Dealing With The Past
DEALING WITH THE PAST
Do you have something in your past that hinders you from doing the right thing in the present? Have you ever, in the past, done something for which you are now ashamed? I have! I am also pretty sure that anyone who is reading this article has, in all probability, done things in their past that they now regret having done. It is human nature to look back upon the past. Some things we recall with fondness; other things with shame or embarrassment. The past often has a way of catching up with us. Our past sins, if unrepented of, must still one day be reckoned with – “…be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23) Nevertheless, even past sins for which we have been forgiven, have a way of haunting us in the present. Sometimes the consequences of our past sins are still felt many years after repentance and forgiveness. In my case, my conscience still bothers me about some of the things I have done in the past. Even though I realize that God has forgiven me of those things, I sometimes have a hard time forgiving myself.
The apostle Paul had things in his past that could have hindered him from doing the right thing. He had plenty of cause to be remorseful. He had persecuted the church in Jerusalem and other places, “…I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it…” (Galatians 1:13); “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison…” (Acts 8:3); “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2) He was even an accessory to murder at one point in his life! Remember when Stephen was stoned to death by an angry mob, that it was a young man named Saul who held the cloaks of Stephen’s assailants. “Then they cast him [Stephen] out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.… Saul approved of his execution…” (Acts 7:58; 8:1)
Even before Paul’s conversion, Ananias was apprehensive towards him when the Lord commanded him to go to Paul and teach him what he needed to do in order to be saved. He said, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” (Acts 9:13-14). After Paul’s conversion, the consequences of his past sins were still felt. Some years after his conversion, the Christians at Jerusalem were still cautious and suspicious of him, “And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” (Acts 9:26)
Paul had reason to regret his past. First, because of the way his conscience must have bothered him for the things he had done, and second, because of what some others thought about his sincerity. How did Paul deal with this adversity? How did he put his past behind him? Did he run away and hide? Did he forsake God? NO! In his own words, he said, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14) Paul’s answer to his regretted past was to forget it, to get over it and to reach for the things that were before him. He did not waste time on “what might have been,” but instead he strove for “what may be.” He pressed towards the mark!
Strive towards the mark of salvation! Do not let your past, or other people’s attitudes towards it, hinder you from doing what is right! If your aim is to live your life to bring glory to the Father, living a life of faithfulness, you shall never be ashamed.
With brotherly affection,