“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Back to the Future
A pervasive hindrance to an active, productive life of faith is a misdirected focus on the past. God is always working to help us move forward in our faith. He is future oriented. Our past experiences obviously influence our current and future actions; but when our gaze is too often fixed on the rearview mirror, we aren’t going to make the progress God wants. If our minds continually churn up destructive debris from the past, enjoying today and tomorrow is a chore. The past becomes a heavy metal albatross that few can bear.
A pantheon of great characters in Scripture was chosen by God despite their checkered past. Moses spent four decades in oblivion following a heated killing. Abraham had a regrettable liaison with his maidservant. Peter turned his back on the Savior at a defining moment. Paul was the ringleader for Pharisaic persecution of the emerging church. Had they allowed their prior behavior to unduly control them, they and we would be spiritual paupers.
I’m not sure what your past holds. Others may have hurt you deeply, abusing you physically or mentally. The memories are there every day and the feelings of shame won’t go away. Perhaps you are the guilty party and you are continually besieged by guilt and remorse over your actions. The past has a suffocating grip on your emotions.
The way of escape is through forgiveness─real, genuine, biblical forgiveness─that releases you from the irons of the past and releases those who hurt you. God put your sins behind you through his forgiveness the instant you trusted Christ. He holds nothing against you. You are no longer a debtor to God. You may not forget the past, but you can break away from it by extending God’s forgiveness to those who wronged you and forgiving yourself as God has. If this appears too easy a solution for complex problems, it isn’t. Extending God’s brand of forgiveness to others or yourself takes courage and determination. But forgiveness is the only cure for the wounds of the past. Denial, suppression, or penance don’t work. There is no other recourse.
Forgiveness is an act of grace, treating people with the favor of God, not as they deserve. Such grace is an expression of our faith in God’s provision for our future. We can move on with our life. We can look forward to good things. We are not prisoners of our past. Forgiveness has cleaned the slate and liberated us to become what God wants. Like Paul we possess the mindset that says, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul’s past wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t stop him from enjoying and serving God effectively.
Put the past behind you, where it belongs; and watch Christ propel you into future grace, anticipating the goodness of God.
Thank you, Father, for revealing to me how you used people with a sinful past to accomplish great things─even being a part of the earthly lineage of your Son. It comforts me and lets me realize you can do much through me.
Learn from the past, but don’t drag its dregs into the future.
A Touch of His Goodness Dr. Charles Stanley page 113