“Overcoming the Past”
Hello and welcome to "Key to the Kingdom." My name is Bret McCasland. One of the most valuable and eye-opening classes I ever attended was one in which people shared how God had worked in their life. They talked about their past life of sin and failure, disappointment and loss. But, they focused on how God changed their life and how they are now living much differently than in the past. They talked about what God had done for them through His son Jesus Christ. The people shared many ways in which God took them as they were, and changed them for eternity. Perhaps the story I just shared is similar to your story. You have tuned into this program, perhaps today, in hopes of finding something that will enable you to overcome your past and to move on to better days. If so, I am glad you have chosen "Key to the Kingdom." In our lesson today, we will notice how God transforms our life into what He wants it to be. No matter what our past looks like, God can work with it and bring about something new that will be an asset in His kingdom. Overcoming the past is not easy, and, in fact, it is impossible if we rely solely on our own resources. Yet when we realize and accept what Jesus has done for us, great things lie ahead. I hope you will stay tuned to this station for the next few minutes as we study from the Bible the topic of overcoming the past.
Have you ever been invited to a special event? Oh, I don't know what it might have been. Perhaps it was a very special banquet where you would enjoy a really fine meal and then some entertainment or perhaps even a special guest speaker. And, you were so excited and anxious to respond to that invitation, and you immediately did so. And you did because you wanted to take part in something very special. You could not wait for that day to come. And when it finally did arrive, you did everything to prepare yourself to go to that special event. You cleaned up and went into your closet and found your best suit of clothes or perhaps your prettiest dress, and you put it on. And, you were so excited to be a part of that special occasion. And, when I think about Jesus' invitation, that He extends to us, it is quite different. Oh, make no mistake about it, it is something very special, a wonderful occasion to receive from Him what He freely offers. But, Jesus invites us to come to Him just the way we are. We don't have to clean up. We don't have to put on our very best clothes. But, He invites us to come just as we are. And, that invitation is found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 11. <“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”> Jesus invites us to come to Him with the weariness of our burdens, with the problems and difficulties in our life, and He will exchange that heaviness for something that is light and easy. He will exchange that for a burden that brings rest to our souls. Let me ask you today, is your life overwhelming? Do you feel as if you are being swept away by the floods and the storms of life and you are simply trying to keep your head above water? Are you dealing with some strife and some anxiety in your relationships and you don't know for sure how they are going to work out, and it makes you just a little bit nervous? Oh, there are a host of things that we could put into those very same categories, and those things weigh us down. They create a burden upon us that we don't want to bare and it's hard to deal with. Jesus' invitation says, come to Me with all of that, with all of your baggage, with all of your problems, and I will exchange it for something that is far better. Yes, Jesus invites us to find rest and peace in Him; and, we may look this entire world over for that rest and peace; and, we may be able to find it for a period of time; but, Jesus invites us to receive something from Him that will last forever. But, why does Jesus do that? Why does He invite us to receive something that far outweighs anything this world has to offer? Well, His invitation revolves around one primary thought, and that is because His Father loves us. His Father loves you. His Father loves me. Yes, Almighty God in heaven loves every single person on the face of this Earth. And, He demonstrates that love by giving His son Jesus to us. Listen to these words from the letter of Romans, in chapter 5, the words of the apostle Paul which begin in verse 6. <You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.> That's an amazing passage of Scripture; that at just the right time, in the midst of my sin, in the midst of my ungodliness, in the midst of my waywardness, Jesus died for me. That is the way God demonstrates His love for people. He sent His one and only Son into this world to die for the sin of all mankind, so that we don't have to live with that sin, so that we can exchange it for a brand-new life in Him. Oh, there is no need for me to share with you all of the sins and mistakes in my life, or my past failures. And of course, there is no need for you to share with me all of the sins and mistakes and failures in your life, either. We are able to overcome the past because of what Jesus has done for us. And when He takes our sin to the cross, as He already has, we don't have to live in it anymore. We can move on to a brand-new life, which He offers to us, a life of rest, a life of peace. Throughout my lifetime, I have received some very wonderful gifts from some special people. I've received some wonderful gifts from my parents, my wife, from my children, and from other special people, and those were their demonstrations of love for me. I cherish those gifts. In fact, I have many of them, still, and they mean a great deal to me. And, I'm thankful for the love and for the relationship I am able to share with all of those people, as we exchange and give gifts to one another. And yet, there is one gift that far exceeds all of the rest, and that is the gift that God has given to me through His son Jesus Christ; a gift that was given to me that does not need to be given again because it is sufficient for all time. And in that gift, I have the forgiveness of my sin. And that's what we just read, there in Romans chapter 5, that God loves us in spite of our sin. In spite of the mistakes and the problems that we have in our life, God says, "I love you, and I have sent My Son to demonstrate My love for you." In essence, what God does by the sending of His Son and the demonstrating of His love is that He sets us free. He sets us free from sin. He sets us free from the realm of Satan. And that is seen in one particular passage of Scripture in the letter of Colossians, chapter 1. Listen to verses 13 and 14. <For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.