So you’ve done something wrong. You’ve made a mistake. A really big one and your feeling guilty, afraid if the consequences, shocked by your behavior.
Fortunately, the Bible has an answer for everything. Very early in the scriptural record, the Bible tells of God’s covenant, or agreement, with the people. His protection and care are promise in return for the people’s exclusive loyalty and obedience to His commandments. Through God’s grace this covenant was renewed over and over, even when the people failed to keep up their end of the agreement.
We will be considering Philippians 3:12-14. Do we let go of the past, or does it haunt us in the future? We hear a lot of “get over it,” but do we truly get over the hurt, and pain? This will be our main focus. One of our remarkable things God created is the ability to conceptualize time–past, present, and future.
The apostle Paul had a remarkably practical attitude about time. He wrote “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.” His attitude was balanced. Paul did not naively sweep his past mistakes under the rug. Nor did he sacrifice his services to Christ to unproductive remorse and guilt. Let us consider four ways our thinking about the past can hurt us if we are not careful.
The Past Isn’t What
It Used To Be
It is foolish to mourn for the “good old days.” (KJV) The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote in chapter 7, verse 10: “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Our remembrance of the “old days” is rarely the whole truth about what events of the past were really like. It would be a shame to long for the past in such a morbid way that we miss the good of the present. For the Christian, today is a day to be grateful for–and the best is always yet to be!
The Mistake of The Past
Cannot Be Undone
“If clouds are full of water, they pour rain upon the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie.” (Ecclesiastes 11:3) The past is one thing that we must accept “as is.” It is something that we cannot change. There are a lot of mistakes that we all have made, choices that I made that I cannot change. And of course many of us regret those choices. It could be said that we have to reconsider our life choices. But there is hope! Look what the Psalmist wrote:
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalms 32:1-11, NIV)
God Forgave Us! And we need to remember that. Perhaps we should be reminded that to be forgiven our repentance must be genuine. It must be through. Repenting of part of our sin while denying the rest is not sufficient.
“Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children–with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. The LORD has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all. Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the LORD, O my soul.”-Psalms 103
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has the removed our transgressions from us.” It is awesome to know that our God forgives us when we sin. That he can forget about it and not remember what it was. His love is shown by his forgiveness toward us covered by his son’s blood, Even though we may feel guilty and shameful by his forgiveness he does not remember our transgressions. He actually forgets it.
Even the smallest to the biggest transgression, he forgives. For if we sin we can come to him and repent; He never remembers it at all. In fact, he forgets it. What we did in the past is wiped out and forgotten, literally!
A healthy sense of shame for past errors will not paralyze us with regret, but rather will spur us to greater service in the present. The Apostle Paul is the perfect example: “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”-1 Corinthians 15:9-10.
Yesterday’s Work Will Not
Suffice For Tomorrow
Congregationally and individually, there is a tendency for us to peak out and then loosen our efforts. We cannot afford to rest on our “laurels,” or try to be saved by yesterday’s obedience. “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”-Hebrews 6:10-12.
“Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”-Eph. 5:15-16. We need to “redeem the time.” We need to press on. Not looking back but following after Christ. For the KJV says, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
The Christian Cannot Grow
We can be too comfortable with being too “conservative” for our own good. (Luke 12:50; John 12:27, NIV) Jesus knew what his fate was. The horror and the pain, and maybe the darkness. It is human nature to sense what would happen. He asked the father to save him, like Jesus he would save the world from sin. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV) To live is to change, and to reach will be to have changed often. Without changing there is no grow to become more mature in Christ Jesus. Being like-minded with Him, Jesus.
We simply cannot change our past. Through faith in Jesus and His Father, we can “press on.” (Phil. 3:12) As long as life lasts, it is always possible for us to make choices that result in the end being better then the beginning. -Eccl. 7:8, Ruth 3:10. May we have the courage for the better, whenever necessary, and to make each day a day of growth.
All Scriptures take from the New International Version of the Bible, unless otherwise indicated. Materials used from www.brassacks.org for sermon helps. These outlines are provided for use. Copyright © 2000, revised 10/2015 by RCYM. All Rights Reserved.
 Eph. 5:15-16, KJV