Bible Ballistics: Vol. 8 No.23 Getting Past Your Past???
Even as we think about the approaching celebration of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (And I know that HE wasn’t born on December 25th, but it’s a time in which we celebrate the truth of His incarnation for our redemption!) there are many who have a hard time during this season which is replete with family celebrations of all kinds. There are many who have lost someone they love, others are just in difficult circumstances, which make this a hard time of year, and many others are just struggling with life in general. But the beauty of Christmas to me is the truth that Jesus came to save the lost and give “abundant” life to those who will repent and believe in His coming, His death burial and resurrection for our sin. The very joy that was proclaimed those thousands of years ago is still a joyous proclamation to those who will receive it!
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary
was espoused to Joseph,
before they came together,
she was found with child
of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband,
being a just man,
and not willing to make her a public example,
was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things,
the angel of the Lord appeared
in a dream,
thou son of David,
fear not to take unto thee
Mary thy wife:
for that which is conceived
is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son,
and thou shalt call his name Jesus:
for he shall save his people
from their sins.” Matthew 1:18-21
Now we have to understand a few things about the context of this situation; first an espousal was legally a marriage but the couple had not come together or consummated the marriage. And then there’s the scandal! “What scandal?” you might ask? Well think about it. Here is small town Nazareth, where everyone knew everyone else. Mary received the visit from the angel that she would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, and she believed the prophecy spoken over her and went almost immediately to visit and spend time with Elizabeth her cousin, who was also miraculously pregnant. Mary spent approximately three months with Elizabeth and returned home—duh—very obviously pregnant, and Joseph knew it wasn’t his child!
Well, that’s pretty scandalous, would you agree? Well, maybe not in our day of rampant immorality, but it was certainly scandalous then, and shouldn’t be accepted now as right. I have often wondered about Mary’s conversation with her mother and father, “Well, yes mom, I am pregnant but an angel told me that this would happen and it’s all of God!” RIGHT? When God is at work in the lives of His own, it is often unbelievable to those around them! But let’s not forget Joseph.
Joseph has of course heard the news upon Mary’s return, and we’re not told whether Mary had told him, or the rumor had come to him from others. But what we are told is that Joseph was a just man, a godly and compassionate man. He could have had Mary stoned, as her legal husband, knowing that the child wasn’t his, but he must have loved her dearly, for he was considering simply giving her a “writ” of divorce and putting her away privately, and not having her stoned for ‘adultery’. But God had other plans! While sleeping Joseph was visited by an angel (We don’t know if it was the same Angel Gabriel who visited Mary. See Luke 1:26) who reassured Joseph that Mary’s explanation of her virginal pregnancy was true, and that she was to give birth to the Messiah. He was also told what to name this baby, for His name would reflect His purpose—to “save his people from their sins”. When Joseph received this truth from God he simply obeyed.
“Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:24-25
I think we often miss the import of Joseph’s obedience. Joseph in obeying God was saying to the world, by his actions, that Mary’s child was his, and that he was taking her to be his wife. Yet before God he maintained her virginity until after the baby Jesus was born. Can you just imagine the snickering, the whispering, and the gossip that went around Nazareth about this scandalous couple? Yet here we have two devoted young people, listening to God and stepping out in faith and obedience to hear and follow God’s call upon them.
Now, I know you are thinking, “What does this have to do with my ‘past’?” Well it has a lot to do with my past, and yours; because Jesus came to give us a future that forgives and eases our past, when we will give it to HIM!
“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm103:12
Jesus came so that we could live—and live victoriously today, in spite of our ‘past’! He even told us to pray that way!
“Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day
our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:10-12
Jesus so clearly teaches us that life and prayer should be intertwined; that our focus should be on God, and on HIS will being accomplished in and through us; that we are to live today for today—in it’s needs and provisions; and that our hearts are to exercise forgiveness, because we are forgiven. And forgiven means we have been cleansed from our sin by the precious blood of Jesus our Lord.
“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” Colossians 1:12-14
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32
We are forgiven through the blood of Jesus when we come to Him in repentance and faith. Not walking our own way, but recognizing that we have sinned, and we can’t fix it, and also recognizing that Jesus fixed what He hadn’t broken so that we could be restored to God.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ,
he is a new creature:
old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new.
18 And all things are of God,
who hath reconciled us to himself
by Jesus Christ,
and hath given to us the ministry
19 To wit, that God was in Christ,
reconciling the world
not imputing their trespasses
and hath committed unto us
the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors
as though God did beseech you
we pray you
in Christ’s stead,
be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him
to be sin for us,
who knew no sin;
that we might be made
the righteousness of God
in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
I’m reminded of something that Corrie Ten Boom used to say, “God has put your sin in the deepest ocean, and has put up a ‘No Fishing’ sign!” When God has forgiven us—we ARE FORGIVEN. We are a “new creature” in Christ Jesus.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience….” Hebrews 10:22a
And when Jesus cleans us, we are clean. Even though we are walking in a corrupt and sin-filled world, we are clean before God. And even when we sin after we are saved, we are simply in need of having our “feet” washed and asking God to forgive us of the sin that we commit—we are redeemed and saved, but we are not perfect yet!
“Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.” John 13:10
Because we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ by virtue of His redeeming sacrifice for us on Calvary, we have the privilege of coming to the Father when our feet are dirty and we have ‘stumbled’ into sin (and we all do!)! And just as we are to come to the Father/Son when we have failed, to find His forgiveness and cleansing, we are to extend that same gracious compassion and forgiveness to others in the power and love of The Lord Jesus Christ!