> Yes, God redeems us. He sets us free. And through that, we experience the forgiveness of the sin in our life. From time to time on television, I hear news stories about great natural disasters that come in various parts of the world, or in my own state, or perhaps even in the community in which I live, and that might be in the form of an ice storm, a tornado, or windstorm, a hurricane, a tsunami, a great big fire, or a number of other things. And as I listen to those stories, I see pictures on television about all of the destruction that comes to those communities, perhaps even a school or individual homes, and there is destruction and debris and damage which is left behind. But, often times there is a secondary story about a person who is trapped in all of that debris and that destruction, and they can’t get out, and they are very quickly losing hope. They don't know for sure if they are going to live or die, but they begin to cry out for help and for someone to rescue them. And at just the last moment, just before they give up hope, someone hears that faint voice. And, they immediately drop down and begin to remove all of the trash and debris, and they find that person and they bring them out and give them another opportunity to live. Now, that's a rescue. I don't know if you have ever experienced anything like that before, or not, but perhaps you can relate to someone who has done that. And now, you can imagine in your mind how wonderful it is to be rescued from such destruction and debris, and perhaps even certain death. And as we have seen here in Colossians, that is just part of what God does. He takes us away from Satan and from his dark kingdom, the prince of this world; and then, He transfers us into the Kingdom of Light, the kingdom of His one and only son Jesus Christ. Yes, God takes us away from something bad and He places us into something good. He delivers us from the realm of darkness and Satan and He transfers us into the kingdom of His son Jesus Christ, where we can experience a brand-new life in Him. Yes, that is the way that God overcomes our past and gives us a brand-new start. When I think about that, I realize that God would rather rescue us than watch us perish. In 2nd Peter chapter 3 and verse 9, we know that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. And then 1st Timothy 2 and verse 3, we read that God wants all men to be saved. And indeed, that is God's ultimate goal for every person, that we do not perish but we come to receive the salvation He freely offers through His Son's invitation, Jesus Christ. But the question is, how then do we respond to God's great love for us? There is a familiar story that is told in Luke chapter 15. It's told by Jesus himself and it describes God's love for people. The story revolves around two boys who work for their father. The youngest son decided one day he wanted his share of the inheritance and so he asked his father for it. The problem was, however, the father was probably not ready to quit work and divide up the inheritance. But, because of his great love for his son, he did just that. And that young son took his share of the inheritance and he moved off into a foreign country, and there he began to live any way he wanted to live. There was no accountability. He spent all of his money foolishly. And before he knew it, he had no money left. He didn't have anything. He did not even have a job. And, the only job he could find was feeding the pigs of a farmer. Oh, how humiliating that must have been for a young Jewish boy. But in verse 17 of that chapter, one day, the text tells us, he came to his senses and he realized that the servants in his father's house had it better than he did out here in the pig pen. And so, he decided to go back home and ask for a position as a servant. In the meantime, the father is back home longing and waiting for the return of his son. And every day he looks down the path just as far as he can see, hoping that today is the day he will come back. And finally, he sees his son. He runs down the path and embraces him. He brings him back, puts a robe on his shoulders and a ring on his finger, and he even kills the fatted calf. He invites the entire community to come out and to celebrate because, this, his son who was lost is now found. He who had gone away had now come home. And in the midst of that, the son tries to give an explanation, and to ask for forgiveness. But, the father won't hear it because that was in the past and now a new day has come. And as Jesus tells the story, of course, the image is that his father loved him in spite of his sin and mistakes. And, that is the way our Father does for us. Our Heavenly Father forgives us and loves us in spite of our sin and in spite of our mistakes. He gives us the opportunity to overcome our past and to make a brand-new start with Him. When we receive God's love and His forgiveness, He also forgets the sin in our life. Not only does He forgive it, but He forgets it, not to revisit it any more. That means that we don't need to revisit it, either, but we are forgiven. Our sin is forgotten and now we can move on with a new life in Jesus Christ. We are now ready to start over. As our sin is forgiven and washed away in baptism, we now become a disciple and follower of His son, Jesus Christ. What does that look like? What does that new life, or that start-over, look like? In part, Jesus tells us, in Luke chapter 9, what it looks like being a disciple of His. Listen to these words from Him beginning in verse 23. <"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."