I want you to consider the apostle Paul for a moment. There is no question that Paul underwent a tremendous change in his life. He was at one time, by his own admission, a terrible person (1 Tim. 1:13). When we read of his pre-conversion history in the book of Acts, we will agree with his assessment of himself.
However, while Paul remembered these things, he did not morbidly dwell on them to the point that they precluded him from any spiritual progress. Paul remembered how he had, at one time, been involved in things that were important to him and probably important to a lot of other people (Phil. 3:5-6). Yet Paul had changed and these things, though in his memory, were considered as unimportant to him now (Phil. 3:7).
Paul might use them as learning experiences, but they served little else. He proceeds to say later, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil. 3:13).
Paul had to do that because if he did not leave his past in the past, he would not be able to “…press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). That was clearly Paul’s goal in all that he did. If he were to try to live in the past he would be hindered in the present and lose the future! There is the lesson we all need to learn.
Yes, the past has happened. It is history (and I mean that in the clinical, not cynical sense). Christians who repent of their former conduct and continue to dwell on it and live in it will never become what they could be spiritually. What advantage is there in allowing what has been forgiven to constantly be the obstacle we trip over every day? I cannot think of one single advantage. Then why do we do it? Why beat ourselves up over these things.
Let me say that I would gladly put my name down on a list of those who wish for a time machine where we could go back in time and relive certain days or change bad things in the past. Unfortunately, such a machine does not exist. We all live in the present. We all have a future. I think that all of us, as individuals and as a church, need to have the attitude of Paul and build ourselves up from our past and be straining for the finish line. When we do that we will become what we should be spiritually. No one ever won a race by stopping halfway to sit down and ponder the race he lost last week.
Let us learn from them. Let us be resolute in not repeating them again. Let us use them to make us stronger and be determined to prevent them from making us weaker.