I’ve written elsewhere about the problem of memory. About how it can frustrate our present pursuit of Christ by chaining us to the past. We, not Frankenstein, may become the modern Prometheus, who was eternally bound to a rock and helplessly exposed to an eagle who would peck on his liver, only for it to grow back and be eaten again the next day… Ouch. Memory can be a painful and enduring thing. David’s history illustrates this. In his prayer of repentance, the New Living Translation renders him saying:
For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. –Psalm 51:3
Macbeth also suffered the haunting memory of guilt.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.
–Macbeth, Act II, scene II
The solution to this kind of memory is the blood of Jesus and the renewing of the mind. The enemy would like to be that eagle that eats at us continually. But we overcome him by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 12:11). And as the old hymn by Emily May Grimes says, the Lord can “clear every avenue of thought and brain.”
However, the writers of the New Testament commonly employ memory another way.
The Positive Function of Memory
Memory has a very positive function to propel, sustain, and direct the Christian life.
Christianity means the activation of memory.
The apostles call on us to remember certain things. Below are a few.
Remember Jesus Christ
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel. -2 Timothy 2:8
Above all, and in Paul’s final Epistle, we are told to “remember Jesus Christ.” This almost sounds redundant and unnecessary. But at its most basic level, the Christian life is a life of remembering this living person, who is both human (“seed of David”) and divine (“raised from the dead”). It turns out that this simple yet comprehensive memory is the center of the gospel. Paul here is echoing the intro of his masterpiece on the gospel- the Epistle to the Romans. There Paul made a very similar statement,
…The gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who came out of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was designated the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness out of the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. –Romans 1:1-4
The gospel concerns a person with a dual nature who went through the process of incarnation, death, and resurrection. The Christian life is the activation of this liberating memory. We are not only to remember it, but activate it, live it out in our daily lives.
Remember Your Former Condition
Remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh… were at that time apart from Christ… alienated… strangers… having no hope and without God in the world. –Ephesians 2:11-13
We are told to remember our former condition. This will keep us humble, loving, and sympathetic to sinners around us, who are in the exact same position we once were. There is no “us versus them” mentality allowed. In the seminal chapters on God’s election (Rom. 9-11), Paul doesn’t gloat in his good fortune; he grieves for his unsaved kinsmen (Rom. 9:2-3). Paul’s emotion, ultimately, is tempered by the truth of election, but at least in principle his sentiment is right. No degree of maturity, no amount of progress in the Christian life, and no accomplishment in working for God should cause us to forget that we are products of mercy. Remembering our past history will keep us dependent on God’s constant grace (S. S. 8:5).
There must at least be one time when we see that everything depends on God’s mercy.
Remember the Members of Christ’s Body
Remember those who are imprisoned as bound with them, those who are ill-treated as being yourselves also likewise treated in body. –Hebrews 13:3
Remember the ones leading you, who have spoken to you the word of God; and considering the issue of their manner of life, imitate their faith. –Hebrews 13:7
We are told to remember the other members of the Body of Christ. As the life of Christ grows within us, we will have an increasing awareness of the members of the Body. The Christian life is not designed to be lived alone. There is always a tendency to be overly concerned about yourself, your own struggles and victories. There is a black hole in the depths of our soul that sucks everything in and makes the self the center of everything. However, we are members “one of another.” There is a deep mutuality that operates in the Body, and until we realize this, God’s purpose will be severely handicapped. In our relationships with our fellow members, we must go beyond our own personal benefit or desire for pleasurable company. Remembering our fellow members will cause us to pray for them, fellowship with them, and ask for their help.
The Bible and our experience prove that though each one of us is a member of Christ, yet the life in each one of us is not a member life, but a Body life.
Remember Christ, remember sinners, remember the Body.