Leaving the past behind
One of my (many) favorite verses is Philippians 3:13b-14 (ESV), “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
I embrace this passage because it is so powerful and relevant to all of us in what it says. “Forgetting what is behind.” All of us as individuals and even as churches have “stuff” in the past. We have all faced struggles that we have failed in. We all have regrets. And yes, we all have sins that we have committed; some on purpose and some through weakness! For those who have believed in Christ and been born again, we too have sinned against the Lord and done things we wished to God we hadn’t committed (see Romans 7). Yet there is a difference in the believer; as a believer we regret, despise and even hate the times we have failed. Others just roll on.
In that we “forget what lies behind” doesn’t mean that we take grace for granted. Yet we are all thankful for grace! For the Scripture says, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9). And we also know that Titus 2:11 teaches us that “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passion, and to live self-controlled, upright, and gold lives in the present age,” (Titus 2:11). So we see here there is a responsibility that we have in confession and renouncing sin or wrong.
Yet, all of us have sinned (Romans 3:23). We all have! Saint and sinner! The difference is confession! In confession to the Lord, He by grace forgives our sins and cleanses our unrighteousness.
The point I want to make is this: everyone of us have regrets, failures, struggles and sins! Though we do the best we can, we still fall short. But the Word of God says in the opening text that we are to “forget what lies behind.”
We all have things in our past, both good and bad. There are things we are proud of and things we are ashamed of. And those things either make us happy or haunt us. The instruction of the Word is to “forget what lies behind.” Why? Because what happened yesterday may affect us but shouldn’t control our now or our future.
I remind myself and say it to others often, “yesterday ended last night.” There is nothing we can do about yesterday. All we can do is what we do now. We, individually and even as “churches” all have struggles, disappointments, failures and even sin. But we cannot allow the struggles and failures of the past to rule us! We must move forward! Just as you cannot drive down the road always looking in the rear view mirror, you cannot live your life in the past if you plan to go forward. You glance at the past to see where you have been, but your focus must be forward.
The Scripture teaches us that our forward look must be in “pressing toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ.” What is that goal? To know Christ (see Philippians 3:10,11). Christ has called us to know Him and to be on mission for His sake (see Matthew 28:18-20).
So get beyond the past, don’t be held hostage by it. Move on in the grace of God! Glance at the rearview mirror and learn. Then look through the windshield of what Christ Jesus has done for you in His death and resurrection and then what He has called you to and move on.
We cannot afford as individuals and churches to live in regret of the past … failures, disappointments, sins and all.
We must move forward in the call of God to do His will and spread the good news of the Gospel!