Forgetting What Lies Behind

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 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, (Philippians 3:13, ESV)

There’s not a person on Planet Earth who doesn’t struggle with past, and of course, present things. Moving on takes great courage and a clear understanding of the grace and truth that God has provided.

“Many Christians have rightly celebrated salvation as a free gift, but have not understood that they are to grow up into it. They have celebrated with Paul that “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are [being] sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14), not noticing that the second part of that verse is ongoing. They have not understood that sanctification is a process and have not acknowledged with Paul, “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 (Philippians 3:12). As Christians, we tend to press on in terms of managing behavior rather than renewing our mind and receiving a new heart, which naturally changes behavior. Many have tried to forget “what lies behind” (Philippians 3:13) by ignoring the past rather than by letting the Holy Spirit search the innermost parts of the heart in order to allow Jesus to put deeply ingrained attitudes behind us through His cross. They have attempted to put aside the old self with its practices of anger, wrath, malice and slander, as if these were only external expressions, whereas Jesus called the Pharisees (and us) to “clean the INSIDE of the cup” (Matthew 23:36). (John & Paula Sandford, founders, Elijah House International)

God gave us many tools to clean up the cup. Among these: salvation, the Holy Spirit Baptism, deliverance, inner healing and the crucifixion of the Adamic nature or  “the old man.” Many people can’t seem to get over the past. Usually, they are either stuck in the past, their current circumstances or in the future, constantly wishing they were there so they could escape the present dilemma. David recognized, however, that “my times (plural) are in Your Hands” (Psa. 31:15). He knew God has no time frame because He IS Eternity, and as a consequence, every aspect of our lives is determined by His divine purpose.

Part of our problem is being entangled in the westernized version of the gospel that emphasizes prosperity beyond the Bible’s real focus, that of a changed life. If we take the prosperity blinders off for a minute and read the New Testament as its intended to be read, we see that sanctification – being conformed to the image of Jesus – is God’s real goal for us (Rom. 8:29), and not primarily, a so-called “successful” life. Near the end of Mother Teresa’s life, a reporter asked her who would carry on with her success when she died. She replied, “God didn’t call me to be a success — He called me to be faithful.” This is truly a great lesson from one who knew nothing about the prosperity doctrine, but something tells me she’s entered into the joy of her master who said, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Our culture’s ME emphasis often dilutes real love and service to others, and this self-focus steals the joy of living in the present right out of us. We consequently look backward to the former days, or attempt to cast ourselves into the future where things seem brighter. Folks, God wants us to refocus on the spiritual where His promises never fade in spite of an unstable economy and governments that fail us:

11 In Him we also were made [God’s] heritage (portion) and we obtained an inheritance; for we had been foreordained (chosen and appointed beforehand) in accordance with His purpose, Who works out everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His [own] will,

This is quite reassuring when we are deeply perplexed about what’s going on. David was also a guy who asked God to search him to see if there was a “way of pain” (literal Hebrew) in him (Psa. 139:23-24).  Most people harbor some pain, if not a great deal of it that they carry inside them for a while, or even all their lives. It often shows up in spite of their major effort to seem happy to others.  Among us are people whose lives have been torn by devastation and unbelievable circumstances, and wracked by physical, emotional, and, yes, religious pain, which can be one of the worst of all.

In this sense, unfortunately, many have sought deliverance and healing in the church, only to find toxic faith that offers rules, legalism and a lot of self-effort in the place of grace. The tragedy is when the church we attend becomes a business and exists to serve itself. These victims, who sometimes won’t share blame, are often the same people who blame God, when it was really modern day Pharisees and their own lack of discernment that added insult to injury.

I know what you’re thinking, “You don’t know what I’ve been through.” You’re right, I don’t. But I know ONE who has gone through the worst pain that any human being has ever endured. His name is Jesus. No matter how deep your pain, His was worse. No matter how far you’ve fallen in your sin, He went further into the abyss and the current pits to deliver you from them.

No offense, but some people want to wallow in their pain and continue to do so, no matter how much counseling, prayer and preaching they get or books they read. Let’s face it, some people will not be saved, delivered or healed. And, yes, some Christians will remain pitifully helpless in spite of your and my best efforts to pull them out of their carved out caves of depression. We should always lend a hand to whomever we can to bless, teach and lift up. However, for some of these people, remaining in their stuff is a kind of selfish perversion to excuse themselves from “forgetting what lies behind” and “straining forward to what lies ahead.” And then there are others who want to move forward…

If you’re one of those people, let’s talk about a “how to.” Okay, you’ve tried a few or many ways, and you’re still walking in your pain and consistent defeat. Perhaps you were also one of those who really didn’t know what to do. You’re about to learn a few things….the tools mentioned above.

