Dealing With The Past

I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead (Philippians 3:13 TPT).

The Bible uses four words that help us forget the past – repentance, confession, grace, and mercy. They lead to forgiveness.

These words are active and must be engaged. No repentance and confession mean no grace and mercy which total as no forgiveness. Since we all fall short of the glory of God, we all must deal with the past or it haunts us.

I use the word “haunt” because memories don’t go away without forgiveness. Forget Halloween or Freddie or Nightmare on Elm Street – most of us live in fear, frustration, or self-condemnation because of what we have done in the past.

The past haunts us.

Forgiveness deals with the past. God forgives, completely.

But if we freely admit our sins when his light uncovers them, he will be faithful to forgive us every time. God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ, and he will continue to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 TPT).

God forgives through grace and mercy. Grace is giving us a gift that we don’t deserve, and mercy is withholding the penalty that we do deserve. Forgiveness means to “throw away” which happens only by receiving God’s grace and mercy.

We don’t work to achieve God’s favor. It is given to us. We respond to the offer of grace and mercy with repentance and confession – the two words in the Greek are the opposite sides of the same coin. Confession means “coming to the right conclusion” while repentance means “changing your mind according to the conclusion.”

Grace, mercy, and forgiveness are released supernaturally through Jesus. The past can’t be settled until we reach the correct conclusion that Jesus is Lord and Savior and then change our minds to follow Him.

I recently read the book “Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering” by Scott Saul. The book presents newly discovered research that our brains have a function that allows us to forget.

My first thought reading this was, “HHHHMMMHHM, forgetting isn’t just a result of growing older!”

God created our brains with the ability to remember and to forget. Maybe a vestige remains but mind-pounding thoughts of sin or tragedy recede by forgiveness. Scott Saul writes a very scientific explanation, “Like a car engine, synaptic plasticity (memory) needs both an accelerator and a brake.”

Putting on the brake means refocusing on what should be remembered. The Bible teaches how through repentance and confession. Those who don’t forgive can’t forget.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:

Make sure you forgive the faults of others so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you withhold forgiveness from others, your Father withholds forgiveness from you (Matthew 6:14-15).

When we don’t forgive ourselves or extend forgiveness toward others our brains strengthen these negative memories – pressing down on the accelerator, without letting up, until the engine explodes.

Let’s note one other factor of the brain.

The brain tends to build what we should remember on top of what we should forget. Let’s use another Scott Saul very scientific quote, “The most elegant home remodel is often a combination of construction on top of demolition.”

Forgiveness is the Bible’s method for forgetting what you should forget and remembering what you should remember. Fifty years after receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior (New Year’s Eve 1972), I remember the past through the grace of God.

The memories are still there but now serve as a reminder of the goodness of God. How about you? What do you need to forget?

To accomplish God’s will you have to forget and then build upon God’s grace!

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