2007-06-06 - Summer Questions: Intro
2007 #1 ~ A Haunting Past Returns
Jeremiah 8:20, "Harvest is past, summer is ended; and we are not saved."
It is that time of year again. We hit 90 degrees yesterday on Long Island, so summer must be right around the corner. It is time for summer questions. Over the years, I have had more responses to the questions than anything I have written in the 11+ years I have done these devotionals.
I will give an example of a good question and make my attempt at answering it below. It came from a source other than the devotionals, but it is a good question to start with. The basic rule with summer questions is that no topic is forbidden, or out of order. For example, over the years we have dealt with masturbation, suicide, the nature of God, and many relational questions.
I protect the identity of the person that asks. If you give me a location in your question, I will change it. If you use a name in the question. I will invent a new name. For example, Dallas might become Alabama, Mike might become Jill, or Jeff. If you are going to submit a question, please email me directly at GodRulesTB@aol.com. I get to as many as I can, and will seek to do one each Wednesday, for the next few months. I am always amazed what comes in.
The basic rule is to keep it short and specific. General questions like "Why is the sky blue?," are not as useful. I can't wait to read your responses. Here is a good example of an excellent question.
Today's Question: "What do you do when the past comes back to haunt you?"
Everyone will agree that there is something in their past that has come back to haunt them, or even worse, there is something in the past that is lurking, and we hope nobody ever finds out about it. What do we do when the past comes back into our lives, and we have been doing all we can do to move on from the past and put the past behind us? It is a great question. The past can haunt us in at least three ways, I suppose. I will try to look at each, and in the process, will seek to answer this question.
First, the past can beat us up as far as our thoughts are concerned. In this, we simply have to rest in Christ, understand that there is no sin for which the blood of Christ does not atone, and seek to live as a child of God who is loved, accepted, approved and forgiven. Think of the parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32. He had much to be forgiven, and yet the Father forgave him all and even rejoiced over him. We are, in Christ, the children of our Heavenly Father. It is inevitable that we will replay the past in our thoughts. There is no escaping that, but by the grace of Christ, we can - even if we can't do it right away - let our past be unto us as far away, in our thoughts, as the East is from the West.
The past can come back to haunt us in a second manner. The past can affect us, in that we often have to live with the consequences of our past. If you are caught speeding, no amount of "I'm sorry," or begging forgiveness, will keep your insurance from increasing. There are often consequences for our actions. There are certain decisions that we make, or actions that we engage in that affect us, and some of them can affect us for the rest of our lives. It is often the case that a Christian will lament the years that they lived in sin, or spiritual thoughtlessness. We can't get back those years. They rightly come back to haunt us. They are a testimony to us to live differently in the present, but no amount of "wishing" for those lost years back can accomplish that desire. We again must rest in the grace of Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel for all our hope, trust and security. The past has consequences that affect our present, but knowing that, having that in our experience, let us seek to live today in a manner that the consequences of what we do today will be blessings in our future - rather than haunting memories.
A third way that the past can haunt us is in people reminding us of our past. This can happen in several ways, but I think the two most common experienced by Christians are: 1. Unbelievers - bringing up our past and reminding us of who we used to be before we "got Jesus." This can be very painful, especially to the person who has newly-found faith. The same friends, who see the change in you, but not in themselves, can be relentless with their comments, innuendoes, or open teasing. It gets harder and harder to say, "You don't understand. I am different." It gets easier and easier to justify what we know to be sin, so that the pressure will alleviate. We have to remember that in Christ, we are a new creation, and our friends and coworkers, are not, and do not understand the new birth that we have undergone. It may simply be - and this is not only hard to write, but even harder to implement - some friendships simply can't be maintained for the new creature in Christ. When they are a constant threat to our faith, and seeking to bring us back (down) to our old selves, it may be that we have to, for our own spiritual health, cut them loose from our lives. 2. Believers who bring up the times when we have fallen. This can be very hard to deal with personally, and we must siege the throne of mercy for our failings, but the response to those who remind us of our failings should be (with a smile), "I am a work in progress. I make mistakes. Sanctification is not complete in any of us. I feel bad about that matter, but I consider it part of my growing more and more, and depending deeper and deeper, in the matchless mercy of Jesus Christ." We continue smiling and walk away.
Everyone has a past. Everyone struggles with past matters that they wish they could get a "do-over" concerning. We rarely get do-overs, but we can seek to learn from our past experiences and use those times of growth to inform our future actions and help others avoid the same mistakes. Let us never lose sight that there is no sin for which the blood of Christ does not atone. Let us flee to that forgiveness for all our past, and seek to live anew in Christ from this day forward. Every Monday morning, as I begin a new week, I resolve to do better this week than I did the past week. It matters not if I had a good week or a bad week. We can always strive to live more and more faithfully to the wonderful calling of being ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). We can learn from our past and be wiser for it, but it need not haunt us.
Soli Deo Gloria,