AN APPEAL FOR SUPPORT
We invite you to support this ministry. Contributions in support of this Ministry are tax-deductible. Kindly send your support to
BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ
SEND YOUR ARTICLES FOR PUBLICATION IN Christian Literature and Living.
Copyright © 2001
A TIME TO LIVE!
|Robs us,||enriches us,|
|Cheats us,||blesses us,|
|Deceives us,||enlightens us,|
|Drives us,||leads us,|
|Enslaves us,||frees us,|
|Defeats us,||enables us,|
|Kills us.||Gives us life.|
Christians, of course, aspire to abundant living. We know it's available and consider it indispensable. Why, then, do so many of us-who truly reject Satan and accept Jesus-fail to enjoy the life He offers us?
There are a multitude of answers to that question, but I would like to focus on just one of them: We don't live the victorious life today because Satan has us reliving the bitter and painful experiences of yesterday and dreading the repetition of those experiences tomorrow.
Feelings of sorrow, guilt, shame, rejection, and humiliation chain us to the past and obstruct our future. Even when actual memories have faded away or have been repressed, we discover within us harmful responses and negative reactions that we cannot explain even to ourselves. We let Satan use our past to deny us enjoyment of God, spiritual victory, and effective ministry in the here and now.
TIME MARCHES ON!
If we could go back in time we would attempt to avoid errors we have committed and painful things that have happened to us. But time tunnels work only in fiction. We can't go back to the past. Real life is a one-way trip with no returns and we've got to get on with it today. We may regret our yesterday and dream of a better tomorrow, but our future is being forged by the way we live today. So our focus is on the right now!Time is an almost indefinable word because we experience it as a sequence of events. In
fact, "a sequence of events" may be as good a definition as we can find. Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes says:
All things continue the way they are since the beginning. The same things will be done that have always been done. There is nothing new here on earth (Eccl. 1:9).
What is Solomon saying here? I think he is saying that time runs in a straight line, but life runs in cycles. Like the tide, the seasons, days, weeks, months, and years-it moves in predictable patterns that repeat themselves. That's true in the physical world and in our emotional and spiritual world as well.
Many of the thoughts, reactions, and emotions that we experience today-especially painful ones-are products of similar experiences from the past that have become patterns. They repeat themselves again and again. We would like to break the cycle, but we feel powerless to do so. After a while, we lose hope that we ever will. Or we maintain a vague hope in the remote possibility that time will somehow make us better. What a futile hope it is, for, alas, time has no healing power.
I can't help asking: If time is a sequence of events, and a sequence of events has hurt us, how can an extension of events heal us? Our reactions will not change nor will our wounds be healed unless we experience a powerful intervention of God in our lives.
GOD'S POWERFUL INTERVENTION
Here's good news. The God who dwells in eternity allowed Himself to be compressed into time in the person of Jesus Christ. He experienced time as we do and it is He who offers us abundant life-in the present tense.
Without Him there is nothing new under the sun. With Him we have everything new-a new standing, new birth, new life, new peace, new access to God, new joy, new resilience, new security, new friendship-in Him we are new creatures. But, the Bible and experience tell us that before we can enjoy the new things that we have in Christ we have to make a clean break with old things of the past.
NEW LIFE, NEW WARDROBE
Scripture describes the transition from the past to the future as a process similar to changing clothes.
You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self... (Col. 3:9-10, NIV).
The New Century Version puts it a little differently:
You have left your old sinful life and the things you did before. You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you.
We normally don't put on a new set of clothes until we have taken off the old set. And we don't start a new life in Christ until we put an end to the old life we formerly lived.
INTO THE DRESSING ROOM, PLEASE!
So how do we put off the old life and how do we put on the new? Do you remember the old-fashioned word repentance? It's a word that doesn't get used often enough these days. It's all about change-changing our mind, changing our behavior, changing our allegiance, and changing directions. It's turning away from sin and turning to Jesus.
It seems to me that-unlike Jesus and the apostles who came preaching repentance from sin-the church today has been superficial in dealing with it. Folks are simply asked to "accept Jesus" or "come into a relationship with the Lord" or confess is a vague, almost meaningless way, "confess that they are sinners"-like everyone else. The feeling seems to be that if we confront sin too strongly, we will lose the people.
Do you sometimes wonder if our unwillingness to take that risk doesn't do those people a great disservice? We urge them to accept the Savior without dealing with sin, the very thing that stands in the way of a relationship with Him and the thing He came to save us from. In this day of "the layered look" in fashion, we are, in effect, telling people to put on a new set of clothes without taking off the old-to start a new life without putting an end to the sinful life that kept them from God. Then, when our church members are layered with troubles, we try to help them reconcile the new life to the old life that they have never gotten rid of. It just doesn't work.
The biggest problem of our past may be that we have never truly repented of our sins. That should have been (or should be today) our very first step.
Let's talk about our favorite subject-ourselves. Wouldn't it be wonderful to live without bitterness, anger, guilt, regrets, fear, and recurring bondages? Wouldn't we love to find healing for the complex, confused, hurting person that we have become. And we can! He can change our lives today!
TODAY IS THE DAY!
Let me emphasize again that we are talking about the present tense. God works in the here and now. Some say that God lives in the "eternal now," therefore he can move back and forth in time and heal the person we were when painful experiences occurred.
