Obviously that verse is not complete, but I wanted to stop it to get people thinking. Paul is writing this in Philippians 3:13, and he is going to tell us the one thing that he has learned that has made a huge difference in his Christian walk. What do you think it is? You may already know the verse, but if not I think it might be surprising to some what he is about to say.
“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
Paul had learned the importance of forgetting about his past. Although Paul was now a Christ follower and called by God to preach his love and grace, he had previously been a Pharisee and even watched and approved of the death of Stephen for following Christ. How would that lay on your heart?
Although Paul knew that through the blood of Jesus he was completely forgiven, I’m sure he had to fight self-condemnation as much if not more than anyone else. I’m sure the devil came a knocking more than once with thoughts like, “Look what you have done. How could you ever be used by God? You are now following the same Jesus that you once persecuted? What a hypocrite.”
Praise God that Paul learned one thing: to not allow his past mistakes to dictate his future of being used mightily by God. He didn’t allow himself to receive the lies of the devil and focus on his past. He knew if he was to move forward with Christ and fulfill the calling God had on his life he couldn’t dwell on the past but had to let it go and turn his eyes to focus on the prize, which was Jesus.
I believe this is an area in which so many Christians struggle. Just the other day I started reflecting on my past and some of the things that I regretted. I thought about things I said to others that I wish I hadn’t and choices during my brief stint at coaching that I would like a do over on.
As I was thinking on those things, it really started getting me down. It made me feel like a worthless person, like how could I be used by God with some of the choices I have made? Then I realized I was going down the wrong road, and I had to make a U-turn. I had to turn onto the road moving forward with God and not head down that road leading to the past anymore.
After all, how was reflecting on my mistakes going to help me? Yes, I can definitely learn from my mistakes, but meditating on them would take me into the deep pit of condemnation and leave me thinking that I was too bad to be used by God. If God remembers our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12) and has removed them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), we should not be dwelling on them either.
God has been impressing on me to write this column for a while because I think we all need to hear it. I especially felt God wanting me to address people who have struggled with sexual sin or have had people violate them in this area. You are not dirty. You are not trash.
If you have received Jesus you are a brand new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are able to be used powerfully by God. Don’t allow the shame of your past to keep you from moving forward with God. Don’t allow past mistakes to keep you from God’s future blessings. The devil wants you to live in the past, but God doesn’t.
Don’t fall for the lies of the enemy. Don’t let your past dictate your future. No matter what you’ve done, God’s grace is more abundant than your sin (Romans 5:20).
God hasn’t had any perfect people working for him, and you are not going to be the first. We are all sinners in need of a Savior and have been made righteous through faith in Jesus and him alone. Do that one thing that Paul says and forget those things that are behind so you can look forward to the things that are ahead in Christ. Keep him as your focus and not your past. Philippians 3:14 says, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Press forward to the calling in Christ that God has for you and leave the past in the past.
Amber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her AmberRiceMiller Facebook page.
Published: August 12, 2016