“Forgetting the Past”
Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Do you know some people who like to live in the past? They dwell on past successes or failures. They relive painful memories, or even try to re-create special events. Oh, to reflect on the past from time to time is important, but to live in the present is most necessary. In our lesson today on “Key to the Kingdom,” our study takes us to one of the apostle Paul's most famous statements. It often provides motivation and encouragement to move on from the past. It inspires us to look ahead to the future and to pursue the good things that lie before us. These words are as true today as they were when Paul wrote them. I hope you will join us for the next few minutes as we take a closer look at forgetting the past and straining forward to what lies ahead. Open your heart and your Bible now, as we study together.
Perhaps you have heard the stories before. They go something like this. People recognize what God has done for them and they decide to give their life to Him. They forget about the mistakes and the pains of the past and they embrace their new future. They decide to give up the way they used to live and submit their lives to the Lord and to following Him. Yes, they put behind all of those things that have prevented them from living to the praise and glory of God, and they make a necessary change in their life and go in a new direction. Perhaps that has happened to you. And yet, realize it is not something new. That sort of thing has taken place for many years. And in fact, there are many stories in the Bible about God changing people in dramatic ways. When I think about some of those stories I am reminded of people like Moses, about whom we read in the Old Testament part of the Bible. At the age of 40, Moses was living in the land of Egypt. And being a Jew, one day he went out to visit some of his Jewish people there in Egypt, and he saw an Egyptian soldier beating one of his fellow Jews. He did not like that at all. And so taking matters into his own hands, he decided to take that Egyptian soldier's life. Looking around in hopes that nobody would see what he was about to do, he killed that man and then buried him in the sand. Well, not long after that, Pharaoh, the leader of all of Egypt, heard what Moses had done and he sought to take away Moses' life. And yet, Moses fled from Egypt and went into the land of Midian, and there, for some 40 years, he was a sheep herder. He tended the flocks out in the field. Then at the age of 80, one day, in the middle of the desert, he saw a bush burning, but it did not burn up. He went over to investigate and he heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Take off your shoes for the ground on which you are standing is holy." And he did just that. And it was with that that God had spent some 40 years preparing Moses to go back into the land of Egypt and to confront Pharaoh, and for him to become the leader of God's people, to lead the Israelites out of that Egyptian captivity. Here's another story, the story of David, again, in the Old Testament. He was a great servant of God. He was the second of three kings that ruled over all of United Israel. He was a good man. He did many things for the kingdom and the people loved David. But one day, David made a mistake. He messed up. He slept with another man's wife, and that man just happened to be his right-hand man, his chief soldier. But then to complicate matters, he had that man put to death. Yes, David committed sin. He slept with another man's wife and then he had her husband put to death. Not long after that, he was confronted with his sin. He recognized that he had done wrong and so he cried out to God for forgiveness. He pleaded with the Lord to bless him once again. He asked God to give him a clean and pure heart, as David changed his life. And, God did. David then went on to become what we call "a man after God's own heart," and he wrote many of the psalms that we have here in the Bible. Moving on to the New Testament, we read the story of a man named Peter. Peter was one of the three closest friends of Jesus, the other two being James and John. Peter sat at the feet of Jesus. He learned from Him. He walked with Him. He saw the ministry that Jesus did throughout His life upon the Earth. Toward the end of Jesus' life, He gathered all of His disciples into the room and shared a meal with them just prior to His death. And He told Peter, on that occasion, "Before the night is over, tonight, you will deny knowing Me on three separate occasions, and then the rooster will crow." Peter said, "No Jesus, that's not the way it's going to be, because I will be with You to the very end." Well sure enough, later on that evening, Peter denied knowing Jesus on three separate occasions. He heard a cock crow, the rooster, and then he saw Jesus look intently at him. Peter knew that he had messed up. He had denied knowing Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And with that, he went away with a sad heart. But after Jesus rose up from the dead, He appeared to many people and He specifically singled out Peter. When He did, He reinstated Peter. He gave him a second chance, a second opportunity, and Peter went on to do great things in the kingdom of the Lord, as he opened up the door of the church and became a great leader in it. Here's one more story. It's the story of Saul, in the New Testament, who later on became the apostle Paul. Saul was from a long line of religiously devoted people and he thought he was doing what was right. His goal was to persecute followers of Jesus Christ and perhaps even put some of them to death, and he was very intent on doing that. One day as he was traveling on the road to accomplish his mission, a great light from heaven shined upon him and Saul recognized that it was the voice of the Lord. And the Lord told him, "You are working against Me instead of working with Me." And Saul recognized that, indeed, he was headed in the wrong direction and so he asked for a new direction and a new purpose, and God gave it to him. He went into town, he learned, he was baptized into Jesus Christ, and later on his name was changed from Saul to the apostle Paul. And he became perhaps the greatest spokesman for the Lord Jesus this world has ever known. When I think about those stories and other stories like them that we find here in the Bible, we recognize that God was working behind the scenes in the lives of these people to prepare them for a better life and to do something good. Yes, the Bible records many stories about God changing people's lives to become useful tools in His kingdom. And when we read those stories, we are amazed at how God works in people's lives. We are amazed at how He works behind the scenes and puts together things and changes people's lives. He does things to make people recognize that He is the one whom they need to follow and to obey. And yet we also realize that God is still alive and working in His world, today. He is working in your life and He is working in mine, as well. Now, there may be times when we think we are doing what we need to be doing, or we may think we are exactly where we need to be in life. And yet it seems that God comes along and He challenges us to move forward and to keep on growing and maturing as His follower. God is constantly changing us and molding us and shaping us into the image of His son Jesus Christ. That was something the apostle Paul recognized. While he was sitting in a prison cell, not knowing for sure if he would live or die, he wrote some very encouraging and inspiring words. They are found in the letter of Philippians chapter 3, beginning with verse 12. <Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.