Philippians 3:13-14 - 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.
If we would live effectively as Christians, there is one thing we must learn to do with the past: we must learn to forget. The backward look can be ruinous. That does not mean, of course, that we are to close the past like a book, never to open it again. Some of the pages we will want to read frequently; they present valuable lessons. The years of our life have brought us to where we are now. Life is a school in which we learn to become better, stronger, more concentrated, more courageous.
Still, there is value in forgetting, and the apostle Paul was a man who evidently had learned well how to deal with life's disappointments. I am very glad it was he who said to forget those things that are in the past. In fact, had he not learned this truth, and applied it daily, he might never have become the greatest of all apostles. For sure, Paul had learned to live with the knowledge that his hands were stained with human blood (see Acts 7:54-8:3), and that to serve God faithfully he simply had to move beyond that painful part of his life.
This is why Paul could say that he forgets what lies behind, which in his case was murder. If God Himself had forgiven him for Jesus' sake, then Paul could forget, too. "But my sin is different," you might say. "It is so great, and I did it so often and so deliberately. I don't see how God can forgive me." Well, my friend, your sin is great—and so is mine. But the love of God is greater still, and something no human being can understand. God knows that sometimes we are so overcome with guilt and remorse that we find it nearly impossible to accept His forgiveness.
This is why the Bible is filled with reassurances in everyday language that we can understand. Do you remember 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). You see, God forgives and forgets. Through Isaiah He says, "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).
If God throws our sins behind Him, where He can no longer see them, then we should forget about them, too. Paul knew this truth very well. He knew that when a penitent soul confesses its guilt to God and seeks pardon through the merit of Christ's saving work on the cross, God forgives completely, then and there.
I hope your heavy heart is lightened today as you realize God's boundless love for you in Christ.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, teach us to remember that our sins have been forgiven by You for what Jesus did for us on Calvary. In His Name we pray. Amen.
From "Christ Helps You Forget," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Armin Oldsen, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Do regrets in your life haunt you? How do you cope with them?
2. After Paul came to faith, how do you think he got along with the families and friends of those he formerly persecuted?
3. To forget the past and press forward, what does that look like, really?
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