the depth of my gratitude for Your precious blood and for the price You willingly and completely paid to cancel all the debt from my past sin and actions. Your grace toward me is more than I can comprehend, but today I must stop to say THANK YOU for displaying Your amazing grace toward me!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY


I confess that I am completely forgiven. God has liberated me completely, discharged, sent away, and released me from all of my sin, which He has forgiven. By the blood of Jesus, my debt has been cancelled and I have been released from it. Neither the devil, others, nor I have the right to hold me captive to a previous wrong. I am totally and completely forgiven!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

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QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Do you beat yourself over things you said or did in the past? What good has it profited you to bring up a sad reminder over and over again?
  2. Consider what would change in your life if you chose to accept total forgiveness and walk away from your past, to never bring it up to How would this type of freedom affect the way you think and the way you are living?
  3. Have you ever thought about how far the east is from the west and what that tells you about how far God has removed your sins from you?

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