We are first introduced to Paul at the end of Acts 7. In a few words there, and a short collection of verses in chapters 8-9, we get a brief glimpse into his life before coming to Christ. In Philippians, Paul would go on to explain his zealousness for the Law, his dedication to the sect of the Pharisees, and his pride in his education and personal achievements, Philippians 3:1-7. Memories of his previous life must have revisited his consciousness on a regular basis. I have often wondered if he could still see the terrified faces or still hear the wails and weeping of Christians as they were detained into Jewish custody. How often did the memory of the events that took place with Stephen (Acts 7) rise into his view?
We know it must have been something Paul faced because of his writing in 1 Timothy 1:13-15. Here he writes, though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. While the memory was still there, he moved on. The ability of Paul to move on happened through the grace and forgiveness of God. Even with a violent and insolent past, Paul moved on and became one of the most beloved figures of the New Testament.
Many Christians today are haunted by their past. Memories of what was can tear us down. It can hamper spiritual progress as we go through life. How do we move on? How can we overcome? It has been said there are three things a person can do with sin:
- Resolve to never sin again. This is impossible, 1 John 1:8, Romans 3:23.
- Let sin make a coward out of us. Judas is a good example. Matthew 27:1-10 tells us of his great sorrow for sin, but instead of that sorrow moving him to repentance and redemption, he committed suicide by hanging himself.
- Learn from our sin. Peter proves to be a wonderful example here. In Luke 22:31, Jesus warned Peter that the devil had requested to sift him as wheat. We know what happened next. Upon his third denial of Jesus, Luke 22:61-62 says, The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had told him, ‘Before a rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. This terrible failure did not stop Peter. His writing in 1 Peter 1:3-4 proves it.
The point? We must learn to let go. The sinful behavior happened. We cannot take it back. We are not allowed “do overs” in this life. How many of us desire to go back and delete words we have spoken? How many would change their actions, or a place they have gone? We all would.
Since we can not go back, we must get on with living life for God. Christians now live life for Jesus, 2 Corinthians 5:15. Christians live their life to please God, 2 Corinthians 5:9. These must become our first priority. Make a commitment to fill your life with spiritual knowledge and walk in a way that pleases God. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:13-14. Learn to let go, forgive yourself, and trust in God. When we do this, we will begin to truly experience the freedom that is found in Christ Jesus.
Author: Matthew Allen