How To Overcome Your Past

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Within the psychological community, there is a school of thought called behavioral modification.  Behavioral modification counselors are sure that humans are nothing more than socially conditioned creatures whose futures have been determined by their pasts.  Too much emphasis is placed on the way the individual's past controls his or her destiny.

I have heard of and even listen to one college professor who could explain all personal problems as being the result of one event in their past - poor toilet training… Everything about a person was the result of potty training.  If you were a success in life it was because you're potty training was successful.  If your life was a disaster, if you'd been sentenced to prison, if you couldn't hold a job… it was because of poor potty training.  These professors would lecture and preached their gospel with the enthusiasm and zeal of a Southern Baptist evangelist.  "Students, the first demand the society ever makes upon an individual comes with toilet training.  What happens in toilet training is a precursor to all the demands that society will ever make on the person.  Please know that toilet training is the first thing that society requires of anyone.  The parent is the communicator of societal demands.  Consider how they plead for compliance with social expectations, probably implore the child and beg, "do it for mommy! Do it for daddy!"  However, the child sometimes will resist the pleas of his parent.  He may rebel against their wishes and when this happens social rebellion is bred into the youngster.  The child made to finally say, "No!"  If the parent is tough and steadfast, they may demand, "Well you will just stay there until something happens."  The child stays there.  He works hard on it.  He gives to the task everything he's got and then after a long time he succeeds and finally produces the gift for which society has pled."

(I've heard it called a lot of things before…)

Then the professor will say, "I ask you, what does society do with this gift that the child has produced on its behalf?  What does it do with the results of the child’s labor?  Does society preserve it?  Does society honor it?  NO! Society flushes it.  Then and there the child learns that what he produces for society has no lasting significance, no continual importance.

I know sometimes people bronze their first baby shoes…

listening to an intelligent person articulate some stupid idea can really improve your day.

Does our past really determine who we are and what our life is going to be like?  Are we simply products of our environment and conditioning?

Ladies and gentlemen, the Bible does not teach that the past determines what and who we are; as a matter of fact, the Bible teaches just the opposite.  According to God's word, the future determines who we are and what we are in the present.  The future, not the past, is considered to be the most important dimension of the human personality.  For you and I here this morning the most important question is not, "where did I come from?" But rather, "where am I going?"

Your past will influence you (for good or bad), but your past does not have to determine who you are or what you will become.

I have heard people say, “If I had it all to do over again I wouldn’t change a thing.”… 

In the late 1970’s, I left Southeast Texas to go to Bible College in a little town about 40 miles outside the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.  To help pay for room and board and tuition and books I got a job at a small discount store unloading the merchandise off the trucks.  After I had worked there for several months the manager came to me and said, “Rick, now that you have worked here for a while you are eligible to be a part of our employee stock option plan, it is only available to employees because we don’t make our stock available to the public.  32 years ago when he said that I thought, “Why in the world would I want stock in Wal-Mart?”

Every honest person in this room will admit that if we had the chance to do life over there are a million things we would do different.  If we could change our past we would.  But, since we can’t change the past; how do we overcome our past?

Philippians 3: 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Your past has two components:   what you have done to yourself

                                                  what others have done to you  (good and bad)

Too many Christians have their spiritual growth hindered by their past.  Too many people hesitate coming to the Lord because they think the things they have done in their past preclude God or the Church from loving and accepting them.  Too many people are haunted by past events that keep them from living a full, blessed life.

I am happy to be able to stand here this morning and tell you that the Bible has hope that is greater than your past

there is a love that has more power than your past

there is a grace that is more amazing than your past

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in Philippians 3, the apostle Paul writes for us three simple steps to help us overcome our past:

                   Realistic view

                   Replace the perspective

                   Rebound from your past

1) Take A Realistic View of where you are and where you have been

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect

Even the apostle Paul, arguably the most spiritual person in the New Testament, realized that he was not perfect.  He had struggles, he had battles, he had things he was still trying to overcome from his life before he accepted Christ. 

The Greek word for perfect in verse 12 literally means to carry through completely, finish.  Paul understood that this life was a race he was running and one of the ways to successfully win this race was to complete the race.

In other words, the longer I properly run this race, the farther away I will get from my past and the closer I will get to the goal, to the prize. 

There is absolutely no way to immediately escape all of the things in your past.  We can be immediately saved from the penalty of all of our past sins, but we will still have to deal with the effect of our past.

Justification does not override the Law of Sowing and Reaping.

Let me explain that.  Justification is a theological term used to describe our position in Christ after we have accepted his forgiveness of our sins.  Justification simply means in the eyes of God it is just as if our sins had never been committed.  God doesn't hold the penalty of our past sins against us.  We are forgiven.

However, there is still the law of sowing and reaping.

