Towards a more realistic view of our personal past
One of the things I have gleaned after spending 3 years working in a homeless shelter is that there is one very common thing that seems to keep people from moving forward in life in general and in their spiritual lives specifically: the past.It seems to operate like a speed bump that cannot be driven over.It is like the un-crossable chasm or the proverbial ghost in the closet that is never exorcised.Whether it’s some kind of hurt or abuse (physical, mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual), poor decisions, wrong behaviors, or the inability to forgive- the past paralyzes the individual and impedes one’s success in spiritual formation and transformation.I am speculating now, but I would guess that this is probably a common issue for many today.The most obvious question becomes why does our past impede us?I think the answer is wrapped up in one of the most common false God concepts:How can God ever love me because of …. (Insert your favourite issue of the past here).So we sit, somewhat paralyzed by fear or doubt, haunted by a question which for all intents and purposes should not be a question for the follower of Jesus at all.Can my past separate me from the love of God?
Years ago, I had the opportunity to go and see The Lion King movie and there is one scene that I found very profound.Now for all of you who would quickly say to me that the movie is full of very non-Christian worldview, let me agree with you.It most definitely is.Some might say that it is “New Age” and I would tend to agree; though this is really nothing more than old age Greek philosophy version 2.0.I am not attempting to justify this film I just thought one scene was interesting.For those of you who have seen it, you will remember the dialogue between Rafiki and Simba where the latter is struggling with his past.Out of nowhere, Rafiki clobbers Simba over the head with his staff and Simba says “What was that for?”Rafiki’s response was “It doesn’t matter; it’s in the past.”Now I am not suggesting for a moment that we can 100% forget and leave the past behind.Let’s face it, many things in our past still hurt and have not been healed.There may be things that we have done that we need to make right.That being said, the love of our Father God is the very thing required to deal with each issue and yet we believe that He has already cut us off because of these things.As a result we have cut ourselves off from the healing power of God’s love, from fellowship with Him and other believers and I think most importantly from experiencing all the fullness of God.
This became very clear to me last week as I was preparing for the Monday chapel service at the shelter.On Mondays it has been my routine to read a passage of scripture over and over to those attending the service and for all of us to meditate on the passage asking God what he would want to teach us through the passage being meditated on.I am always blessed by this because God shows up and speaks to individuals very specifically from the text.That particular morning was especially exciting for me.The text “du jour” (sorry a little French joke) was from Romans 8:38, 39:“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”I just love those moments when the text jumps off the page.Notice what is missing from the listed things here?It’s the past.Paul mentions the present and the future, but the past is strikingly missing.This begs the question, is the past something that can separate us from the love of God then?I think not.This of course got my brain going and thinking about why Paul would choose to not mention it.Paul has not listed it perhaps because it shouldn’t even be on the table as something that can separate us from the love of God.For Paul this was probably an incredible revelation.Think about his past for a moment.He had a misguided zealotry for Judaism that led to an aggressive persecution of the church (ultimately this was a rejection of God though he was unaware of it at the time). Additionally, he was ultimately a murderer- being the one that held the cloaks of those who were stoning Steven and looking on with a perverse sense of pleasure about the affair.Perhaps Paul murdered others as well- we do not know.A friend of mine once said that it is interesting that the two most significant people in the scriptures outside of Jesus may be Moses and Paul; both of whom were murderers.I believe that both Moses and Paul had come to the realistic view that not even their past could separate them from the love of almighty God.I would argue that they embraced God and allowed His love to deal with the past which result in incredible transformation in their lives and moulded them into the great heroes of the faith that they have become.
So where does this leave us today?I contend that the enemy would love nothing more than to have believers think that the events and issues of the past separate us from the love of our heavenly father.He wants to slow down the process of you being transformed into the image of the Son of God.The only power which can accomplish this transformation is the love of the father at work in your life.If you believe that you can’t access it because of your past- you won’t embrace it.When Satan reminds you that you are owned by your past, remind him that Jesus bought you: present, future and past.Embrace God the author of love and remember that Jesus didn’t just come to die for your sin, but to restore and redeem all things, even your past.
Sometimes I struggle with the past (not so much with the past that is long past but the recent past) - not that I doubt God's love or forgiveness - but somehow I feel that I need to feel bad for a while - do some kind of penance before I can go to God and get it right - I know it is wrong thinking and I am trying to keep short accounts with God. I think there is a natural tendancy to run from God rather than to him when we have sinned - but it does seem phony and hypocritical to sin and then immediately turn to God and confess it - it is like ok that's done now I will just confess it and I'm good to go on to the next thing - but two wrongs don't make a right when we sin and then add to that avoiding God out of guilt or discouragement - we sin twice essentially. I think the devils ultimate goal is not to make us wallow in sin but to keep us from communion with God - walking with Him and glorifying Him is the goal - and in reality it is the only thing that will keep us from sin and shame. I guess I went on a rabbit trail on separation in our communion instead of separation from his love - but I guess when our sins separate our fellowship they separate us from the appropriation and enjoyment of that love - my plan was just to say it was an excellent blog - sorry for rambling
The otherPaul: Just my two cents: this is my opinion, when I do sin, I don't ask for forgiveness, it is already given when I repent of it (turn away/stop doing it). We feel like when we sin we have to grovel before God and whip ourselves and punish ourselves. This comes from the duplicity of how religion takes the Old Covenant and New Covenant of Peace and intermingle them. It is often harder to repent (stop doing the act) then to get on our knees and plead for our soul. How many of the sinners that Jesus healed groveled and begged for forgiveness. The forgiveness is already there. In most cases Jesus tells them Go and Sin no more. In other words stop the sinning. Our sins all of them are already paid for; past, present and future.
My prayer goes something like this Father I thank you that Jesus' already paid the price for my forgiveness. I repent from this act and I rely upon you for the strength to walk away from it. In Jesus mighty name.
Recognizing the sin is essential and relying on the Father's Grace to turn from it is essential. So yes I do confess my sins, repent (stop doing it) and then rely on The Father's strength to turn from it. This should be the fundamental Relying, on God's Strength and Abilities NOT OUR OWN weakness. This is just my two cents; but man's way creates condemnation, Jesus's example creates acceptance of God's Love for us.