Dealing with the Past, Pt 1
Before you were born you only had a future. The second you were born you had a present and a future. The second after that you officially had a past, present, and future. The past, present and future are the tenses of our lives, and we have struggles with all three. We can be discontent with the present, we can worry about the future, and we can be bound up by our past. The past can be a virtual prison for some of us that threatens to never let us go free. It hinders and effects our present and leaves little hope for our future. The only thing that we have to look forward to is continual bondage from the past. In this series of articles I want to give some help to those who have struggles with their past.
There are various issues that a person can struggle with respect to the past. One thing that a person can struggle with is something that happened to to them. They experienced some kind of injustice and it has never been made right. There are other things like that which can literally consume a person in the present and that does not leave bright prospects for the future. If I addressed everything people struggle with regarding their past then I might as well write a book. My focus is more narrow than that. I am thinking in particular of our sin. Certainly that is a biggie! Many of us, including Christians, struggle with the sins of our past.
Some of you who are reading this were privileged to have been reared in a Christian home and were converted early in life. Therefore, though you had an evil heart and plenty enough sin from which to be saved, you do not have a sordid past that haunts you. However, that is not the story with others. There are various scenarios in which people have produced pasts they cannot seem to shake. Some of you may have been reared in Christian homes, but though you played the part, when you grew your wings you ‘flew the coop’. The story of the prodigal son reminds you of you and how you so disrespectfully turned your back on God, family and church. But since then, by God’s saving grace in Christ, you have ‘come home’ in more than one way. You are now in Christ. However, your time of rebellion and the things you did when you were slopping around in hog pen dog your steps everyday. It is though Satan is always on your shoulder whispering in your ear, “Remember what you did!!” Or, for some you, none of the above is true. You were reared in a modern 20th century pagan home. Perhaps your parents loved you and your childhood was decent. It is just that you had no light and influence from the scripture to guide and mold your life. Consequently, you launched out into your teen years participating in every form of vice. You tried it all. You experimented with drugs. You gave your self to illicit sex. You shoplifted like you owned the whole world. The list goes on and on. Maybe as you got to be an adult things calmed down a bit and you lived a more dignified sinful life, but it was still godless. Or, maybe not. Maybe the those sinful habits developed in your teen years resulted in many years of misery and bondage as an adult. Now you are in Christ. You are no longer that person and you no longer live that kind of life. He has delivered you from it, but oh the regrets that plague you. If you had only been able to by pass all that muck into which many of your Christian friends never fell. If only you had come to Christ sooner. Look at all the time you waisted. Look at the opportunities that you had to serve Him, while you were blindly gorging yourself with the passing pleasures of sin. Regrets, regrets regrets!!! Then there is the Christian that went off into a time of backsliding and committed some serious and gross sin(s). As a child of God he sinned against light and privilege and brought shame on himself and reproach on the name of Christ. He wrestles daily with questions like, “Why did I ever let myself begin to slip?” “Why did I begin to justify my actions?” “Why did I begin to rationalize and flirt with things I knew could suck me in and do serious damage?” We could go on with describing the various life stories of those who wrestle with their past. Regardless of your story, if you have deep struggles over your past, there is deliverance. I have no doubt that one of the mighty weapons of Satan is to keep people in bondage over their past because he knows what kind of influence a person who understands his freedom in Christ can have for the kingdom of light. But there is freedom from the chains that bind you. God has a divine prescription and there is no co-pay. It is free. To be honest, there are parts of the RX that are not so pleasant. They make us gag, but it brings freedom when taken as prescribed.
Where is this remedy to be found? The scriptures, and let me emphasize, the scriptures alone!! There is no other source to obtain true freedom from the past. That is not to say that books written on the issue are of no use and we must not read them. What I am saying is that such books are only of use and offer real freedom if they are based upon and reflect the teaching of scripture. There is no room here for Christ-less psychology. God’s Word is sufficient. We need no other source. Yes, human psychology may offer and actually bring some type of help to people. There is no doubt about it. However, there is a difference between a band aid and a cure. A band aid may ‘help’ cover up an open sore and keep it from getting infected. Yet, if the sore is only an outward manifestation of a deadly disease lurking beneath the surface then it is only making a dying person more comfortable. The world offers band aids to help people with their past, but they are not cures. They only make life more tolerable. To be frank, they only offer people outside of Christ a smoother ride to Hell. The superficial help the world has to offer does not prepare a person for the Day of Judgment. On that great and final day each of us is going to stand before the holy and just God of the universe. Our entire life history will be reviewed. Our past will be more relevant than ever before! If a person’s past is not resolved according to God’s prescription revealed in scripture then it has just begun to haunt him. He will spend an eternity in Hell paying (literally, in the truest sense of the word) for his past. The superficial help the world can give never deals with and cannot heal the underlying disease–the guilt and defilement of human sin. None of us, especially a Christian, should have any interest in getting this kind of help when there is a cure in Christ revealed in the pages of scripture. Sound a bit naive? Well, all I can say is that the man writing this has much of which to be ashamed, but has found true freedom in Christ. The Lord Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn8:31-32 NAS)
We Need Balance
I keep being reminded that an essential ingredient of the Christian life is balance. One of the effects of sin is that it tends to cause imbalance in our understanding and application of God’s truth. We each tend toward extremes when in reality the truth is found in the middle of the road. Extremes land you in the ditch. This is the case when it comes to dealing biblically with our past. We have to be careful having nice neat little packages and making broad sweeping statements about how a person is to deal with his past. We need to be cautious of latching onto views that do not take into consideration what scripture says as a whole. This leads to imbalanced applications that can actually cause a person more bondage and frustration. Of course, this can lead to doubt and disillusionment because the person thinks he or she has applied scripture but has obtained no lasting relief. Let me give some examples of unbiblical extremes that are based on an imbalanced application of the wonderful truth of God’s forgiveness in Christ. Applications that have the ring of truth but are not when examined in light of scripture as a whole. Some of them may be true but only if they are qualified.
The scripture says that when God has forgiven He has forgotten. This an awesome truth found in God’s Word!!
Inaccurate or imbalanced applications based upon that it can be things like….
– You should forget and never reflect on your past sin.
– You do not have to go back and deal with anything in your past once you are saved, because as far as God is concerned, it does not exist.
– You should not live in the present with any sense of shame over the past.
Those are just some brief examples of imbalances when dealing with our past we need to avoid. They are extremes.
What if I told you that I have the key to dealing effectively with your past? I do, and I am going to give it to you free of charge. The key is that there is no such thing as the key to deal with this issue. In other words, there is no one truth from God’s Word that once understood and applied brings immediate freedom. Just think. If there were such a thing as the key to every struggle we had, the Bible would be more like a desk reference and nowhere near as thick. There is no quick fix cure. There are several truths in the scripture that need to be understood and applied if we are we are going to deal effectively with our past. It also takes time to work through what God’s Word says about this and apply it. It is a process. Anyone struggling with his past is going to be disappointed if he thinks that great progress is going made overnight. I don’t believe that is normally the case. One application is not enough. These things take a life long application and the more we apply them the greater is our ability to deal with the past in a God glorifying way. I am not proposing to set out everything the scripture says about the issue, but it is my aim to focus on several of the major truths that will hopefully be of real and lasting help.
May the Lord uses these articles to bring good to us and glory to Him!