Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I was the worst of them all. But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. The others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. —1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)
I must confess—I don’t have a wild and raunchy past that would make for a best selling action movie. My history is fairly bland—not very colorful at all—pretty much beige with a few streaks of tan. Don’t get me wrong—I occasionally express a worldly “wild side.” Sometimes I’ll empty my shopping cart without returning it to its parking lot cage. And when I’m in my “mean mood” there are times I don’t recycle. While I might not have the sordid résumé of some, I know God clearly sees my very real sins.
So it’s obvious that I’m not Charles Manson Jr. … but, let’s be honest, most people aren’t. We’re not running from the law. We’re not hiding criminal records. We’ve never spent time in jail. We just do boring-sin stuff, and do it over and over and over.
But, we’re still haunted by our pasts. Our present-day lives are checkered with memories of our poor decisions and actions. For all these things, we suffer guilt. And that guilt is a roadblock to pursuing your best life now.
Take heart! The Bible is filled with men and women with rough pasts, and yet God used them to make a difference in the world. There is no sin God can’t forgive. There is nothing you have done in your past that God can’t redeem. The straightforward encouragement here is to know that, if you’ve asked God for forgiveness, He has forgiven you. Remind yourself of this every day if need be, because God wants to use you.
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! —Psalms 32:1-2 (NLT) Do you know who wrote that? King David, who, was an adulterer and murderer earlier in his life. King David truly understood forgiveness—and he called it a joy.
The joy of forgiveness should draw you closer to God, not keep you distant. If God has let go of your sins, now it’s your turn to let go of them. Stop reaching back into your past and pulling those sins out. You’ve got to move past your past…God has. Say this aloud, “My past is gone. Truly gone. Thank You, God!”
1. Read and reflect on verses that talk about forgiveness (see “Further Reading” below.)
2. Find someone you trust and talk to each other about your pasts in the spirit and attitude of James 5:16.