Baggage. Junk. History. Pain. Hurts. Sin. A PAST—we’ve all got one, since we've all messed up. If you don’t handle it well, your past can define you and negatively impact a lot of your relationships. But it doesn’t have to.
Last Tuesday at the Porch we talked about God’s answers to seven pieces of bad relationship advice that the world has given us. One of the pieces of bad advice that resonated with many was “Your past defines you.” God’s answer to that bad advice is that your past does NOT define you, and while God does not condone your past sin, He does not condemn it if you are a follower of Jesus Christ.
So how should you handle your past? What does God tell you to do with it, and how does He tell you to view it? The Bible has the answers.
Everyone’s past involves sin. It’s part of the human condition, and you can’t escape it. But the beauty of the gospel is that God offers you a full pardon for your sin when you repent from it and trust in Christ’s death and resurrection. This means first admitting to God that you have sinned against Him (this is confession – see Psalm 51:4), and then turning from your sin and turning to God (this is repentance – see Acts 3:19). Anyone who has done that becomes a new creation whose past does not define them (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old has gone, and the new has come!
When you confess your sins, repent from them, and trust Christ, all of your past, present, and future sins are no longer held against you (2 Corinthians 5:19). But that doesn’t mean you should keep on sinning! If, after becoming a Christian, you turn your back on God and sin against him, creating even more of a “past” for yourself, the answer is still the same: humbly repent. God will forgive you and welcome you back, like the loving father in the story of the prodigal son (for more on that, listen to this message and this message).
You’ve made painful mistakes in your past, and you can – and should – learn something from them. You don’t want to repeat those foolish things, since that would be like a dog returning to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11). Instead, you should:
Spend more time reading and memorizing Scripture, which tells you how to live. Psalm 119:71 says that pain can actually be a good thing, because it can teach you to pay closer attention to God’s Word. The Bible will guide your steps if you let it (Psalm 119:105).
Behave differently in the future. Proverbs 22:3 says that a wise person sees danger and runs from it, but a fool keeps going and suffers the consequences. Don’t keep doing the things that gave you a painful past to begin with, since you already know that they will lead to consequences. Instead, seek to walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26).
Stay humble. Proverbs 11:2 says that being prideful will lead you to disgrace, but wisdom comes with being humble. If you want to be wise and learn from your past, it starts with an attitude of humility.
You don’t have to keep living in your past! The amazing thing about God’s complete forgiveness of your past sin is that you get to GET UP and MOVE ON from it (Proverbs 24:16). Once you’ve repented, don’t wallow in your past. Don’t dwell on it (Isaiah 43:18). Don’t be miserable about it. God has removed that sin from you (Psalm 103:12), and it’s no longer your identity. Do what the Apostle Paul did: forget what’s behind, and press on toward what’s ahead (Philippians 3:13-14).
Moving on from your past doesn’t mean that you should keep quiet about it. Just the opposite actually! God wants you to tell other people about how He has redeemed you (Psalm 107:2). He wants you to tell other people how much He has done for you (Luke 8:39). And He wants you to invite other people to hear your testimony (Psalm 66:16).
Sharing about your past and God’s provision for your past sin may be the thing that moves someone else to do the same and allows them to experience the incredible freedom that Christ offers. Don’t be shy with your story – share it.
What are you doing with your past?