You can’t go forward while looking backward
Most of us have heard something like that. But, like many things, this one is easier said than done. Let’s talk about putting this truth into practice.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. Phil. 3:12-15
There are several interesting points in this passage; the first one being this:
One thing I do
This phrase reveals two important points to me about the need to focus on what is ahead:
- The importance of living in the moment.
- The importance of successfully handling the past.
Let’s look at these individually.
One key to living in the moment is learning to live in process.
The apostle Paul states that he has accepted the fact that he is not living in full attainment or perfection of character. This acceptance is difficult for many people to attain. One reason is that many believers don’t grasp the simplicity of relationship over religion.
Now, when it comes to your children and their status as your family, this concept comes easy. I know my kids are not fully mature. I expect them to make some mistakes as they grow into maturity. I understand that to reject them for these mistakes would be a fundamental failure as a parent. But, I don’t see myself as God’s child and He as my Father in the same light. This often has to do with a faulty understanding of God’s love and perfection.
We think that God’s sinless nature somehow created within Him an expectation that His children will never sin. God’s sinless and loving nature work together to convict us of our sins and to free us from behavior that leads to death. But, He does not harbor an expectation that we will be perfect.
God will not allow sin to pass without conviction. He will not author or authorize our sin. If we walk in His light, we walk in constant conviction, forgiveness, and renewal. If we believe we are perfect; without sin, we are deceived. If we confess and forsake sin, He will forgive it and change us.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
Perfect as used here means “mature”.
mature (consummated) from going through the necessary stages to reach the end-goal, i.e.developed into a consummating completion by fulfilling the necessary process (spiritual journey).
If we walk in the Light (1 John 1:5-10), we are moving toward Christlike character. God does not expect sinless behavior as we mature in Him, but He does expect true repentance.
God will forgive all sin that is truly repented of. I cannot allow any voice or opinion saying otherwise to confuse me. His blood is the only antidote for past sin. I am not furnished a “large eraser” with which I can erase sinful actions. This is not necessary for kingdom redemption. I must learn to trust the power of the blood of Jesus which is greater than all my sin.
I cannot take responsibility for someone else’s response to my past. If my actions have wounded others, I am truly sorry. If there is something I need to do to restore what I’ve taken, I will. But, I cannot and will not allow someone else’s lack of forgiveness of my past to steal the Fruit of the Spirit and hamper my future.
The second aspect of moving forward is the successful handling of the past.
Be careful what you learn.
If I don’t learn from my past, I am doomed to relive it in some form, but I must be careful what I learn.
I am not unworthy of love and deserving of punishment. Those who believe that will always live outside the peace of God and they will sabotage themselves when it comes to their future.
I am not an exception to God’s word. Because of God’s love, I am a candidate for His promises. He shed blood for me to receive them. I am not deserving but loved.
My opinion of myself must match His or it must be discarded.
Forgiveness is crucial to future success. If I don’t forgive those who have hurt me, then I lock myself into a pattern of responding to future events that will block the pathway to receiving God’s best for me. If I don’t forgive others, then I’ve failed to receive the true nature of God’s omniscience and omnipotence.
Refusing to forgive others very simply says that I don’t know who God is.
Often, the hardest person to forgive is you.
Failing to forgive myself simply means that I haven’t truly accepted God’s forgiveness.
My false standards regarding my behavior and the consequences for my behavior can become an idol that I serve when I fail to forgive myself.
God’s offer of forgiveness should not exalt my sin but it should exalt Him!
Paul said, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Pressing requires pushing past things. It requires focus on what is ahead.