Dealing With Our Past

by Pastor Bob Miller

As I look back over 2018, there so many things that I had hoped to accomplish, which for one thing or another, they just never got done. I think I feel like the cartoon character Calvin, from Calvin and Hobbes who said, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind I’ll never die”.

Whether we find ourselves ahead or behind, we’ve all arrived at this moment in time “together.” And as Christians, we understand that God has a purpose for us to fulfill as we live out the days that He has gifted us with. If we are going to live into His purposes, then we need to keep a proper focus on how we face the days that we have.

The Apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians shared his perspective saying in Philippians 3:13-14:

"Brethren I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

When writing to the Corinthians in his second letter, the Apostle Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!”

Paul is emphasizing who we NOW are in Christ Jesus. Our past has been put behind us. We are done with it! We have been made NEW – our sins of the past have been forgiven by Christ, and we’ve been made alive in Christ to live for Him. Paul is telling us that our focus should be on what lies ahead of us and not behind us!

But with that said, there is given to us in God’s Word directions about how we are to deal with specific issues from our past which will help us live into our tomorrows. At the start of this new year, I want us to look at some helpful instructions on how we are to deal with our Yesterdays!

In Acts 19, Luke records the account of a revival breaking out in the city of Ephesus where many people are being saved and delivered from a lifestyle of ungodliness and sorcery. Notice what takes place beginning with verse 18:

“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery bought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way, the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”

These people took all these things that had to do with their former life of sin and destroyed them! Everything that was instrumental in the carrying out of their evil practices was burned, and they did it in such a way that their former associates knew that they were finished with that old lifestyle.

When we came to Christ, there were things in all of our lives that we had repented of and we turned away from! We recognized that for us, those things were wrong and they didn’t bring glory to God. And yet even now, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you saying, "that sin still has a hold upon your life." It’s time to turn your back on those things for they are robbing you of your joy and they are stealing your testimony. You haven’t made a clean break with certain things in your past, and they are keeping you from being all that God wants you to be!

The first thing that we need to deal with are those things in our life that we need to be done with and determine to do it no more!

There may be others who are doing those very things, and they seem to be getting along just fine. We are not called to judge them, but to release them from our judgment. Our call is to be done with those things that the Holy Spirit has revealed to us as being unbecoming and inappropriate for a follower of Jesus. And if He shows it to you, you must agree with what He was saying, and you must give it up. He requires you to do it! Now it may mean that you will have to conclude certain practices in your life! I’m not here to tell you which things you are to end because the Holy Spirit will reveal that to you in very clear terms.

You may need to physically remove items from your home that keep you from living all out for Jesus. As long as they remain, they are a stumbling block.

The stumbling block may be friends or associates, and you’ve never told them about the stand that you have been called to take with the Lord and so when you are around them you find yourself drawn into your former lifestyle or way of living. Maybe its time to burn some bridges and cut some ties to your past.

Another thing that we need to deal with regarding our past has to do with making restitution and settling old debts. In Luke 19, we find the story of Zacchaeus and how Jesus called him out of the Sycamore tree so that he might have dinner with him. Zacchaeus stood there and said in verse 8:

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Now the law required when you are in debt, you only pay 20% more than the actual indebtedness. But here Zacchaeus said he would restore four times the amount! And the reason Zacchaeus did this was that the crowds had begun to mutter among themselves. It wasn’t Zacchaeus they were complaining about. It was Jesus! He had gone to be the guest of a sinner! Zacchaeus didn’t do what he did so that Jesus would forgive Him. He did it for a testimony! He did it to seal the mouths of the critics.

Restitution is not our salvation. Jesus provides our salvation, and it does not come as a result of our works. But for the sake of a “testimony,” we must be willing to do what Zacchaeus did and make things right with those that we have wronged. There may be those whom we have hurt through our words or actions, and while the Lord has forgiven us, they do not know that we’ve repented of our sin and sought out God’s forgiveness. They can’t figure out how we can claim to be a Christian and have victory when all they know is what we did! In their minds, it doesn’t add up, and so they begin to mutter against Jesus.

And so for testimony, we need to be willing to ask the Lord to lead us and to help us to go back and to make things right so far as it is possible with us. Just because God has forgiven us, does not mean that we are finished. We also need to be willing to set things in order. Those around us need to be brought in on the victory that we enjoy.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."

So as far as we can and when it is possible, we need to make restitution and fix our old wrongs for the sake of a testimony.

One last thing to remember about our past is that our salvation comes to us through the grace of God by faith in Jesus Christ.

Grace = God’s Riches At Christ Expense.

It is given freely! We didn’t earn it nor do we deserve it. God demonstrates his love to us in this: While were we were still sinners Christ died for us. We were once dead in our sins, lost without hope, without God’s love in us and without any means of making it right! But God in Christ has forgiven us. He has adopted us, restored us, freed us from sin, and He has given us His Holy Spirit to make His home in our hearts, giving us eternal life and certain hope of inheritance with Him in heaven.