I know that God is trying to teach me something. There are times when I begin to hear the same message from different sources and I know that He wants me to get this. I love one of the songs on the Christian radio stations that talks about “You are more than the choices that you’ve made. You are more than the sum of your past mistakes. You are more than the problems you create. You’ve been remade.”
I believe that many Christians struggle with this idea.
I recently heard a sermon teaching on the prodigal son (Luke 15). I have heard many sermons on that passage but this one had me thinking from a different view point. Remember when the son has the revelation while feeding the pigs that even his father’s servants are better off than he is. He decides to go back to see if his father will welcome him back as a servant because he was out of options. I am sure he was more than surprised at his reception.
I love the description of the father’s reaction to seeing the son return. He runs to him to “embrace and kiss him.” The son is hoping to be welcomed as a servant but the father lavishes him with the best robe, a ring, shoes for his feet and commands to kill the fattened calf so they could celebrate the son’s returning.
I fear that many of us fail to live the life that God desires for us. I believe that God sent His Son to die on my behalf and that because I have put my faith in Him I have eternal life. That is great news but why do I keep myself in self-inflicted bondage that is contrary to the teachings of Scripture?
I know too many Christians that allow their past to influence their witness. You can have knowledge of the Scriptures like “there is no condemnation in Christ” and that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” but that is different to actually believing them and allowing that truth to permeate your current life.
God wants desperately for us to be able to live life abundantly without the weight of our past sins. I believe every part of the Bible was done in a way that encourages and strengthens us thru every circumstance. I love the fact that Rahab had such a huge effect on the outcome of the Israelites because it is people like that that give us the example to be able to overcome our obstacles today. Not only was Rahab pivotal to the Israelites being able to enter the promise land, and mentioned in Hebrews in the chapter of faith, but she is also mentioned in Matthew as being in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ.
The Bible doesn’t give us the information on how Rahab struggled with the shame of her past, but the shame of her profession of being a prostitute had to have been something she had to deal with at some point. The Bible doesn’t show her having to stay in that shame but in contrast allows her name to be written in the Book of Life with the greatest heroes of the Old Testament.
I believe that God looks at all of us that have put our faith in Christ as whiter than snow, no matter our past. This is true for all of us but becomes even larger when we have a past that is overwhelming like Rahab. We all sin and I am not downplaying anyone’s need for redemption but not everyone has a past that with it comes an oppressing shame that threatens to overcome us.
I would give anything to be able to redo some of my past. I look at my kids and their ability to keep their innocence and only wish I had chosen a different course. I had already done so many things that left lasting effects by the time I was my children’s current age. Those decisions are a part of my past but I believe God will use my testimony for His good when it glorifies Him.
That brings me to the question I have to ask.
Why do we allow our past to keep us in bondage when Scripture clearly speaks to the contrary and gives us real life examples of God’s ability to use those with a “colorful” past to bring Him glory?
I believe there are two main reasons this is so prevalent in the church. I am only going to talk to those that are covered by His blood because apart from Him I don’t have any answers. The first reason people struggle with this shame is we are wired that way. It is contrary to our thinking to believe it is that easy to walk away from a past that would have doomed us to hell if it weren’t for the sacrifice of Christ. We just inherently believe once a sinner always a sinner and struggle to differentiate between the pre-saved verses post-saved. We actually probably do a better job forgiving those around us than we do ourselves.
I believe this takes time. I am not going to change 40 some years of thinking overnight. I can, with His help, start to retrain my thoughts to align with His Word and break the curse that weakens my witness.
The second reason this is so hard for a believer is that Satan knows a redeemed, confident, and whiter than snow believer makes for a much more effective witness than one who is still in bondage from their past sin. Satan doesn’t want you to live in victory from your past. He may not be able to “snatch” you from the Father’s grip but he will do everything in his power to make sure your witness loses the strength it would otherwise have.
You are not your past mistakes, they are only that, past mistakes. They do not define who you are but being a believer in Christ does. He trumps every mistake you could have made or will make. He went to the cross knowing what you would do and did it willingly because He loves you so much He didn’t want us to be judged for those same mistakes. Don’t live your life like Christ’s sacrifice didn’t cover your sin. I know that is not your desire because nobody would want to live under that condemnation.
My wife and I have both kind of joked about being the “worst of sinners.” It was a play on Paul’s scripture but I know there is some underlying truth in those comments. I am sure we aren’t the only ones to have thought that “I am the worst.” I love that Paul didn’t stop at that statement. 1 Timothy 15-16 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. But for that reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example of those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
God is glorified when we honor Him with our lives. He doesn’t need to start with a perfect example of His righteousness in us because He sent that perfect example to die in our place. God wants us to leave those burdens at the cross and pick up the righteousness that He offers in exchange. What an awesome deal. I can be righteous even with the terrible decisions in my past.
The Father didn’t see His son as the squanderer that was left wishing to eat the pods that were meant for the pigs. He saw the returned son worthy of all the benefits of His heir and treated him likewise.
I take the Scriptures literally when it says He cast our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and that He remembers our transgressions no more (Isaiah 43:25).
If He sees me as clean isn’t that all that matters?
I want to bring Him glory. I want my testimony to help those that may still be struggling with similar issues. I want my marriage to be a testimony to a God that can redeem and restore that which by the world’s standards should have failed. I also believe that it is critical for me to live in the freedom that comes when we accept His salvation and therefore His righteousness in order to fully glorify Him with our lives.