Salvation … The Greek word for salvation is “soteria” (#4991 in Strong’s). This word is used 45 times in the N.T. The verb form “sozo” (#4982) is used 111 times. It means “deliverance, protection, made whole, health, preservation and safety.” Only a handful of times is the word “save” used in the eternal sense since the NT was written primarily for saved people to teach us what to do and be after salvation. Thus, salvation really means deliverance. For some, they have only looked to Jesus to save them from eternal death and hell. That’s awesome, but if that’s you, you’re short changing yourself for the pain and suffering He paid for.  Some people experience a magnificent salvation in which much of their soul-spirit is deeply changed … and then there’s the rest of us who are slower at getting there.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit…Great life-giving power here, and it’s not like 99% of Christians haven’t heard of it. I hear many Christians say, “We’re not against it,” but they’re not for it, either. If you’re satisfied with your life the way it is and have no desire for a deeper hunger for God, you’ll never receive this great blessing. No offense, but this is a sad commentary on many people who are still arguing over the scriptural basis for it. They’ll be debating it until Jesus comes or they pass on.  A friend of mine once asked God about what most hindered Christians from really knowing Him. God said, “self-satisfaction and distraction.” In other words, because there is no real pursuit of God, no hunger for more and being distracted by “the cares of this life,” the business of business and simply whiling away the hours, our time on earth can be largely wasted, and we will fail to know Him, unlike the Apostle Paul:

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [[b]which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] That if possible I may attain to the [[c]spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. (Phil 3:10-11, Amplified)

Deliverance… Means deliverance from demons “hitchhiking in our flesh” or deliverance from something just as ungodly – “the self life,” “the old self,” “old man,” “adamic nature,” sometimes called simply “the flesh.” God found this so repugnant and not worthy of redeeming that He killed our flesh with Jesus on the cross (entire chapter of Romans 6; Galatians 2:20). Most miss the point that deliverance from self is not only a one-time thing (Rom. 6:6), but a daily death, too (1 Cor. 15:31). If we are willing, God will continually show us areas of the heart yet unreached with the good news of all Christ did for us.  IF we are desirous, He will do all within His mighty power to set us free.

Beware, though, real change is usually painful, sometimes personally offensive, and please understand this: many Christians would rather live in denial about their own real feelings and emotions than be delivered. We tend to prefer “looking good” to telling the truth about “where we live.” Much modern teaching avoids straight talk. We don’t want to “offend” anyone. Being nice to people can be one of the worst things we ever do! Not helping people face themselves isn’t nice! It’s sinful! My own experience is succinctly illustrated by the country rock band, Rascal Flatts’ wildly popular song, “Bless the Broken Road.” If you substitute knowing Jesus for the girl in this, you have some real truth that often comes via great pain:

I set out on a narrow way many years ago

Hoping I would find true love along the broken road

But I got lost a time or two

Wiped my brow and kept pushing through

I couldn’t see how every sign pointed straight to you

[Chorus:]

Every long lost dream led me to where you are

Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars

Pointing me on my way into your loving arms

This much I know is true

That God blessed the broken road

That led me straight to you

Inner healing…Stuff happens in life that is hard to take, some things going back in our adulthood, to infancy and even inutero (in the womb, for example, rejection). Although many of our painful experiences were not our fault, how we respond to them is. This is a choice. If bitterness is entangled in the root of our pain, true forgiveness can set us free. Well-known Bible teacher Joyce Meyer was raped by her father more than 200 times, and she remembered every one of them! However, because she pursued forgiveness and release from her prison of torment, hate and anger, Jesus delivered her from all her pain, shame and guilt (victims often feel responsible). She later led her father to salvation before he died.

Joyce’s life is a perfect example of what it means to “forget what lies behind” and “strain forward to what lies ahead.” If she had chosen to remain a victim of her circumstances, remaining “safely” in her prison and hating her father, she wouldn’t have touched the world with her revelations of practical Christian living! Joyce couldn’t just put this out of her mind, and neither can we. To be free, we have to get hold of the tools mentioned here and get on with it. Life can still be awesome IF we are willing. A wise woman once told me: “Keep on doing what you’re doing, and you’ll get the same results.”

We can choose today to look to Jesus to provide the joy and happiness we seek or foolishly think other things will fill the holes in us (Matt. 6:33). Recently, I experienced shock and sadness with the loss of a job I’d had for quite some time. It was a negative “suddenly.” I shed a few tears that afternoon after I had gone home for good. I licked my wounds for a few hours, but then the Holy Spirit broke through. “Don’t look back,” He said.

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

2 comments on “Forgetting What Lies Behind”

  1. Wow Joe…I’ve always thought of Jesus being the one this song was written about…always! This is truly a great piece by you! Shared on my FB wall! God bless your 2017 Joe! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much. Actually, the song was recorded by another artist for The Agape Road series by Bob Mumford. I cried every time I heard it! The part about “northern stars pointing to Jesus” is really impactful.

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