Tuesday, December 4, 2007

TAMING THE PAST
Advent 2007 / Daily Doses of Hope - #3

Read: Psalm 32; 1 John 1:7-9

PAST ON THE HORIZON? A healthy approach to the future begins with dealing decisively with the past. Only when our past is firmly addressed, tamed and settled, are we free to welcome the future and live in hope. Otherwise, an unsettled past will tend to keep clouding the horizons of our life. This is, to me, one of the most profound aspects of Christian teaching for sound emotional living.

ECLIPSED BY LOVE. One of my mentors taught me a simple prayer that is striking in this context: “My past hide, my future guide.” That’s what we need and desire. That’s exactly what God desires for us, too. Our past is hidden--eclipsed by Jesus' loving journey to the cross for us. Our future is promising, but we need guidance both to prevent repeating the past and to discern what is best among many options.

CAN'T LIVE AGAINST THE PAST. We aren’t people who are trying to live down a broken past. We can’t live against an unhealthy past. Trying to counter-balance it with "good" strivings simply doesn't work. We can, however, confess whatever wrong we've done--and that's been done to us--and accept God’s forgiveness and assurance. If we confess our sins, God completely forgives them (1 John 1:9). Guilt is removed. The old is gone. Psalm 103:12 declares: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” If God does this regarding our past, can we dare to accept this? Can we put and keep the past in the past?

IF GOD FORGETS, CAN WE? I love the story of the little girl who talked to God and was literally answered by God. Church leaders were amazed, but wanted to verify her claim. A bishop instructed her to ask God what sins he had confessed to. After the little girl talked to God, the bishop anxiously inquired, “Well, what sins did God say I confessed to?” The little girl replied, “God said, ‘I forget.’”

EXCHANGE SHAME FOR WHOLENESS. Not only are sins forgiven, we are “purified from all unrighteousness.” Confession cleans us up inside. We exchange shame for wholeness. We are released from sins’ definitions and claims. We are freed and empowered to walk away from self-defeating patterns and into the light God is giving us. 1 John 1:7: “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus… purifies us from all sin.” If God so removes sin from us, we need then to remove ourselves from situations, influences, and relationships that tend to re-pollute us or minimize or diminish the light we are being given.

FREE TO LOOK FORWARD. Don’t let the sins, regrets, or mistakes of the past poison the present or diminish the future God is bringing near. Refuse to let the past cast a shadow on your future. Remind yourself of the incredible suffering of Jesus on your behalf to put the past forever in the past: “by His wounds we are healed.” You don’t have to live down a broken past; it’s forgiven. You are free to live today released from sin's power. You are free to begin to look forward at the future God promises: “for I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

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