I write and post this on March 17, 2023 which is St. Patrick’s Day. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. For more than 1,000 years the Irish have celebrated this saint bringing Christianity to Ireland. In many ways, people celebrate Irish culture more than they do what motivated Patrick.

Here’s why I post. We become what we celebrate.

Our congregation is a Baptist church. We are not Roman Catholic and do not have patron saints. We have significant differences in our theological formulations than do the Roman Catholics. But just because we don’t agree on everything doesn’t mean that church history is to be ignored or utterly rejected. Christians of all denominations and backgrounds can learn some things from Patrick’s life and witness.

Much of what is remembered regarding St. Patrick is fable and myth—like the claim that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland. But what is certain about Patrick is his influence as a missionary. A Romanized Briton, Patrick was sold as a slave to a cruel Northern Irish master at 16. During his enslavement, he suffered greatly facing abuse and many difficulties. While raised nominally as a Christian, his suffering drove him to deeper faith in God. He escaped slavery after 6 years and boarded a ship to Europe.

Not long after returning to his family in England, God called him to be a missionary in Ireland—the land of his slavery. Though he may not have been the first missionary, Ireland in those days was pagan and wicked. Facing opposition from the druids, Patrick offered these words.

Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity. But I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of the God almighty who rules everywhere.

St. Patrick

While not well-educated, Patrick prayed deeply and read the Scripture constantly. He also valued the education he lacked and promoted the copying of much European writings that actually resulted in their survival during the Middle Ages. His life and witness was greatly influential as hundreds of Celtic monks left their homeland to spread the gospel to Scotland, England and Europe. 

I’m not suggesting that we adopt Patrick as a patron saint. But Patrick’s life and ministry do teach us some things worth celebrating. If we become what we celebrate, then what have you celebrated lately? Here are a just a few celebration lessons from Patrick’s history that we can adopt.

  • We can celebrate spiritual development and learning. In his excellent book How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill tells the story of how Patrick’s love of learning and education influenced the copying of ancient texts and kept much learning alive in the Medieval world. In my devotions this morning, I read these verses in Galatians 4:18-19: “It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!” Christ formed in us is the purpose of Christian discipleship (see also Romans 8:29). There is no better way to develop and learn spiritually than to read God’s Word and follow Christ. Take a moment today and celebrate the Bible that you have, the lessons from its pages, and the people who have taught it to you.
  • We can celebrate even in suffering. Patrick’s life was anything but easy. He suffered unjustly as a slave facing cruelty and abuse. Many of us are suffering today physically, spiritually, or emotionally. Some of us have faced unjust or abusive treatment. Patrick did not withdraw into emotional or personal isolation. Rather, his sufferings drove him to God. I’m not suggesting that we celebrate our sufferings. But I am suggesting that we celebrate Jesus who suffered on our behalf, and that we celebrate the God whose suffering through Christ on the cross is our redemption.
  • We can celebrate the work of redemption. Patrick was a missionary. He took the gospel to Ireland, and many became followers of Jesus because of his witness. Who shared the gospel with you? That person, church, Sunday school teacher, parent, grandparent, pastor, missionary, evangelist, friend is worth celebrating. And we must celebrate the salvation of sinners! In the past week, I’ve learned of three people who have put their faith in Christ. One was a gentleman I’ve been talking to recently. He was helped on his journey by several church members. Another was a 6 year old whose grandmother led him to trust in Christ after his many questions about Jesus and eternal life. The third was a gentleman who came to peace with Christ after realizing that the perfection he was striving for had already been attained by Christ. I’m celebrating these who have come to faith in Christ. Will you celebrate with me?

If you don’t wear green or participate in St. Patrick’s day celebrations, that’s ok. But let’s remember to celebrate what God has taught us, how he has helped us through suffering, and how his has redeemed us. If you’re in the Wilkesboro area, join us for worship at Wilkesboro Baptist as we celebrate Jesus this Sunday (8:00 am, 9:30 am, or 11:00 am). If you’re not in our area, make plans to go to church and celebrate this weekend.

My information about Patrick came from this wonderful book 131 Christians Everyone Should Know.

