This is from my good friend Pastor Jason Stephens. Jason is the Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Windsor, Connecticut.
Well, the day has finally arrived! Today, many people are trying to get their plans in place for the New Year. How much weight to lose, how many books to read, how much money to make, how to get out of debt or how to regain a lost love. For some, the adventure begins tomorrow and sadly may end by the end of next month. In sticking with tradition, I too believe that it’s time for many of us to leave things behind (in the past). The question is: what will you leave behind?
I was encouraged recently when I read one Pastor’s perspective on leaving things in the past. He used the letter that Paul wrote to Timothy shortly before his death. No doubt that letter was bittersweet to both men. Paul had mentioned that he was torn between staying on earth to continue in the work of the ministry and going on to Heaven to see Jesus. I’m sure Timothy would have loved to have Paul stay a few years longer to mentor him and answer his many questions. The fact is, the time for Paul to leave was here. As he prepared to leave this life, he gives us great counsel in being ready to meet God or a new year.
The pastor I was encouraged by said…
Paul said he was leaving behind those things that he once treasured. Paul was going to leave behind the good ole days. He had once been proud of his religion, but then he found something better in Jesus. We could sit around and talk about the way it used to be, and the things we used to do, but until we release the past, we can never embrace the future. There is nothing sadder than to meet a minister, or a lay leader, whose entire story is about what they used to do, who they used to know, where they used to go. I’m not going to dwell on where I’ve been, I’m looking forward to where God is taking me. I believe God is going to anoint me with fresh oil!
Paul said he was going to leave behind tradition. He had been brought up in the Jewish religion and tradition. As an adult he sought to elevate himself from among his fellows by pursuing a devoutly religious life. But what Paul tells us is that he never found life and until he died. He said, I am crucified with Christ….and He lives in me. If we’re not careful we simply fall into a rut and run in religious circles that lead us back to where we started. Paul was willing to leave behind everything he thought he knew about being religious so that he could enter into relationship. Leaving behind tradition means that we are willing to honor our past without forsaking our future. We are willing to be grateful for where our fore parents in the faith have brought us, but also being willing to grab the baton and continue the race, and being willing to pass it one to the next generation as well. If we fail in this we’ll die in one generation.
Paul was willing to leave behind his mistakes. Paul testifies in a couple places that he had been guilty of persecuting the Church. I believe Paul would confess that he had been mistaken in this. Paul lists this as one of those things that he is willing leave behind. If we allow him, Satan will keep us tied to our mistakes, to our guilt and condemnation. But when you believe that Calvary covers it all, then you are prepared to move forward. If I didn’t believe in the healing balm of Gilead, if I did not believe that His grace is sufficient, if I didn’t believe in the blood of Christ that cleanses white as snow, then I would never be able to move forward. But thank God, now I sing, I am free, free, free, I am free. Jesus broke the bands that held me I am free. Life has meaning now for me, I’ve been given liberty, by the blood of Calvary, I am living, I am free. I’ve knelt at an altar where the blood was applied. I received forgiveness and I now I can move forward.
Finally, Paul was willing to leave behind hatred against any who had wronged him. Paul said, concerning the law, I was blameless. Contrary to those challenging Paul’s credentials to preach the Gospel of Grace, Paul declares that he had upheld the highest standards of the law and still decided that God was doing something in Christ that was even better. He could have held anger and malice in his heart toward those who tried to elevate themselves by putting Paul down. But Paul said, I’m leaving those things behind.
Chances are that if you’ve been serving God for any length of time, someone has wronged you. I’ve been lied to, and lied on. I’ve been talked about and stabbed in the back by people that I thought I could trust. I’ve had people in the highest levels of church government lie to me. There have been people here who have stood in the parking lot and attacked my leadership and my vision. I could hold bitterness in my heart. I could return evil for evil, but I’ve decided to simply leave it in the past and move on.
Not everything, or everyone in life is fair. That’s life. I challenge anyone to show where the Bible tells us that everyone and everything will be fair. It doesn’t say that. But what it does say is that God will balance the books someday. The Bible says, Vengeance is not mine, it’s His- saith the Lord, I will repay. He cant repay what you are trying to settle up.
I choose to leave all the hurts and wounds in the past and move on. People who want to attack and talk about others will be stuck in the past with red face and green eyes of jealousy while I walk on with Jesus.
Can you leave the hurts in the past? If you believe that Calvary covers it all, then it covers even the sins of those who have wronged you, hurt you, deserted, or wounded you. Place them in Jesus’ hands and keep on keeping on. You have a God given destiny that awaits you. You have a future filled with God’s favor in front of you, but you cannot obtain the prize, until you are willing to release the past and run with patience that race that is before you. I will not allow my yesterdays to rob me of my tomorrows. The prize is too precious to forfeit simply because I would not leave behind those things that have kept me from moving forward.
Is there anything in your life that is keeping you from the prize? The writer of Hebrews reminds us that we should lay down the weights, and the sin that trips us up and run with patience the race that He has placed before you. Do not sabotage your own future simply because you refuse to let go and move forward in faith. I challenge you not to drag your failure into your future. Leave in the past and let it die. Bury it at the cross and move on with Jesus.