Does God Keep a Record of Our Sins?

Does God Keep a Record of Our Sins?

LORD, if you kept a record of our sins,
who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
that we might learn to fear you.

My friend Nick grew up in a church that was very eager to keep him from sinning. Leaders in the church were fond of reminding him and his friends that, someday, when they stood before the Lord, all of their sins would be “shouted from the rooftops.” Yes, if they had faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they would be saved, but only after being publicly humiliated before all creation. This threat might have kept Nick from sinning in some cases, but mostly it filled him with terror and with a desire to hide from God.

As it turns out, this threat finds little support in Scripture. It is based on a passage in Luke where Jesus warns his disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They think their sinful expressions will be kept secret, but the time is coming when these secrets will be “shouted from the housetops for all to hear” (Luke 12:1-3). Even if we were to take this language literally, it still refers only to things we say in secret, not to all of our sins.

The bigger problem with the threat of public humiliation in the judgment is its lack of fit with biblical teaching on God’s amazing grace. Psalm 130, for example, recognizes that if God kept a record of sins, we’d be utterly without hope of surviving (literally, of “standing” before him in the last judgment). But the good news is that God offers forgiveness. Implicitly, God does not keep a record of sins. As he promises through Jeremiah, concerning “the least to the greatest”: “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins” (Jer 31:34). Of course, God has the ability to know every sin we have ever committed. But, as he forgives us, he chooses to look upon us as if we had not sinned.

Now, one might fear that this kind of forgiveness might lead to unbridled disobedience. If God doesn’t keep a record of my sins, then am I free to sin all I want? In a sense, the answer is yes. But notice again what it says in Psalm 130:4: “But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” This is not fear of God as in, “Oh no, I’m afraid God is going to wipe me out because of my sin. I’d better hide.” Rather, this kinds of fear is profound respect and reverence. The more we comprehend the wonder of God’s forgiveness, the more we will freely offer our lives to him in service. We will seek to avoid sin, not because we are afraid of cosmic humiliation, but because we want to honor and glorify the God who has forgiven us so completely.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In your Christian experience, did you ever hear anything like Nick heard? How did you respond to this? How do you respond to the good news that God does not keep a permanent record of your sins?

PRAYER: Gracious, merciful God, thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you for choosing not to keep a record of my sins. Thank you for offering me full, complete forgiveness through Christ, whose death erased forever the penalty of my sins.

Help me, dear Lord, to live in light of the reality of your grace. May my gratitude and awe move me to serve you, both in what I do and in what I do not do. Give me, I pray, a growing disdain for my sin and a growing desire to offer my whole life to you.

All praise, glory, and honor be to you, God of grace and forgiveness. Amen.

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This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.

  • Oliver

    Amen and amen … on another website I was asked (by a Mormon father) if my children had to ‘earn’ my love or do ‘works’ that demonstrated their love and respect for me to maintain my love for them – I replied that my children would always be my children and that as my children they would always have my love, from time to time they might disappoint me by their behavior but they could never ‘unearn’ or find themselves outside my love for them – I learned this from my heavenly Father who loves me with an everlasting love and who separates me from my sin as far as the East is from the West – I love Him because He first loved me and died for me – Father help me to be as faithful in my love for You as You are in Your love for me … Amen and amen.

  • markdroberts

    Thanks for your comment. Right on!

  • fwdinsight

    If there is no judgement of sins It seems strange that in the new testament it makes it clear by definition ‘sin is the transgression of the Law’. Why not say there is no such thing as sin. Why give a definition. Time after time Paul and the Appostles report say that those who teach there is no law are liars and the do not know me. Erm, that is red letter as quotation from the Messiah himself. But if you are picking your scriptures instead of reading them all then this type of misinformation occurs.

    Now of you are being selective about your bible reading I would avoid the ‘Parable of Lazarus and the Rich man’ and the part that talks about the Great White Throne Judgement when the books opened. What are these picture books and from what is Yahweh going to judge except facts.

    If the book of 2 Esdras Esra in the Bible and Broher of Daniel was not excluded because of it’s devastating content by the Catholic church. It shows that Indulgences which the church was making millions by people giving money to help their dead loved ones pass up the line in purgatory from hell to higher levels. This is not in the bible but of course in the imaginings of the money hungry Catholic Church. To have a book like 2 Esdras reveal it as a fraud was heretical. It was further nothing more or less than ancestor worship, banned in the bible.

    This is clearly a false teaching because you know Jesus or Yahshua told the Pharisees and Sadducees that that they would never get into heaven. 

    It’s really nice to believe Yahweh doesn’t judge no matter how vile the crime committed. but there is unmerited pardon or grace. He want’s us to repent of our actions humbly on our knees but these men are the problem who are misleading people. Yahwehnews comm

  • Bob Brooke

    “In the sea of God’s forgetfullness; that’s good enough for me.  Praise God!  My sins are gone.”


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