It is so easy to forget. Especially when one gets older. I may phone someone with a particular purpose in mind, but after being side-tracked during the conversation, I can forget what I had called about. It can just “slip” my mind. I try to write down the previous night, or at the beginning of a new working day, what important issues have to be dealt with… lest I forget. But sometimes I forget to prepare or to look at my notes which would have helped me not to forget…
Apart from physical shortcomings like these, we are very clearly told not to be forgetful in spiritual matters.
For instance, we are admonished: “But do not forget to do good and to share” (Hebrews 13:16). We are also encouraged not to forget to be hospitable (Hebrews 13:2). Proverbs 4:5 tells us: “Do not forget, nor turn away from the words” of wisdom. Many in biblical times had forgotten a very important cause for trials (Hebrews 12:4-6); and, even worse, they had “forgotten” that they were “cleansed” from their “old sins” (2 Peter 1:9).
God warned ancient Israel—and He warns us today—not to forget Him: “Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you” (Deuteronomy 32:18).
How can we forget God?
Moses warned the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 8:11: “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today.” But they did forget God and did not remember His Law, and notice the consequence: “So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD. They forgot the LORD their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs” (Judges 3:7).
When we forget God, we will get involved with paganism and false worship. Godly obedience will cease, and evil and wicked conduct will be the result. Jeremiah 3:21 says: “… they have perverted their ways; they have forgotten the LORD their God.” And Jeremiah 13:25 adds: “… you have forgotten Me And trusted in falsehood.”
Forgetting God and living unrighteously is a matter of cause and effect. Ezekiel 22:7-12 states: “… they have made light of father and mother… they have oppressed the stranger… they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow. You have despised my holy things and profaned My Sabbaths…. Men… slander to cause bloodshed… they commit lewdness… they violate women… One commits abomination with his neighbor’s wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; and another… violates his sister, his father’s daughter… they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbor by extortion, and have forgotten Me…”
What a terrible list. What an indictment against those who forget God. What a horrible guilty verdict for man who does not remember his Maker.
As Romans 1:28 tells us: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” The list of wicked conduct which follows in verses 29-32 is equally disgusting.
When God opened our minds and called us out of this terrible world to free us from our evil human nature, we were supposed to become a “new creation.” In accepting—and not rejecting or forgetting—the knowledge of God, “we have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge” (Colossians 3:10). That godly knowledge tells us not to sin, but to live righteously, as 1 Corinthians 15:34 says: “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God.”
People in this world, being cut off from God and forgetting and rejecting God’s truth, really do not have the knowledge to do good (Jeremiah 4:22). They are “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). They have “rejected knowledge” and “forgotten” the law of God (same verse). As God’s called-out disciples, we must be different.
At the same time, the Bible tells us that there are things we must forget. But for us, it is so easy to forget what we ought to remember, and to remember what we ought to forget.
We must “forget” those things “which are behind” (Philippians 3:13), while “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). We are admonished to “grow” in the “knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). God’s knowledge helps us to forgive others and forget their sins against us. But without it, we will hold grudges and remember—sometimes for many years—what we should have forgotten a long, long time ago.
How can we grow in God’s knowledge? Where can we get help to leave our old man behind and become a new man with godly knowledge to save us from sin? Jesus Christ has shown us very clearly that His true ministry can be of assistance. We are told in Ephesians 4:11-12 that Christ built His Church and gave it ordained ministers for the “edifying” of the membership, “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (verse 13). This will help us to be firm in the truth and not to become confused by strange doctrines and prophetic speculations.
Not all heed this admonition. Some reject God’s ministry and, having itching ears, they look for wrong teachers, thereby forsaking the knowledge of God and sliding back into the wrong ideas of this world. Peter does not warn us without reason:
“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20). He even goes on to say: “For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (verse 21).
God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), but there are those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). Why is that so? Because they are not humble enough to be taught, and while they think that they know everything, they know nothing at all. Lack of humility and obedience will prevent us from receiving godly knowledge, and whatever knowledge we might have received will ultimately be completely lost.
Hebrews 10:26-27 warns us:
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
Forgetting God and rejecting His knowledge puts us on a dangerous and slippery road. We must be doers of His Law and can’t be forgetful hearers (James 1:23-25). When Christ returns and asks us what we did with the knowledge that He gave us, we had better not answer Him: “Sorry, I forgot!” Christ will not accept that kind of an answer. But He will praise us as His friends for remembering and doing what He commanded us (John 15:14). Christ tells us in John 13:17: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
Let us not forget, but let us always remember what we must do!