“When God Forgives, He Forgets”

"WHEN GOD FORGIVES, HE FORGETS"
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Heb. 8.12)

     INTRO.: A song which emphasizes the fact that the God to whom we sing praise is a forgiving God who will not remember our sins and iniquities once they are pardoned is, "When God Forgives, He Forgets." The text was written by Haldor Lillenas (1885-1959). A native of Norway, he came with his family to the United States and eventually became a minister with the Nazarene Church. He also was a prolific gospel song writer who founded the Lillenas Publishing Co., which later became part of the Nazarene Publishing House, and edited several hymnbooks which were popular among Nazarene and other holiness churches. Some of his hymns which are used among churches of Christ include "Wonderful Peace" and "Wonderful Grace of Jesus."

     The tune was composed by his wife, Bertha Mae Wilson Lillenas, who was born at Hanson, KY, on Mar. 1, 1889 (some sources give the date of 1891) to William Columbus and Eliza Jones Wilson. After she started elementary school in Kentucky, her father, who was a Nazarene minister, moved the family to California, where she continued her elementary education and graduated from high school in Long Beach, CA, also studying voice an piano with private tutors. While a student at Deets Pacific Bible College (now Pasadena College) in Pasadena, CA, she met Haldor.  After their marriage in 1910, they had two children, a daughter named Evangeline Mae and a son named Wendell. The couple lived in California, Illinois, Texas, and Indiana, before settling in Kansas City, MO. Bertha Mae was also a talented musician. Another one of her tunes which has appeared in books published by members of the Lord’s church is for Thomas O. Chisholm’s "He Changes Not."
 
     "When God Forgives He Forgets" was copyrighted in 1934 by the Nazarene Publishing House. After their retirement, the Lillenases lived in a retirement home near Iberia, MO. Bertha Mae died at Tuscumbia, MO, on Mar. 13, 1945. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "When God Forgives, He Forgets" appeared in the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 edited by L. O. Sanderson and published by the Gospel Advocate Co. (the old "brown book" with which I grew up). The only other book in which I have ever seen the hymn is the 1987 Zion’s Praises, edited by Aaron Z. Weaver and published by Weaver Music Company of Pittsgrove, NJ, a book used among the conservative Mennonites.

     This song praises God for the forgiveness that He offers us through Christ.

I. Stanza one emphasizes the redemption that makes forgiveness possible.
"My heart is singing a glad new song
Since Christ redeemed me from sin and wrong,
To Him forever shall praise belong:
When God forgives He forgets."
 A. The heart of the forgiven soul can sing a glad new song: Rev. 5.9
 B. This is because Christ has redeemed him from sin and wrong: 1 Pet. 1.18-19
 C. Thererfore, to Him forever shall praise belong: Heb. 13.15

II. Stanza two emphasizes the liberty that makes forgiveness desirable
"The load of guilt that encumbered me,
I lost while looking on Calvary,
My captive soul there found liberty:
When God forgives He forgets."
 A. The load that the guilt of sin brings is a heavy burden: Rom. 6.23
 B. However, we can lose that load by looking at Calvary, which metaphorically symbolizes the idea of coming to the cross to receive its benefits in obedience to the gospel of Christ: Rom. 6.17-18
 C. And the result of this is that the captive soul can find liberty: Gal. 5.1

III. Stanza three emphasizes the grace which makes forgiveness available
"And when I’ve ended life’s weary race,
And look with rapture upon His face,
I’ll sing this song of redeeming grace:
‘When God forgives He forgets.’"
 A. Someday we’ll end life’s race: Heb. 12.1
 B. And someday we’ll look with rapture upon His face: 1 Jn. 3.3
 C. Then, even as now, we shall sing of His saving grace: Eph. 2.8-9

     CONCL.: The chorus emphasizes the benefits of God’s forgiveness:
"When God forgives He forgets,
When God forgives He forgets,
My sins though as scarlet are made white as snow;
When God forgives He forgets."
Bertha Mae Lillenas’s rousing melody well joins with her husband’s words for a joyful expression of thanks and praise for the pardon that God offers us through the blood of Christ so that our sins, though as scarlet, can be made white as show (Isa. 1.18). All of us have sinned and deserve eternal death. Therefore, we should ever be grateful for the fact that "When God Forgives, He Forgets."

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