Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
August 4, 2019
Cutting loose from the past
Great lessons may be learned from historic moments in the past. So, go back with me to the time of the Prophet Isaiah, 750 years before Christ was born. The Jews were living in bondage in Babylon, having been forced to leave the Holy City of Jerusalem. After many years God sent Cyrus, from Persia, to defeat the Babylonians. Then Cyrus said to the Jews, “You can go home now.”
In that historic moment most of the Jews just sat there. God inspired the prophet Isaiah to say to the Jews, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Still, the Jews just sat there.
They were in such bondage to the past that they could not arise and embrace the future. Many of them had lost faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Why believe in a God who could not save them from their enemies?
The critical mistake of the Jews is the great lesson we may learn. The Jews who chose not to go home decided that what had happened to them in the past was the most important reality of their lives. They failed to realize that the most important reality of their lives was the future God was offering them. That was true then and it is true today.
This, of course, is a mistake common to us all. Tragedy strikes. God is silent. I read my Bible. I went to church. I treated people fairly. Still, God allowed me to suffer. So why believe? We are all tempted in this way. Our sins trigger disbelief. We lied. We stole what did not belong to us. We committed adultery. We got sucked into the darkness of drug and alcohol addiction. So we concluded: God will never forgive us. Thus do we decide to be defined by our past.
To think like this is to forget what the Bible says about God! To believe that God will not forgive you is to forget the words of Jeremiah 31:34 – “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” It is to forget the words of David in Psalm 103 – “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”
People who are chained to the past do not have to remain in bondage. They can cut loose from the past and move on. How do you cut loose? You can go to church and start believing the songs we sing. For example, believe what Charles Wesley wrote in “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Don’t just sing these words, believe them! “He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free; his blood can make the foulest clean, his blood avails for me.” Believe the Lord can set you free!
John Wesley, to whom we Methodists are indebted, defined the Christian life as “growing in grace.” Notice he did not say, “sitting in grace.” The only way to grow in grace is to arise and accept God’s offer. You cannot continue to sit in Babylon and experience the new life God wants to give you. You must get up and move!
Consider that New Testament missionary whose name was Paul. Jesus had been crucified and resurrected. He redeems Paul. Paul is growing in grace. He establishes churches and encourages fellow Christians to grow in grace. From prison he says to the Philippians: “….one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize….”
Paul had an ugly past, and he knew his past could chain him, so he let it go! He cut loose from his past by “forgetting what lies behind.” I had to do that. I did it. If you have not done it, you can do it.
To do so requires a decision. You have to decide. You cannot move forward until you choose to believe that the most important thing about you is not your past but what God is offering you – a new beginning free from the guilt of the past.
Jesus did not ask people about their past. He pointed even the worst of sinners toward the future! Whatever your past, Jesus is not looking back at the mud you got stuck in; he is looking at the stars you can follow into a new life!
Ralph told me his story. He started drinking as a young man and when his friends told him he was drinking too much, he said, “I can stop anytime I want to.” But he did not stop; he became an alcoholic and it cost him his marriage and the respect of his children. His life was shattered, covered in the darkness of regret and guilt. Then one day he decided to surrender his life to Jesus. He said, “Jesus delivered me from bondage to my past; he set me free!”
Cut loose from his past, Ralph is moving on, growing in grace. He is slowly regaining the respect of his wife and children. He is not sitting in the grace that changed his life; he is growing in it. All because one day he decided to cut loose from his past, arise and accept God’s offer of a new life.
If you are in bondage to your past, ask the good Lord to help you cut loose and start growing in grace so you can become the person God has destined you to be! + + +