> As Paul writes these words, he realizes that he hasn't achieved everything that perhaps God wants him to achieve. He reflects upon his life and he says here's what I'm going to do, verse 13, I'm going to forget what is behind me. I'm going to forget about the bad things that have happened in the past. I'm going to forget about persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ. All of that is in days gone by, and I can't change the past. But, here's another thing I am going to do: I am going to press ahead. I am going to strain forward to the race that is before me. Paul says I know there is a prize waiting for me at the very end of my life, and that is a home with the Lord in heaven; and, I long to receive that prize and so I'm going to forget about the mistakes, I'm going to forget about the days gone by, and I'm going to live each and every day as a brand-new day. I'm going to strain forward, I'm going to press ahead, and I'm going to be excited about what God has in store for me, each and every day; and, I can't wait to receive that prize of heaven. When I think about the story of Paul, I recognize that God did some great things in his life, in the past, to move him and to change him to where he needed to be, and Paul recognized the need to be moved. He recognized that he was headed in the wrong direction and now he was willing to submit to what God had in store for him and to make the necessary changes in his life. God still does the same thing with us today. He moves us and He changes us from where we are to where He needs us to be. He moves people from darkness to light. He moves people from being unsaved to being saved, from being outside of His family to being inside of His family; and all of that happens through God's son Jesus Christ. We are familiar with those words from Jesus in the gospel of John chapter 3 verse 16, perhaps the most familiar words in all the Bible: <For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.> We know that. We know that we can have salvation in Jesus Christ through believing in Him. But Jesus goes on, in that very same passage, to tell us how all of that takes place. Listen to these words that begin in verse 18 of that 3rd chapter. <Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.> Did you notice the many contrasts in those verses; the contrast between believing in Jesus and not believing in Jesus, the contrast between living and dying, between being saved and being condemned, and light and darkness, and doing what is right and doing what is evil? Those are the contrasts that Jesus draws out for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and those who do not. But here's the good news: God invites us to make the move. He invites us to move from being unsaved to saved, from the darkness to the light, from doing what is evil to doing what is good and right, and He offers to us that invitation to make the move through His son Jesus. That is one reason why Jesus came to this Earth, as we noticed there in verses 16 and 17. He came not to condemn us but to save us. He died upon the cross of Calvary. He was buried in a tomb and then rose victoriously from the grave on the third day. And when Jesus did that, He gave us the opportunity to start over, to have a brand-new life, to put to death our past and our mistakes, and to forget it, to move on from it, and then to embrace the new life that He has in store. Oh, lots of things in this world, both good and bad, tend to hold us back from moving forward and from experiencing a new life in Jesus. We hold onto those things, we allow them to weigh us down, and we are unable, sometimes, to move on and to embrace the good life that God has in store for us through Jesus. Oh, to his credit, the apostle Paul did some good things. He established many churches. He wrote letters of encouragement to young ministers. He wrote letters of instruction and guidance to churches in the way they need to live in the sight of Jesus Christ. And, the apostle Paul kept moving ahead. He recognized what Jesus had done for him personally, and he took that to heart. It made a difference in the way he lived. And like the apostle Paul, we too are to recognize the need to keep on moving ahead, keep on straining forward to what lies before us. Oh, we cannot rely on past successes nor can we re-live past failures. All of that is in the past. All of that is either good or bad, and that's okay. But like Paul, we keep straining forward. Let me ask you a question. What are some things you might need to forget about in your life? What are some things that hang like a dark cloud over your life that prevent you from straining forward and moving ahead? Or, perhaps there are some sin and mistakes that hang over you and there's a great deal of guilt with which you live. Well, recognize we cannot change the past. What has been done has been done, whether it's mistakes, or sins, or anything else. Oh yes, we learn from those things, but we keep moving ahead. We keep straining forward to the good life God has for us in Jesus. Perhaps there are some past achievements or accomplishments with your name on them and you think, "Well, I have done enough for the Lord and look at all of these good things to my credit." We can't live in the past with that, either. Or, perhaps there are some other good things or accomplishments that God has in store for you to pursue. Whatever it is, in the words of the apostle Paul that we read right here in Philippians chapter 3, we are to "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us." As believers in Jesus Christ, that's what we do. Each and every day, we get up, we move ahead, we press forward, we forget what has happened yesterday or in days gone by, whether it's good or bad, and we continue to advance the cause of Jesus Christ through our life. And, we do those things because we know what Jesus has done for us. We do those things because we know that He has forgiven us of the sin in our life and now we have the new opportunity to embrace that good life in His kingdom. At times, perhaps, that was not easy for Paul. At times, perhaps, he wanted to quit or to dwell on his past successes, but yet he was reminded over and over again of the great love that God had for him and the salvation he had experienced through Jesus Christ. And at times it may not be easy for us, either, because we like to dwell on the past or live where we are, not worried about giving our lives to Jesus or making any changes or adjustments in it. But yet the challenge is still before us to forget what is in the past and to move ahead to what lies before us. As I think about the words of the apostle Paul, the importance of forgetting the past and moving ahead, take a look at this video clip. It is entitled “Forgetting the Past,” and hopefully it illustrates the point of our lesson today.