Well, God may live in eternity, but even eternity runs in a sequence of events. We live in time. We will never again be the person we were before. We're either better or worse. But we can choose better!-and we can choose right now!
God can change us. He can erase the marks that our past has stamped upon us and break the cycles that have us repeating the "same old, same old" again and again. He can remake us into the victorious person He wants us to be today.
RESHAPING OUR LIVES
Jeremiah the prophet went to the potter's house to watch him work and then gave this report:
I saw him working at the potter's wheel. He was making a pot from clay. But something went wrong with it, so the potter used that clay to make another pot. He used his hands to shape the pot the way that he wanted it to be (Jeremiah. 18:1-4).
Even though the vessel broke, it never left the potter's hand. He remade it into something beautiful and useful just as God wants to do with you and me. Even when we feel that our life has been destroyed, God has a plan for us and He never gives up.
We are God's workmanship [work of art], created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
God began doing a good work in you. And He will continue it until it is finished (Phil. 1:6).
EMBRACE THE PRESENT!
The apostle Paul, before his conversion to Christ, had been a notorious persecutor of Christians. His memories could have crippled him with guilt for the rest of his life. Yet Paul found freedom through a wonderful practice:
One thing I always do: I forget the things that are past. I try as hard as I can to reach the goal that is before me (Phil. 3:13).
These powerful words are easy to understand, but they are not always easy to follow. We forget things we should remember and remember things we should forget. We focus on the past or dream about the future and fail to enjoy the present.
Or we bury our memories in accessible places so we can use them when it's convenient. They are as alive as they ever were and are just waiting for the right situation to reawaken them. We push them back to alleviate pain. Then we pull them out when we think it's time to suffer again or make someone else suffer. We don't throw them in the trash to be hauled away, we bury them in the backyard to be dug up and used again.
In contrast, Israel's King David wanted his buried thoughts and sins to be exposed so he could deal with them in a healthy and permanent way:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm. 139:23,24).
When the Holy Spirit reveals the hidden things in our hearts, we can deal with them. If he shows us sin, we can repent and confess. If He shows us hurt and resentment, we can forgive those who have hurt us. Then we are ready to accept God's promises-like this one in Isaiah 43:18:
The Lord says, Forget what happened before. Do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don't you see it?
If we are ready to truly face our past with Christ and deal with it, we will see a new thing happen now that will affect our future in a positive way!
GRACE TO GET ON WITH LIFE
Today can be the deciding day. Yes, it is the first day of the rest of our lives. Are we going to be defeated, oppressed people who wonder if they really are Christians, or will we be positive, confident Christians who live the abundant life? The decision is ours. The power is God's.
I would like to offer five suggestions to break with the past and start living the life that God intended for us in the here and now:
No matter what we have done, He can forgive us! No matter what we have suffered, He can restore us! Christ is working in us and will continue to work if we allow Him to. "God began doing a good work in you. And He will continue it until it is finished, when Jesus Christ comes again. I am sure of that" (Phil. 1:6).
Sure there are people whom we could blame for our problems, but what good does it do? No one other than ourselves can destroy us. Scripture says: "If God is with us, then no one can defeat us" (Rom. 8:31).
And no one other than ourselves can choose recovery for us. God will put our lives back together if we decide to do our part. "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:13). The decision is before us. Will we accept the challenge of recovery?
Considering each offense and offender objectively, we must forgive every person (dead or alive,) who has caused us pain-intentionally or unintentionally. Although we can have no contact with the dead and the Bible condemns all attempts to do so, we do have contact with our memory of that person. In effect, the person is still alive in our mind. We can address that memory and confront it with the issues in question. And if we have offended those persons or others, we must confess the offenses to them and ask their forgiveness. It's humbling, but it's what the Bible teaches and it works! "Be kind and loving to each other. Forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ" (Eph. 4:32). "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal you" (James 5:16).
After facing the issues of the past we may still be tempted to relive the hurts or continue blaming individuals. We must replace those thoughts with correct thinking such as: I have forgiven that person. I no longer blame him for my situation. And I have been forgiven too, so I no longer blame myself. I can trust God and get on with my life. When we allow forgiveness to flow from the heart, we replace hostility with love, anxiety with faith, and we are freed from destructive thoughts. "God's peace will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).
Scripture warns us about the harmful effects of sustained anger: "When you are angry do not sin. And do not go on being angry all day. Do not give the devil a way to defeat you" (Ephesians 4:26, 27). We may need to speak out audibly, "In Jesus' name I take back the ground that I have given to the devil. I bind Satan and order all evil spirits to leave me." "Give yourselves to God. Stand against the devil, and the devil will run away from you" (James 4:7).
This time-tested process demands faith and courage, but Jesus our Savior, will help us stand on the forgiveness and acceptance we have in Him. And He will help us grant the same forgiveness to others, leaving our hurts in the past.
MARRIAGE - Building Strong Lives and Strong Relationships | THE GREATEST THING -- Learning To be A Servant! | A TIME TO LIVE! -- Abundant Life in the Present Tense!! | "THE FOOL HAS SAID IN HIS HEART" -- How to Build Our Trust in God in This Modern Babylon |THE AUTHORITY OF PRAYER | THE PASSION FOR CHRIST -- God's Love for His Son | WHAT DID THE AUTHOR REALLY INTEND? PROBLEMS OF RETRIEVING ORIGINAL MEANING -- Translating Biblical Hebrew | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
Send your articles
as an attachment
to your e-mail to