“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14
“If we say that we have no sin,
we deceive ourselves,
and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins,
he is faithful
to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us
from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say that we have not sinned,
we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10
Jesus came that we might have life through the forgiveness of our sins, by the shedding of His blood for those very sins when He died on the cross. It was for your sin and mine that He died, for HE had no sin. And when we come to Him, we are made new, forgiven and redeemed back to God. Sinners made right with God—oh what a treasure. And when we are right with God, we can be right before the world, even when they won’t let us be ‘right with’ them because they hate our message of the exclusiveness of the message of the cross. When we share the truth that Jesus is the only way to God, men often reject us—but we don’t have to allow them to throw a forgiven past up in our faces. We are forgiven and free from the penalty of the past!
“There is therefore now no condemnation
to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who walk not after the flesh,
but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life
in Christ Jesus
hath made me free
from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
Our walk is in the Spirit of God-the Holy Spirit-and when we walk in yieldedness to The Holy Spirit of God, we can have victory, even when we are in the midst of seeming defeat!
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh……..25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16 & 25
Because we receive the Holy Spirit of Christ when we are saved (See Romans 8:9), we are empowered to live a victorious and over-coming life through His presence and direction. But we must learn to hear His voice, and yield to His directing in our lives. And one of the best ways to cultivate good “ears that hear” is by studying the Word of God regularly and continually. It is our plumb line, our level to know truth from false, to know right from wrong; and God’s Word will never contradict itself, nor will the Holy Spirit lead us to do anything contrary to the Word of God.
But we must learn to hear and heed the Word and the Spirit. He will keep us from sin. As an old adage says, “The Word of God will keep you from sin, Or sin will keep you from the Word of God.”
So our job is to stay in the Word and know truth, not only the Person of Jesus, but also the Word that He has given us as His love letter to His own. That which will help us grow into mature, powerful believers. But there is something else that I want us to consider, what about the effect of the ‘past’? How do we deal with that? For while we are forgiven, we still have issues that becoming a believer won’t erase. If a person has lost an arm because they were driving drunk, that arm won’t grow back because they are saved. If I’ve had a divorce before I got saved, Jesus won’t erase all the consequence of broken homes, broken children and broken and strained relationships, but HE will help us learn to deal with those things in His power, His Spirit and His provision. Having lived that experience, I have learned to appreciate an Old Testament passage with great gratitude. Let’s look at it and then I’ll share more about it.
“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. 26 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.” Joel 2:25-26
God had punished His people for their sin and idolatry, but He is promising that He will restore them. And for me and the messed up life that Jesus saved me from, it was a testing ground for His Word, and He provided! I had so messed up my life and the lives of my children that when I truly came to know the Lord, I couldn’t see how it would all work out, but God had a plan and while I didn’t always get it right—God did. My children aren’t perfect, but I see God working in their lives, and restoring many of the “years that the locust hath eaten”. He has healed and restored many relationships, yet some He hasn’t’! But He has given and is giving me grace to respond in HIS Spirit and not my own. Now please don’t misunderstand, I’m certainly not claiming that I’ve “GOT IT”, because I don’t, I still have to walk in dependence upon my Lord who saves and delivers; but I am saying that as we learn to yield to Him, as we continue to delve into His Word and learn His character and His principles, we will grow and see things change as time goes by. And while the “past” is still my “past”, its effect on me is lessened. I still have regrets, I think we always will, but not to the point that it consumes or takes over my life. What I have learned is that yes, we do “reap what we sow” (See Galatians 6:7), but God in His abundant mercy and grace will often allows us to have “crop failure” and our consequences are softened by grace. Praise HIS name!
So what I’d like to remind us of today is that we can be overcomers—and that includes my past and yours! We do not have to live in the past, we are to live the “this day” that Jesus has given us to it’s fullest. And when those locusts pop up their heads to eat our crops today, we can simply take them to the cross, and walk in its power and the reality of forgiveness. Yes, there are things and people who will still try to conquer us with their “hammer” of reminders of that past, but we can simply and kindly remind them that we are “forgiven” and it’s is under the blood of Jesus. It also means that I am to keep very ‘short’ accounts with God! When there is sin in my life I am to confess it to Him (meaning agree with God that it is sin, and turn from it), aksing for His forgiveness and cleansing which He promises to us in 1 John 1:9. Did you see that? He promises not only to forgive us, but also to cleanse us from “all unrighteousness”!!! I can overcome by living in obedience to HIM, and walking in His Spirit not the world’s. But we must leave the past in the “past”, and walk in victory today, bringing your life into alignment with the Spirit of God and the Word of God, and living in the ‘Here and Now’ for Jesus, by living IN Jesus.
“For though we walk in the flesh,
we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare
are not carnal,
but mighty through God
to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations,
and every high thing
that exalteth itself
against the knowledge of God,
and bringing into captivity
to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
And a great way to do that is found in Philippians 4:8—we are to check every thought at the door (So to speak!). If it doesn’t pass the eight-point check up of Philippians 4:8, then reject it and think on “these things”!
whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise,
think on these things.”
Think on “these things”! And pray as Jesus taught us in the Model Prayer (Blanche’s paraphrased and amplified version):
Give us THIS DAY:
Our daily bread—
Our daily love—
Our daily/TODAY living—
Our daily strength—
Our daily forgiveness—
Our daily courage—
Our daily ‘cheek-turning’ power—
Our daily trusting heart—
Our daily hunger for your Word–
Our daily ‘letting go’ of the PAST—
Our daily embracing of TODAY, this moment!!!
Have a blessed day rehearsing the forgiveness and cleansing grace of Jesus in your heart and life. And live TODAY, TODAY! Don’t let yesterday rob your joy of today. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow may never come—so live in the victory of Jesus this day. It’s all we have for now—and it’s all under HIS blood!
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13:5-6