I live not far from here, and in fact I drive by this location almost every day. And as I drive by, I take a look at the construction that is going on. I think about the convenience store that is being built and how it will be an asset to this neighborhood. This is a place where people can purchase fuel or buy something to eat or drink, and no doubt it will benefit many people. And as I watch this construction unfold, I think, "What was here before?" No doubt there were several buildings, three or four buildings, but I cannot remember for sure what they were. Oh there were some nice businesses and they carried on trade for a number of years, but it's hard for me to remember what they looked like. Don't you wish that's the way it was with life, that you could easily and quickly forget what had happened in the past, in days or years gone by? Perhaps you've experienced some abuse, or problems, or difficulties, or pain, or suffering a loss of some kind, and it's a memory: You think about it all the time. When we begin a new life in Jesus Christ, God the Father allows us a brand-new start. He gives us the opportunity to put behind us the things that have happened in the past and to embrace a brand-new life, available through His son Jesus Christ. My encouragement for you today is to not dwell upon the negative things that have so impacted your life in the past, but begin to think about the brand-new life that Jesus has in store for you in the future.
It is true; God knows we live in a world of darkness. We live in a world where we are constantly tempted to live in the past or to continue to live in a life of sin and rebellion or disobedience to God. He knows that. He knows that we struggle on a daily basis to overcome the mistakes of days gone by and to embrace the future. Sometimes it's hard to get past it. Sometimes it's hard to move ahead and to advance in our life. And yet the good news is God provides us a way to do that through His son Jesus Christ, the one who died on the cross and was buried in a tomb and rose on our behalf. And through that death and burial and resurrection, we now have a new hope in Him. Yes, a new life in Jesus, now, prepares us for an eternal life with Him, forever. And that, my friend, is exciting to think about. The new life Jesus gives to us gives us a good life here, yes, but it also prepares us for an eternity with the Father. With that in mind, let's go to God in a word of prayer. <<Dear Father, thank You so very much for the stories that we find in the Bible that remind us of how You worked in people's lives, behind the scenes and in unusual ways, to bring them closer to You so that they could be useful tools in Your kingdom. And God, help us to learn from the mistakes and the things of the past and to use them in order to move ahead, to advance, to keep on pressing toward that goal, the prize of spending an eternity with You. Thank You that we have the opportunity to do that through Your son Jesus Christ. In His name we pray, Amen.>> As we draw our lesson to a close today, I hope you will remember something very important: God is preparing you for something special. You are special and import and valuable in His sight. God loves you more than you will ever know; and, He gives you a second chance. When I think about my God in heaven, sometimes I describe Him like this: He is the God of the second chance, and I know that firsthand. That is true. Yes, He gives us second chances, or third chances, or fourth chances, or whatever it might be. God is patient with you, and with me. He never gives up on us. But, He wants us to forget what is in the past and through Jesus Christ to embrace a brand-new life that He has in store for us. And then as we think about that new life, we keep on, like the apostle Paul, moving ahead, changing and adjusting and growing to be more like Jesus so that someday we can enjoy all the wonderful blessings and privileges and joys of being at home with Him in heaven. My prayer, my encouragement for you today is to not live in the past but to embrace the brand-new future that God has in store for you through His son Jesus Christ.
Thank you for watching today's program. I trust this message reminded us of how God helps people move on from the painful things of the past to the wonderful blessings found in Him. If we can assist you in making that move, we would love to do so. Please call the number on the screen to request a free Bible study. It will not cost any money and requires no commitment. That same Bible study is also found on our website. There you can find other messages, like this one, or even some short inspirational videos. They too are all free from cost or obligation. Thank you again for joining us for today's program. I invite you to be with us next time, as we study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”