I am convinced that one of the top 5 mistakes modern Christians make is the constant focus on our past. The apostle Paul must have thought it was a big deal too. In the book of Philippians, he exhorts us to “forget what is behind and strain for what lies ahead…” (3:13).
That term “to forget” is a tough one to understand. It doesn’t really mean to completely wipe something from your consciousness. Our minds just don’t work that way.
Instead, Paul is using an illustration out of the world of long distance running. He is urging believers to deal with the past like a runner might deal with a fast competitor. It is the idea that once you are leading the race, you do not concern yourself with everyone around you. Your focus is not obstructed. Nothing grabs your attention but the effort to win the race.
But unfortunately, too many us are paralyzed by our past. Our own mistakes or the injustices done to us tend to consume our thinking. They handicap our emotional and spiritual growth. And in many cases, inhibit our ability to move on with life.
C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, vividly describes Satan’s strategy: He gets Christians to become preoccupied with their failures; from then on, the battle is won. (Erwin Lutzer)
Our own mistakes can be from neglect, or good intentions. Sometimes they are a ”knee jerk” reaction. And sometimes, they are just outright rebellion towards God or His plan for our lives.
In order to truly forget those self-inflicted wounds and move on with our lives, we have to repent, turn away from that sin and seek God’s forgiveness. We can’t just motor on and ignore them. They only go away when we deal with them.
And in order to forget our past, those wounds or injustices imposed on us by others also need to be dealt with. When we “forget,” we are not tolerating someone else’s sin. We are simply choosing (by an act of our will, not our emotions) to free our selves from the past by forgiving the wrong done.
That kind of “forgetting” frees the captive –US and allows God’s grace to continue working in and through us.
This week might be a wonderful opportunity to check out how “forgetful” you really are. Are you constantly ruminating over past sins and mistakes? Are you allowing them to affect life today? Then it is a good time to make the list and thoughtfully confess them to the Lord. Repent and move on.
And if things that have been perpetrated to you are causing hurt and pain, now is the time to thoughtfully forgive and move on as a captive set free.
It’s a good week to forget what’s behind!