My Dear Friends,
Many Christians are haunted by their past. It can tyrannise them, paralyse them, and all but crush the life out of them. It is undeniably true that one of Satan’s many anti-Christian devices is his bringing our pasts to our remembrance, to humble us, distract us, turn us in upon ourselves, and leave us with a paralysing sense of guilt and shame. How are we to react and respond when Satan placards our pasts before us?
The very first thing we must do is to apply afresh to our disturbed minds and shamed spirits, the glorious truth that God in Christ remembers our sins no more, that however scarlet our sinful past, the atoning blood of Christ has washed us whiter than snow. How very basic this is - and yet how precious this is. I have often thought these past months of those soul-stirring words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:11. We live in a world soiled by the grossness and wickedness and filth of sin. Multitudes have been deceived by the “deceitfulness of sin”. How much it offers, how alluring it appears - how deadly it is! What are we to say to men and women whose lives have been shamed and soiled by idolatry, immorality, adultery, homosexuality, greed, drunkenness and addictions of all kinds? Surely this: “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin.” Paul could say to these believers in Corinth, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” This is where we must always begin. However gory your past, however shameful, filthy, vile - God has provided in his own Son and by his atoning sacrifice, cleansing for sinners.
We should secondly remember this, “Who will bring any charge against those who God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” Think of all who can bring charges against you: Satan, this world, your own conscience. And then think on this, God has justified you in Christ, if you are a Christian! In God’s eyes, and this is so staggering that we almost hesitate to say it (but we do because it is the revealed truth of God), you are as just, as righteous as Christ himself. Pause for a moment and take this in: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Do you wonder why this message is called “gospel?” By nature and by practice we are guilty, vile, damnable rebel sinners. Maybe you are thinking, “O, but Ian, if you only knew my past and the sins...” My friend, even you do not know how vile you were! You think your sins were black and shameful? They were infinitely more black and shameful than we will ever know. But, “God is rich in mercy.” He did not treat us as our sins deserve. Hallelujah!
The believer’s past has been wiped clean and covered with the infinite avalanche of the Saviour’s obedience and blood. Our past has been redeemed. Christ nailed it to his cross when he bore all our sin and shame and God’s holy curse upon them. Satan will always want you and want me to “look in” to ourselves; God wants us always to “look out and up” to Christ. Perhaps you are asking, “Always? What about ‘Test and examine yourselves...’” Yes, Christians are on occasion to “look in”, but never without ceasing in doing so to “look out and up.” It is from the wonder of our faith/grace union with Christ that we “look in.” But are we not to “remember and not forget” our past? (see Deuteronomy 9:6ff). Yes - but only to remind us of our deep unworthiness and the even deeper grace of God that has saved us and kept us.
These have been basic, very basic thoughts. And yet, is it not true that when we stumble it is usually because we have forgotten what is most basically true of us? “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within; upward I look and see him there, who made an end to all my sin.” Be encouraged my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Yours in the bonds of a glorious Saviour,