Do you sometimes cringe when you remember your past mistakes and failures?
There are times when I wish I could delete files in my brain that are stuffed full of blunders, dumb choices, and outright rebellious decisions that led me down some dark paths.
Every so often, one peeks its head out of the file, and I cringe.
“Did I really do that?” “Did I actually say that?” Ugh!
There is a delicate balance between Paul’s words, “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…” Philippians 3:13
and what we see so often in Old Testament, as writer after writer recalls Israel’s rebellion and the judgement God rained down on His people when they refused to repent.
“Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.” Psalm 78:1-4,
Or Paul’s retelling of his days before his conversion.
5 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Forget Our Past
it’s like looking back on a different person.
It’s like that story isn’t even my own. And truly it isn’t.
When we come to Christ, our old man dies with Him; and we are buried with Him and raised to new life with Him through water baptism.
The old is gone and a new person is born. Born again!
This is why it is crucial that we learn to identify with the new creation God has made us to be, and not with the old person that did all of that nasty stuff before God made us new.
However, while I don’t identify with the girl who did a lot of stuff that should have gotten her kicked out of Bible school….
while I don’t identify with the girl who kept going back to an abusive relationship, and nearly said “I do” that person…
I haven’t forgotten my past.
The pain of those memories is gone. Even the cringe I get isn’t from shame, it’s from wonder….because the person I am today would never do or say those things!
1. Remembering the past reminds us of our frailty
“But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; For He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again.” Psalm 78:38
The longer we walk with Jesus, the greater the temptation is to become puffed up with pride when we see a brother or sister fall into sin.
We look at them and deep in our heart we shake our head in disgust and think, “I would never do that!”
Actually, what we’re thinking is, “I could never do that.” Which is a lie. We are all capable of the worst kind of sin, if the circumstances are right.
We are all capable of murder, given the proper amount of hate toward another human being.
We are all capable of adultery when we allow ourselves to dwell too long on someone of the opposite sex, who isn’t our spouse.
We are all capable of stealing, considering our desperate need to provide for our families when we’ve been out of a job for a while.
We’re all capable of lying when the stakes are took high if the truth is known.
As much as we’d like to think that we are strong enough to withstand sin, the truth is that we’re about as strong as a plastic straw in a hurricane.
Without the grace of God.
And it is good to be reminded that without God’s grace, we are not only frail, we’re utterly incapable! We have neither the strength nor the cability to stand against sin.
It is the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit that enable us to stand.
2. Remembering the past reminds us of God’s goodness
“And they tested God in their heart by asking for the food of their fancy. Yes, they spoke against God: they said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Behold, He struck the rock, so that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people?’ Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel, Because they did not believe in God, and did not trust in His salvation. Yet He had commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven, Had rained down manna on them to eat, and given them of the bread of heaven. Men ate angels’ food; He sent them food to the full. Psalm 78:18-25
It is humbling to look back on our past and see the hand of God still offering us blessing, even in those times when we were far from Him.
So many people view God as a giant, angry Deity in heaven with a huge stick ready to bludgeon us with horrible circumstances, raining down judgement on our head for every infraction.
But Romans paints a different picture of God when it says that “the goodness of God leads you to repentance” Romans 2:4
Yes, God brought judgement on His people and His enemies alike, but He so often delayed His judgement, giving them many opportunities to repent and turn from their sin.
Judgement was His last resort.
3. Remembering the past reminds us that we are all equal under grace
Please remember this: there is no hierarchy in the kingdom of God.
There is no leader board, no score sheet, no gold, silver or bronze medal winners in heaven.
Billy Graham will not have a greater place of honor in heaven than the old curmudgeon who received Christ as His Savior 3 minutes before he drew his last breath.
This is why Jesus shared the parable of the men who worked in the field; those who came later in the day received the same pay as those who showed up bright and early in the morning.
We’re all equal under grace.
We’re all equally lost before grace. We’re all equally desperate for God’s grace. We’re all equally saved under grace. We all equally need grace every single day to live this Christian life.
You don’t grow out of grace!
Reading your Bible from cover to cover every single year for the next 50 years does not mean you need God’s grace any less than the girl who struggles to read one chapter every few days.
The more intimately we come to know God, the more we’re convinced of our utter brokenness without Him!
4. Remembering the past reminds us of God’s discipline
“Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God, and did not keep His testimonies, But turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers; they were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their carved images. When God heard this, He was furious,
and greatly abhorred Israel, so that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent He had placed among men, And delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy’s hand. He also gave His people over to the sword, and was furious with His inheritance…Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation.” Psalm 78:56-64
Just because God is loving, kind, and full of grace doesn’t mean that God’s patience is unending.
I have often heard Christians say, “But God knows my heart…”, revealing how deceived they are about their own good intentions.
About their own goodness in general.
Jeremiah wasn’t kidding when he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
The brutal fact that we must come to realize is that, yes, God does know our heart. Far better than we do – and therein lies the problem.
He knows our heart’s propensity to wander always toward sin…never toward righteousness.
We will never wander in a good direction.
And so often, remembering our own past….and the past sins of godly people, very godly people, heroes of the Bible: Samson, David, Abraham, Moses…serves as a reminder to us to remain vigilant and alert on our journey with Jesus!
Because while God is longsuffering, there comes a point in life of a rebellious son or daughter of God when He says, “Enough”.
And no child of God wants to hear Him say enough.
What follows “enough” is His discipline. And His discipline is painful….utterly painful. I know this firsthand.
5. Remembering the past reminds us of how far we’ve come in our journey
There is something very encouraging and motivating about looking back on where we’ve been and seeing where we are today.
I think that’s why people love seeing before and after weight-loss pictures.
Walking with Jesus is much like losing weight, actually. We see ourselves everyday…we see our blunders, our failures, our inability to measure up.
And even though every day we’re growing more like Jesus, the progress seems so slow….almost non-existent.
That is, until we look back at where we were when we started….or even a year ago. Suddenly, we realize just how much we’ve grown and changed!
And it’s encouraging.
So, while we embrace Paul’s words: “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…” Philippians 3:13
…and refuse to allow our past to weigh us down with guilt and condemnation, we also don’t “forget” it, in the sense that we never remember it again.
God redeems our mistakes of yesterday and makes them a part of our testimony today!
Here is where you can find our online Bible study group: Good Morning Girls in the Word