Putting the Past in Its Place

by Dennis Michelson
(Painesville, Ohio)

Grandchild # 5

Grandchild # 5

Philippians 3:13

Introduction: We are often admonished to forget the past, as if we really could. We all have regrets and most of those regrets are behind us. This is a message on dealing with regrets. Over the years I have worked with people who struggled with the following three issues:

(1) They discover truth in the present which they wish they had known in the past. This leads them to a sense of loss and regret.

(2) They are brought to present repentance for past disobedience which has present consequences. This leads to regret and what I call a life-long limp.

(3) They become obsessed with regrets about the past which leaves them unfruitful in the present. This too leads to regret and limits them in their service for the Lord.

So - how can a believer deal effectively with vain regrets?

1. Recognize that true repentance for past sins always includes an element of regret for what we have done.

Psalm 51:16-17 gives a good example of "good regret" and II Corinthians 2:7 gives an example of "bad regret." Remembering the past is not always a bad thing if the regret draws you closer to God and others.

2. The occasional remembrance of past sin - fully forgiven - will produce renewed grief and regret for that sin.

See Ezekiel 16:62-63 and compare with Psalm 25: 7,11,18. If the remembrance and regret makes us more sensitive to God's mercy and grace then it is a good thing.

3. We must not allow a pattern of regrets to impinge on our present joy and freedom to serve God and others.

Read Romans 14:17. If your remembrance leads to righteousness, peace, and joy then it is from above. If it leads to anything antithetical to those three things then it probably smells like smoke!

4. We must seek to maintain a forward-looking perspective.

See Philippians 3:12-15. Rarely is anything good (or safe) seen by gazing in the rear-view mirror.

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