Philippians 3:13 - Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I am very glad it was the apostle Paul who said, "forgetting what lies behind," because he had a past that might have been such an impediment in his life, such a stone on his heart, that he might never have become the greatest of all apostles. He had a great deal to forget. Had he not, for instance, persecuted the followers of Christ, hounded them out, and witnessed their martyrdom? A man simply does not forget that sort of thing, at least not by merely trying to forget.
But Paul had learned to live with the knowledge that his hands were stained with human blood and to serve God happily and effectively regardless. How did he do it? Paul has a message for modern man that may help more than several sessions with a psychiatrist, or a month spent on the beach. Paul had learned how to deal with the sin in his past life. And who of us does not face problems like that which are difficult to overcome?
Paul had persecuted Christians in an effort to wipe out any remembrance of Christ—the same Christ who became his salvation! He had turned from bitter enemy to a dearest friend. This is why he could say, in spite of his horrific sin, that he forgot what lies behind, what came before, knowing that what's done is done, and can't be undone.
"But my sin is different," you might say. "It is so great, and I did it deliberately. I don't see how God can or would forgive me." What is it that haunts your past—some unknown crime, a marital infidelity, a silence whereby someone else paid the price that should have come to you? God knew we would sometimes be so overcome with feelings of guilt and remorse that we would find it difficult to accept His forgiveness. That is why He filled the Bible with reassurances for us.
In Psalm 103, David writes, "As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). God not only forgives, He forgets, so we can, too. Remember Paul's words above? Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us, "Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isaiah 1:18). No sin is so red that it cannot be washed pure white by the blood of Christ.
If God does not remember your forgiven sin, then why should you? Paul knew that when a penitent person confesses its guilt to God and seeks pardon through the merit of Christ the Savior, God forgives the sinner completely, absolutely, and without reservation.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, our sins can plague us long after we commit them. Remind us that Your forgiveness is complete and offered to everyone, including me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From "Christ Helps You Forget," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Armin Oldsen, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. What strategies do you have for persevering when the going gets tough?
2. What sort of obstacles did Paul have to get past in his life as a non-Christian to act on the "upward call of God in Christ Jesus"?
3. Do you truly live as a person completely forgiven by God?
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