“Forgetting what lies behind and
reaching forward to what lies ahead.”
Philippians 3:13 (New American Standard Bible)
One of the greatest hindrances to growing in grace as a Christian is the grip of the past–whether it be the long-range past or the immediate past of a fresh sin. By focusing on the sin, we cease to focus on Christ, to the detriment of running our race (Hebrews 12:1-2).
For example, with regard to fresh sin, some Christians feel the need to make themselves feel sufficiently bad, in order to gain the freedom to let it go. Certainly there is some truth here. If we have not truly repented, we should not offer a glib, “Please forgive me,” and move on. Charles Spurgeon was right in remarking, “I am always afraid of a dry-eyed repentance.” However, even repentance itself is a gift, and one to be sought from the hand of Jesus. Keep looking to Jesus. By considering His word, perhaps in fasting so as not to distract attention nor to coddle the flesh, let the knife of His word sink deep until a violent hatred of the sin erupts into godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-11). Then make a firm decision, “The past has passed; the blood of Christ alone atones; and I am pressing on, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
Similarly, with regard to the lingering memories of a life of sin, often in the face of daily reminders due to the consequences, we must also make a decision: “Am I going to dwell forever in the past conditions of my life, or move on in the Lord into fresh country?” This decision is especially critical for those in counseling, for psychology tends to focus solely on the past, often attaching labels as if the past were permanent. No! The labels of God are future-oriented. Abram became Abraham, “the father of many nations,” before he ever had the promised son. Gideon was hailed as “mighty man of valor,” while yet in his fear. Similarly, God reckons us righteous through faith in Christ, when He knows full well our sinful condition. Why is this so? God creates the reality He names (see Romans 4:17). We are not only free to move on, but obliged by faith to reckon it done. Then we offer ourselves and our bodies to God as those who are already alive from the dead (Romans 6:11-13). The battle is won, not by looking behind to our sin, but by looking ahead to Jesus.