“Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead”
See Philippians 3:13
It’s so easy to be ashamed of our past, especially when certain people hold our past against us. It could be a spouse whom you’ve cheated on, physically or emotionally, and they bring it up all the time. It could be a pastor or church leader who knows about your prior drug, alcohol, or sex addiction, and they passive-aggressively blackmail you to do things for them at the church.
You could even be a pastor, one who used to teach Old Testament Law rather than the true gospel of grace. This false teaching ruined the lives of many people as they tried to please you. Now, a lot of them resent you because the Law requires perfection, yet, you kept telling them to live up to the standards of it. You exacerbated your congregation with threats of hell and less rewards in heaven, as you, yourself, failed to follow all 613 laws which is the requirement should a person choose to live by it (see Matthew 5:48, John 8:11, Galatians 3:10, James 2:10). Satan had you fooled about your status with God because of where you physically stood each Sunday morning.
However, through your legalistic burn-out, God has opened up the eyes of your heart to what Jesus has really done at the Cross, and you’re very sorry about teaching Law. You’ve changed your entire message, but still, many people remember how you were, and what your angry teaching did to their families and lives.
My friend, whoever it is that tries to throw up your previous poor choices in your face, I want you to know something: THEY DON’T DEFINE YOU IN ANY WAY, GOD DOES.
Your loving Heavenly Father knew you were going to make some serious mistakes in life even before you made them. Because of this, He provided a way to change your life by giving you a new life! First, on the inside, and second, through your actions and attitudes!
You may have been saved for years, and then again, you may have just recently believed Jesus forgave you of your sins; either way, it takes time for us to learn and grow into what has really happen inside of us. Do you know what’s happened? Oh, it’s good stuff! Understanding what’s happened will be the most important thing you understand–ever!
Christian, do you know who you really are?! Because when you do…HA! Oh my gosh I get excited just typing about this subject! YOU ARE HEAVEN-READY INSIDE THAT BODY! YEP!
Paul tells the people in Corinth what Jesus did inside of him–and try to understand Paul’s past, he was a legalist and a bounty hunter of Christians! He was a racist, he loved the Mosaic Law (all 613), and he hated Christians! (See Philippians 3:4-7). How’s that match up to your past? No matter, just look at how he describes himself after placing his faith in Jesus:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Each time Paul described what Jesus has done inside of us he uses past tense verbs. All throughout his letters, he wanted the audience to know what Jesus has done to our spirits: GIVEN US A NEW ONE! Not when we die, but now, right now! Our spirits will not become new in heaven, only our bodies will! (See 1 Corinthians 15:35-58). In the supernatural realm, we are already seated with Christ in heaven! (See Ephesians 2:6). That is, our spirits!
Every believer in Christ has allowed the Holy Spirit to kill off their old spirit and give them their new spirit! (See Romans 6:6-7). When this happened, you might not have felt anything, and then again you might have, but either way, when you first believed Jesus was your Savior, your old self died and you got a new perfect self! Your self is your spirit! Your spirit is the part of you that will never die! That new spirit is now interwoven with Jesus’ Spirit like strands of thread in a single piece of cloth! You and Christ are one! Here’s another description from Paul:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…” (See Galatians 2:20)
Again, past tense. He’s describing his old self. Do you see that? Paul wasn’t saying we are waiting to be crucified with Christ in heaven. He’s referring to the spiritual realm here, not the afterlife, and obviously not physically, right now. Paul was not speaking in hyperbole, he was being very literal! He was talking about your spirit!
So supernaturally, after we are crucified with Christ–by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9)–God’s Spirit comes and lives with us, making His home in our spirits (see John 14:23, Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:19). It’s not “all of Him and none of me”–heck no! IT’S BOTH OF US TOGETHER! Paul says so in the same verse:
“The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (See Galatians 2:20)
C’MON PEOPLE, THIS IS AWESOME! The first half of Galatians 2:20 is referring to our old selves (which Paul also talked about in 2 Corinthians 5:17); and then the second half of this verse is referring to our new spiritually perfect selves, who still live temporarily in this body-shell! God has made you new! Your identity has changed! Even if your choices and thought-life hasn’t, you have! You were a caterpillar, and now you are a butterfly! YOU DON’T HAVE THE OPTION OF GOING BACK! Even if you want to act like a caterpillar as a butterfly, this won’t change the fact that you now have wings! FLY! YOU CAN FLY! GET UP AND FLY HIGH! GET OFF THE GROUND AND BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE!
This is the revelation you need in order to get over your past. The opinions of others are so weak when you know the truth of who you are. You are not the same person as you once were, even if you acted like it in your past–and even if you still act like it. Behavior will never change identity. Crawl around all you want, you’ve been remade to fly and your life will never make sense until you do.
“I hear you, Matt. I was already saved and I messed up real bad, and sometimes I still do.”
Me too. Friend, welcome to humanity. We all mess up real bad, all the time, but those mess-ups don’t define us in any way, God does. Listen, we are all learning and growing in the knowledge of who we are, that takes time. Our poor choices don’t shock God, He’s seen it trillions of times before. So please, stop focusing on veering off the road, just be glad that Jesus is in the passenger seat. Even if you do trek off into the wilderness, He’ll always gently guide you back onto the truth of who you really are. It’s up to us to listen to Him, but make no mistake, He’ll never bail on us–ever.
The Bible says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, this is a process (see Romans 12:2). It also says that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. When is that completion going to take place? When Jesus returns or your body finally wears out (see Philippians 1:6). So please be easy on yourself. God knows you aren’t used to having those wings, and He understands that you’re not sure how they work. And yes, they are intimidating, but they really do belong to you!
Don’t be hard on you because even God isn’t hard on you. Religious people are, the devil is, even our old caterpillar thinking is, but God is not. He is gentle, humble in heart, and patient. He looks at you with kind eyes, especially when you fall down, so don’t be afraid of Him. He’ll help you back up as many times as it takes, and He’ll keep encouraging you with the truth of who He’s made you to be!
So today, my friends, know this: Don’t believe the lies of others when they say you’ve not changed, God would beg to differ. You are learning more and more each day from His Spirit inside you. The life you now live you live by faith, not by the past–even yesterday. Let yesterday go…even last hour, let it go. Sometimes we feel like wobbly-kneed babies as we reach out for Daddy to help us walk, and He just smiles. “Look at you! You are standing up! I’m proud of you!” You are His cherished child, infinitely loved forever!
A prayer for you: Dad, thank you for pointing out the life of Paul to me, I know he had it rough. On one side of him he had the legalistic Jews holding his past against him, and on the other side, he had the Christians who didn’t fully trust him. But that didn’t matter to Paul because he knew who he was inside. He knew what you had done! In 1 Corinthians 4:3, when others judged him over his past, he said he didn’t care about their opinion of him because he no longer even judged himself. He wasn’t focused on what he did or didn’t do, but instead, he kept his mind set on who you had made him in spirit. What confidence! Paul is such an inspiration! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who are believing the lies of the devil, and of the people who like throwing up their past in their face, strengthen them. Help them to realize what you’ve truly done to their spirits, which is recreate them as perfect! As they learn more and more about this fact, empower these dear readers to live out that perfection! Even though it’s not completely possible on this side of heaven, we trust that you will reveal more about who we are! Thank you, Father. Amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!