Galatians 6: 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

An adult who steals from their employer, shows up late for work, leaves early - spend most of their free time drinking and doing drugs, running around, bar hopping - why is that person surprised when the school calls and says your child is not behaving properly, they're becoming a discipline problem and their failing all their classes.

If you plant a seed for a carrot in the ground, a carrot will come up; if you plant a seed for watermelon, you're going to grow a watermelon; if you plant a seed for corn, corn is what you are going to harvest.

What you put in, is what you will get out.  What you put in the ground, is what you will harvest.  You will reap what you have sown.

If you get drunk and get behind the wheel of your car and then plow through a stop sign, hit another car, killing a passenger in the car; you are going to find yourself before a judge.  Now if before you appear before the judge you confess your sins and asked Jesus to forgive you.  Spiritually; in heaven you are justified, you are forgiven; God does not lay that sin to your account anymore.  But when you come before the judge and tell the judge that you have asked forgiveness from God, that judge will say, "Wonderful, that's exactly what I wanted to hear; you don’t have to worry about this anymore, we are going to drop all the charges, this will never show up on your record and you can go free right now."

No, that judge is still going to put you in jail, because you still have to deal with your actions and the results of your actions.

If you want to overcome your past, the first thing you have to do is realistically look at where you are right now and understand there are some things you're just going to have to deal with.  Maybe they're the result of your actions; maybe it's the result of what other people have done to you - maybe it's fair, maybe it's not fair - but here is where I'm at.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But

‘But’ is a conjuction; a conjunction takes two parts of speech and explains how they relate to each other.  The conjunction ‘but’ means that you are going to omit or exclude something; it means that there is an exception –

maybe you haven't already obtained,

maybe you haven't already been made perfect,

maybe you are still struggling with things in your past

but we are about to exclude some things, we are about to omit some things, some things are about to change.

Part of taking a realistic view means that you can totally replace that view

2)  Replace

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind

one thing I do

Overcoming your past does not happen by accident.  Time by itself does not heal everything.  You are going to have to take active steps to replace the view you currently have.  You are going to have to focus on this problem; concentrate your efforts.

The Greek word used for“forgetting”  means to be ignorant of, to be hidden, to neglect.  In order to overcome your past; in order to forget your past, you have to focus your efforts to neglect your past.

Rick, sounds like you are talking in circles, if I want to forget something, why would I focus on it?

Remember, for the believer it is not our past that determines us but our future.  Focus on your future.

And they're only a few basic ways in which our past, to a certain extent can be removed from our minds. 

One way if senility - they say the mind is the first thing to go…

Another way is by brain malfunction or damage

but there is another way in which our memories can be affected and that is –

by the introduction of new learning.

Educational psychologist will tell you that the biggest cause of students not remembering what they were taught in chapter 1, is that the next week they were taught chapter 2.  The introduction of chapter 2 will cause you to neglect chapter 1 and in turn will produce forgetting the material from chapter 1.

Romans 12: 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…

God will transform us by renewing our minds.  As we continue in the word of God and allow the leading of the Holy Spirit to touch us, new material and learning will be introduced into our mind.  The more of the word of God we put into our mind and our spirit, the less room there is for the old things and the old ways. 

When we see the phrase "to forget" in the Bible, it means no longer to be influenced by or affected by.  Forgetting those things which are behind simply means we break the power of the past by living for the future. 

We cannot change the past, but we can change the meaning of the past.  We should no longer look on the things of the past in such a way that they will impede our future progress.

We have seen the reality of our past and we know we can replace our perspective of our past, but we can also

3)  Rebound from our past

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What is the most important play in…?  The next one

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What is interesting about these three phrases is that in the original Greek they are all the same exact word.  This is the key as to how the apostle Paul was able to overcome his past.  Just as he once chased Christians and hounded them and sought after them to put them in jail, to persecute them and to execute them - with the same vigor he now chases after the things of God.

Gentlemen, do you want to know how to forget your past?  Start chase after the things of God the same way you used to chase after women.

Ladies, do you want to know how to forget your past?  Start talking about the things of God the same way you used to talk about what your neighbor was wearing.

What would Sunday morning worship be like if we all started to look forward to the worship service same way we used to look forward to going to the nightclub on Saturday night?

What would happen in our Bible study groups if we started to thirst for the word of God the same way we used to thirst for a sixpack of Bud?

What would happen if we thought about helping other people the same way we used to think about the people who had hurt us?

What would happen if believers served God in the same fashion they used to serve the devil?

What would be the result?

We would not be controlled by our past, we would be setting the destiny of our future.

Don’t you think it is time you neglected your past; isn’t it time you overcome your past rather than your past always coming over you?

Replace your thinking and you can rebound from your past.

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