Photo by Artur Kornakov on Unsplash

Have you ever walked out of your house without your keys, wallet, or phone? How many times? I’ve lost county how often I’ve done that. Have you ever forgotten someone’s name? An appointment? A promise?

Memory is something precious and vital. Today, memory clinics assist in the diagnosis and response to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Centuries ago, teachers and communicators would memorize significant portions of classical writings and wow their students with impeccable memories.

For most of us today, we remember what we value (a person’s name, sports statistic, or even subject in school). We have many memory aids today. Our smart phones store names, numbers, and calendars. Our laptops and tablets keep our notes and documents. These advances are helpful tools. But even so, we have trouble with our memory.

The things we want to remember, we forget, but the things we want to forget, we always remember.

While we forget some things (appointments and names), we find it very difficult to forget other things. Do we forget the grudge we are holding against that other person? Do we forget the angry word or response to a spouse or child? Do we forget the images of the forbidden pictures we’ve looked at? And these are just a sample of the sinful things we find it hard to forget.

We find it very difficult to forget the pains and wrongs done to us. Do we forget the slight of someone who is supposed to care about us? Do we forget the misdeed or mistreatment from a loved one? Do we forget the pain caused by mean or abusive behavior? Some things done to us we find it hard to forget.

The things we remember whether what we’ve done or what others have done to us too often shape our self-perception and identity. Often, these identity related self-perceptions are lies. Here are some lies we are tempted to believe: We are not worthy of love because of the way we were treated. We must deserve the anger, hate, and vitriol spewed by the person who is supposed to love us. We can’t forgive ourselves of our misdeeds, so we must be unforgivable.

But these are lies. We must learn to believe what God says to us and about us.

In the New Covenant quoted by the writer of Hebrews from Jeremiah 31, God says the following about us:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
    when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
    and with the house of Judah,
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
    on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
    and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
    and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
    and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
for they shall all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
    and I will remember their sins no more.”

Hebrews 8:8-12

God says that he will make a new covenant with his people. God says that he will make his people new, putting his law in our hearts and minds. God has that his people will know him “from the least to the greatest.” God says that he will show mercy and “remember their sins no more.”

We are recipients of the New Covenant and these promises if we have trusted in Christ alone to be our Savior. And if we have become a part of his people, his family, then God has chosen to “remember our sins no more.”

The truths of this passage encourage us in some very important ways.

  • If God remembers our sins no more, then our identity must not be found in our sins. Too many of us are holding too tightly to the sins of our past. We either do this because we don’t think we deserve anything better (a form of self-punishment) or because we don’t really want to put our sins in the past (a form of self-temptation). Yes, we are sinners (see Romans 3:23), but we are also saints (1 Corinthians 6:11) who have been sanctified and set apart for God as new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Stop beating yourself up because of your past and start believing what God says about you.
  • If God remembers our sins no more, then our identity will one day go far beyond the pains and sins done to us. Too many of us are bound and enslaved by the abusive and sinful behaviors that we’ve experienced. Please read carefully. I do not suppose that this post is a simple answer to your emotional and psychological sufferings. But do read this. You are not defined by how others have treated you. If God can choose to forget our sins, then there is coming a day and time in eternity when our sufferings, pains, and abuse experiences will no longer enslave us. Heaven is our future, God is enthroned in heaven, and your suffering will have no sway over there. To those who have experienced abuse and suffering at the hands of others, let me encourage you to talk to someone. Confide in someone you can trust. Maybe see a counselor. You don’t have to navigate your sufferings and experiences alone.
  • If God remembers our sins no more, then we need to forgive others and ourselves. God is the only truly, legitimately, holy being in all the universe. Every sin ever committed is an affront to his holiness. And the glory of our God and his gospel is that he sent his Son Jesus to pay for our sins, to cleanse us, and to offer us redemption. If God, through Christ can and does forgive our sins, then we must not withhold forgiveness from someone else (Matthew 6:12-15). If God through Christ can and does forgive our sins, then we must forgive ourselves. We only harm ourselves when we fail to forgive–ourselves or others.

So remember this:

God will never forget his promises, but he chooses to forget the sins he has covered through Christ.

That is our God. And that is who we are through Christ.

Photo by Robert Linder on Unsplash