Updated: Dec 10, 2019
This week, my past made a surprise appearance. It certainly wasn't invited and I most assuredly did not expect it.
Or did I? There are so many times in the bible where we are told to look ahead, forget the past, look to the future. But what if we just cannot get past our past? Are we forever tied to our past? And why should we forget it?
I come across Philippians 3:12-13 a lot in bible study. God has a way of repeating a message until we may no longer need to apply it. I guess it's time for me to get to application because this verse seems to be everywhere for me.
It's like "Reticular Activating System." It works like this: Once something has been brought to your attention and you have been prepared to see it, you will see it virtually everywhere you go. E.g., a new car. When you decide about a new car you want, you begin to see them almost everywhere. This happens in other areas of our lives. We see what we are prepared to see. Your past and all that happened in it was created by you. You are prepared to see it, after all, you are your past's creator. But Paul tells us to forget the past.
One of the things that makes forgetting the past hard lies deep within the neurological wiring of our brain. Dr. Wilber Penfield, director of the Montreal Neurological Institute, said in a report to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC: "Your brain contains a permanent record of your past that is like a single, continuous strip of moving film…The film library records your whole waking life from childhood on. You can relive those scenes from your past, one at a time…feeling exactly the same emotions you did during the original experience." So, forgetting the past sounds like a contradiction. We are being asked to do something that seemingly is neurologically, psychologically, mentally and emotionally impossible. So why does Paul insist we forget what is behind? I believe Paul is saying that we are to forget the past in the sense that we should not allow our past failures, hurts, and disappointments to keep us from experiencing God’s best for our lives today. For many, their past is holding them hostage. They are being held hostage by past failures, mistakes, shame, regret and disappointment. Paul is encouraging us to break out of the hostage situation. He is saying, "don’t allow the past to hold you in bondage. Don’t be a prisoner of your past." He offers himself as the best example of this advice. Despite his misguided persecution of the Church, which could have resulted in immense and debilitating personal guilt, Paul did not succumb to his past's power to imprison him. He said,
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus 1 Timothy 1:12-14
Paul provides one of the best illustrations of someone accepting God's grace. Grace is the key that opens the door to freedom from the tyranny of the past. In essence Paul is saying that the "exceedingly abundant grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" is available to everyone who wants to close the doors of their past. God’s grace is as freely available today as then. God’s grace will allow us to move past our failures. And God's grace is made new every day, every hour, every minute. His grace is made perfect in our weakness. Grace, allows us to live courageously!
Satan will work diligently to convince you that because of a certain failure(s) in your past you cannot be restored in right standing before God. Even though you have confessed and moved away from the sin, he will continue to badger you with guilt and shame over what you have done as if you have never repented of it! This is known as false guilt, because the truth is, once a sin is repented of, that failure is washed away by the blood Jesus shed on the cross. In other words, Satan is pointing at something that no longer exists or can be seen through God's eyes. God's Word tells us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us. This is a promise!
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 (NIV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
We all have a past and we all at one time or another needed a fresh start. To create something new. The good news is, God says, “ I want you to have a fresh start in life, I want you to have a new beginning, I want to do something new in your life and I want you to see it through my eyes." Some people think that God is stuck on their past. That all He wants to do is remind them of the things that they have done wrong (that is Satan, re-read above). God is more interested in your future than He is with your past because the future is where you’re going to spend the rest of your life. He says,
“Forget about your past. Forget about the former things. Don’t think about it. Look at the new thing I’m going to do.” Isaiah 43:18-19
God is a God of new beginnings, He specializes in second chances, third chances, fourth chances. God refuses to live 5 minutes ago because He has so many good and amazing things in store for those who love Him. So let your past go. Put it down. Look forward and free your hands to accept the new, glorious blessings God has created for you. There it is!! Don't you see it? What are you looking forward to? I'd love to hear.