It’s a New Year. At some time in our lives, almost all of us would like to start over, to begin again. Maybe we’d like to go back in time and do something we failed to do, or undo something we did.
Paul said to the church in Philippi in Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Each of us knows the meaning of failure. But if we keep focusing back upon our failures, and dwell on the hurts of the past, we’ll be unable to move forward. “Forgetting the things that are behind” means we must get beyond the regrets and hurt feeling if we are to “reach forward to what lies ahead.” We need God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Each day, not just once a year, we need to clear the slate with God. But did you know we must also clear it with one another?
(James 5:16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed...” Healed of what? Physical illness? Yes, but also spiritual illness. We must forgive those who have hurt us, and ask forgiveness of those we have hurt, to be able to “forget the things that are behind.”
If Paul had lived his life focused on the man he had been before his conversion, he would have been unable to move forward and “lay hold of” the ministry Christ “laid hold of him” to fulfill.
God tells us our sins are separated from us as far as the east is from the west, (Psalms 103:10-12), that they are buried in the sea of God’s forgetfulness (Micah 7:10), and that God doesn’t remember them anymore (Isaiah 43:25).
Paul didn’t have to live in the cemetery of past sins, digging up their skeletons, re-examining the bones. He learned to live in the assurance of the promises of God concerning forgiveness. I think that Paul also meant that neither can we dwell on our past successes, when he wrote those words. Paul had numerous spiritual encounters with God. Yet they were not the main focus of his writings. He knew that he had to continue to grow in grace each day. And so do we.
How wonderful for the Christian to know that God forgives the past. Everyday by His grace and His power, you can start afresh. Let’s all begin the New Year truly “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”
The Rev. Anne Barber, is pastor of My Father’s House Church, 7215 US 301 N. Ellenton. For more info: (941) 776-9016 or visit www.myfathershouseinc.com. Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday’s Herald, written by local clergy members.