Have you ever met a Christian who seemed to not want to be forgiven? I’m not talking about the sinner, unsaved. I’m talking about the repentant, redeemed by the blood of Christ. It’s almost as though he or she preferred to stay under the heavy yoke of guilt instead of the Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden (Matthew 11:30).
If ever there was a Christian who could claim the “woe is me I’m unworthy” mantle it was the Apostle Paul. Paul had every reason to believe he should not be forgiven. (Side note: no one should be forgiven; that’s why it’s called grace!)
And yet Paul could write what are to me some of the most encouraging and inspiring words:
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)
Paul knew that he had not yet attained all his Christian potential, but he also knew that he had to put the past behind him, both successes and failures. The antithesis to the Christian never wanting to forget his past sins, is the Christian who will never let you forget her past successes. Both need to be forgotten. As my pastor Bro Dennis once shared with me, the things that have become crystallized need to be shattered with a sledgehammer (perhaps I’ll tell you that story one day). Dr. Jerry Vines put it this way:
“You cannot change the past but you surely can break its hold over you. That’s the promise of Gospel power. Old things past, all things become new. Some things need to be obliterated. For example, your past sins need to be buried. Yet, some people have a tendency to dig them up. Jesus has forgiven you. Accept it.”
It is only natural to have regrets in life; we all do. However, my beloved Christian brothers and sisters you must not live a life of guilt. If there is one thing I could put my finger on where I see more Christian immaturity it is in dealing with guilt. Nothing will dwarf our Christian growth more than guilt. For every circumstance we face, everyone of these should be an opportunity to grow in Christian maturity. Paul told the Corinthian church in his second letter to them:
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
The 1st Century Roman writer Publillus Syrus wrote, “Successful guilt is the bane of society.” So many politicians will try to use guilt to justify unconstitutionally spending taxpayer dollars on unethical entitlements. Family members will use guilt to hobble a family and keep one another crippled from any sense of success.
In a family of Christians this should not be! We are to rejoice in the success of others, not resent it. We are to applaud those who do well, not murmur about how our successes were overlooked.
And we cannot, we must never, no never, use our past failures as an excuse to not be obedient to the call God has on our lives today. We must keep “reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
And when I feel the urge to look back at my past I must “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” To do anything less is unworthy of our Lord and surely does not bring God glory.
Have you made yourself a statue of your past failures and/or successes? Do you gaze upon it daily? Is that monument of misery blocking you from moving forward?
Take a sledgehammer to it. Obliterate it! You were made for so much more than this.
Remember what Paul told the Corinthian Church; we have liberty in Christ.
It’s time to start living like a freeman.
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Copyright © 2011 David Jeffers