Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 KJV)
Sometimes I am haunted by my past blunders, the times my feet slipped, and the times I missed the mark. As I talk to other Christians, I find that some share the same grief. The apostle Paul encourages us to leave the past behind and move forward to the things ahead.
Prior to his conversion, Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus, an overzealous Pharisee who persecuted the Christian church. Saul behaved like a wild man, breathing out murderous threats against believers and going into their homes, dragging them off to prison. Eager to stamp out the Christian faith, he went to the High Priest in Jerusalem and requested authority to arrest Christians in Damascus. As he neared the city, a bright light from Heaven shined around him. Saul was struck blind, and he fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice say, "Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). Saul replied, "Who is speaking?" The voice answered, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Arise and go into the city and wait for further instructions." (Acts 9:5-6). The men traveling with Saul stood speechless, for they heard a voice but saw no one. They led Paul by the hand into Damascus, and he was there three days, blind, and without food and drink. Ananias, a devout follower of Christ, was sent to restore Saul's sight and to baptize him. Saul wasted no time and began preaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God.
The apostle Paul spoke from experience when he said to leave the past behind, for he had to bear the memory of persecuting innocent Christians. Rather than be a prisoner of his past, he accepted God’s forgiveness and moved forward to reach his potential in Christ. Paul took the message of salvation to the Gentiles, authored 13 Epistles in the New Testament, and was a preacher, teacher, church founder, and missionary who shaped the history of Christianity.
Some ask, “How is it possible to forget the past when I’m reaping the consequences of my sins?” Paul’s exhortation to forget the past does not mean all memory of the past is erased. Paul never forgot his former life and called himself the chief of sinners (1Timothy 1:15), but it did not stop him from moving ahead. He encouraged Christians to press on in their faith and to be all they could be for Jesus. Through forgiveness in Christ, we can look ahead and not be held back by wrong choices, sins, or failures. Faith moves forward and paves the way to blessings and new beginnings. The sins and blunders of the past do not have the final word – grace and forgiveness do.
Father, thank You for forgiving us and for new beginnings in Christ. Give us Your strength to press on, to reach our potential in Jesus, and to bring glory to Him. In Jesus' name. Amen
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