When we are unable to let go of our past and totally forgive ourselves, we are doomed to a life of shame and bitterness. Our past mistakes and sins will always remind us of how unworthy and inadequate we are. But this is not what God has intended for us.
If there ever was a believer who had reason to indulge in remorse and guilt, it was the Apostle Paul. Before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul had passionately persecuted the Jewish believers in the Messiah. He had caused sufferings and maybe even death of many.
But the man who once was the early Church’s greatest opponent, became God’s greatest instrument to advance the good news of Jesus Christ. Through his missionary journeys and his epistles, Paul influenced Christianity more than anyone besides or after him. His doctrines became a substantial part of the New Testament.
All this was possible because Paul chose to forgive himself. He was determined to leave his past behind him. In Philippians 3:13-14 he says:
“Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (NLT)
Let go of the past
For God such radical transformation is possible. God often turns around dead-end situations. Out of destruction and hopelessness he creates something new, living and beautiful.
The best example is the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, when God turned what appeared to be his ultimate defeat into his greatest victory on Resurrection Sunday!
God can resurrect the dead also in our life and turn sorrow into joy, but he needs our cooperation: like Paul, we too need to be willing to move forward and let go of the past. We need to leave our sin and failure at the cross of Jesus and pursue the purpose God has for us.
Let’s discern what the Holy Spirit is doing in our life and submit to his leading. Then we will be able to fulfil the role God has called us into, with our eyes fixed on him.
Forgive, forget and look ahead
Had Paul not let his past be past, he would have stayed in Damascus. Ashamed of his former conduct, he would have gone into hiding, not ready to face the victims of his past and experience their rejection and resentment.
Had Paul not forgiven himself and humbly accepted that the past could not be changed, but that he could – through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit – walk towards a different future, God would not have been able to use him, and such a powerful instrument of the Gospel would have gone wasted.
Paul’s decision to look ahead and walk in his calling laid the foundation of Christianity as we know it today.
Don’t let your past hold you back
If we hold on to failures, hurt or sin we will not be able to move forward in our calling and the purpose God has for our life.
Jesus has dealt with our sin on the cross, he went though unimaginable pain for it – it’s about time that we let the past be past! We cannot change it anyway, so let’s move on, move forward and embrace the future and hope God is preparing for us.
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