> Jesus tells us, "When you become My disciple, on a regular, on a daily basis, you will follow Me. It doesn't matter what you do or what you accomplish in this world. The only thing that matters in the end is that you acknowledge Me as God's one and only Son. Oh, you may gain it all in this world, but it will do you absolutely no good at all if you do not recognize Me as God's Son and the Savior of this world." Jesus also stated in Matthew 6:33, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added to you as well." When we begin a new life in Jesus Christ, overcoming our past and starting over for the present and the future, Jesus is no longer our last resort, but He is our first priority. And, that is basically what it means to allow Him to be the Lord of our life, and the Savior of our soul, and to walk in His footsteps, to be His disciple, and be a part of God's family. Yes, when we start over, our priorities change. We begin to think differently. We begin to act differently. Perhaps our associations with others, or our relationships with people, all change. And, everything is surrounded by our priority in Jesus Christ, what He wants us to do, who He wants us to be, and how He wants us to live. That is the process that takes place when we receive His invitation to come to Him with all of our baggage, with all of our weariness and burdens, and exchange them for a life of peace and rest. That comes from our Father in heaven, because of His great love for us and the forgiveness that He extends through His son Jesus Christ. And when that happens, our natural response is to rejoice, to recognize and to embrace a brand-new life. Our past is gone. It is taken away, and now we can rejoice in a new life in Him. There are several places in the New Testament that encourage us to live that life of rejoicing and celebration because of Jesus. There is one that really is interesting, found in the letter of Philippians, written by the apostle Paul. He writes this letter to a group of Christians in Philippi who are struggling to find some joy. They are having some problems in their relationships and they’re really not living a joyful life in Jesus Christ. And so, Paul writes some encouraging words to them. Now here's the interesting thing about that: Paul writes those words from a prison cell, perhaps even chained to a guard. He doesn't know for sure if he is going to live or die. He's in prison, but yet he writes some of the most encouraging words that we will ever find in Scripture. Listen to these words in Philippians chapter 4 beginning with verse 4. <"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.> Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say it, rejoice! That is what each and every one of us, as children of God, are to do, to live a life of rejoicing. And yes, there may be times when we encounter anxiety and problems, and worry begins to overtake our life. Yet, Paul says take that to the Lord in prayer. In a prayer of thanksgiving, recognize what He has done for you; and, let Him handle all of those burdens and problems that you encounter in this world; and, live with great joy. Yes, Jesus replaces the trauma of the past with rest and peace for the future. And when we receive God's love and His forgiveness, and become a disciple of Jesus Christ, that is the kind of life He encourages us to live. Join with me now in a word of prayer. <<God, as we have just read today, we thank You for the salvation that we have in Jesus Christ. And, when we feel overwhelmed and burden by the problems and stress and anxiety of this world, let us count our blessings. Let us be thankful that You love us, that You are patiently waiting for us to return to You, to receive Your forgiveness. God, we thank You so very much for the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. That even in the midst of our sin and our ungodliness, He died for us so that we don't have to live in that sin and in our past any longer. May it be that we receive the free gift of salvation that You offer through Your son Jesus Christ, today. It is in His name that we offer this prayer. Amen.>> No matter how overwhelming your past may be, your future is bright. Your future has all kinds of wonderful spiritual blessings in store for you if you will but receive the invitation that comes through Jesus Christ, God's one and only Son. My encouragement for you today is to say goodbye to your past and to embrace and welcome a brand-new life. Respond to God's love. Be immersed in baptism, as you believe in the name of Jesus Christ and as your sin is washed away. And then, begin to live a life of rejoicing. Begin to live a life of celebration because of what He has done for you. And then, celebrate that brand-new life of living as a child of God. Yes, my encouragement is that you will overcome your past and embrace a brand-new future that God has in store for you.
Thank you for joining us for today's lesson. My hope is that you are encouraged to know there is hope for your future, no matter what your past looks like. That one thought alone inspires us to keep on going. It inspires us to keep looking ahead to what God has in store for us. Oh, no matter what problems or difficulties we experienced in the past, the future can be much different. It is amazing how God can take a life that appears to be washed up, abused, and of no value to anyone and make something special. Perhaps you are ready for Him to do that with your life. If so, maybe we can help. We offer a free Bible study that has blessed thousands of people. It is a self-guided study that requires no money and no commitment. It is absolutely free and will be sent to you when you request it. Please call the number on the screen, leave your name and address, and we will be happy to mail it to you. Or, you can go through that same Bible study on our website, keytothekingdom.com. In addition to that, other messages like the one you have just heard can be easily downloaded. They will not cost you any money, but will give you insight on how you can overcome your past. Again, all of these things are simply ways you can know more about God's love for you. Again, thank you for tuning in to today's program. And, I invite you to join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."