Leave The Past Behind

July 27, 1995Cloud-Townsend Resources"Christian" Beliefs that Can Drive You CrazyComments Off on Leave The Past Behind

Christian” Beliefs that Can Drive You Crazy – Part 2
False Assumption — Leave The Past Behind

Have your ever had someone tell you, “You are a new creation in Christ, the past should have no claim over you. You should forget what lies behind and press on?” Proponents of this idea say the past is not important; we should just press on to what lies ahead. Well, this is a misapplication of Scripture; dealing with our past is very biblical.

We as humans are caught in the flow of time. We divide our lives into past, present, and future. But the Bible looks at our lives from the perspective of eternity, in which there is no past or future—only the present. The things we would say are “in our past” are really part of our present, since from the perspective of eternity that is all there is.

People have hurt us and we have hurt people. We have suffered wrong and we have done wrong. We would say, “All those things happened in the past and can’t be changed.” But the Bible shifts the focus from the past to the eternal present: “What is the state of your soul and everything in it now? Have your past experiences been exposed to the light? Have they been forgiven? Have you repented of them? Have you exposed the hurt to love and light? Have we grieved over and let go of hurtful things, or are we still hanging onto them? We need to see our lives and our souls not as past and present, but as eternal.

Have the things in our souls—pain, patterns, skills, desires, fears—been exposed to the light of God’s grace, truth, and forgiveness? If so, those things are healed and transformed. However, if we don’t expose things of the past to the light of God’s truth and love, they remain in darkness and are still alive today, creating fruits of darkness in us.

Why is the teaching that we should not worry about the past’s influence on us destructive and unbiblical? Because it forbids bringing the things that are in the darkness into the light and having the grace of God touch them.

A misinterpretation of the popular, “forget the past” Scripture explains why many never bring their feelings into the light. Look at Philippians 3:5-9, 13-14:

For I was circumcised when I was eight days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish family that is a branch of the tribe of Benjamin. So I am a real Jew if there ever was one! What’s more, I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. And zealous? Yes, in fact, I harshly persecuted the church. And I obeyed the Jewish law so carefully that I was never accused of any fault. I once thought all these things were so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith…No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

What is “the past” to Paul is not his hurt or situations that require him to forgive someone or even his old sins. The past that Paul is forgetting is his old way of trying to achieve righteousness. He spends the entire first part of this chapter listing his accomplishments to illustrate to the Philippians how he vainly tried to please God. But it didn’t work. He is leaving the old system behind. He’s found a new faith.

In fact, by enumerating his accomplishments earlier in the chapter, he was bringing them to the light, confessing them, grieving them. He never denied what he had done.

Paul is not saying in this passage to let bygones be bygones. To the contrary, the apostle models for us the act of bringing one’s past to the light and confessing it.

These directives reveal why dealing with the past is so important:

  1. Expose the Deeds of Darkness
    The first biblical directive is that we bring into the light whatever is in darkness. Our past is our history. The Bible isn’t concerned about when something happened, whether today or ten years ago. The Bible is interested only in whether we have denied the problem and pushed it into the darkness, or whether we have exposed it to the light and dealt with it in God’s way. Have we covered it up, or have we confessed it and brought it to the light? Bringing things to light, opens us up to the process of transformation. And transformation is what God is interested in (Ephesians 5:11, 13).
  2. Forgive Everyone Who Sins Against You
    Unless we look at the past we cannot truly forgive. Forgiveness deals with the past. Forgiveness is God’s way of making right the things that have hurt us. To know whom to forgive, we must know what happened to us, name the sin, and realize who is guilty.
  3. Grieve Your Losses
    Openness to the past is the way through grief, which in turn is the process of letting go of things that we were once attached to. This letting go allows us to be open to the present. In short, loss opens the door to new life.Hurts and losses in our past can keep us stuck emotionally and spiritually if we do not grieve them, thereby releasing them. God’s way of dealing with this is through grief, or letting go. Realizing what we have lost, feeling anger and sadness, and then letting go frees us. 

    Grieving is a conscious process by which we deliberately release our attachment to persons, goals, or wishes that we can no longer have. Our attachment to these outgrown things keeps us from connecting to new and better things that God has for us. Ties to the old life keep us from living the new life God has for planned for us. Ironically, sadness can move a person out of pain and into happiness. Grief can transform a heart.

  4. Confess and Repent
    When people examine the patterns they learned in the families they grew up in—that is, their families of origin—they are often accused of sidestepping their own problems and blaming their parents for their behavior.Certainly, it is easy to blame others when we ought to take responsibility for our own behavior. Some individuals are stuck in the blaming rut. However, there are solid biblical reasons for exploring the past-in particular, your past in your family of origin. These reasons include: bringing things out of darkness, understanding whom we need to forgive, realizing with whom we should reconcile, and grieving. 

    An equally important reason for understanding the past is to repent—to turn away from patterns we learned in our families of origin. God is always willing to forgive those who acknowledge their sin and repent. The chain of generational sin can be broken.

    If in this moral inventory we find not only generational, family sin but also personal sin that we alone are responsible for, we need to confess that sin, ask for forgiveness and move on (I John 1:9). In addition, we need to confess to each other (James 5:16) in order to feel the full power of the grace of God. Many have never felt God’s grace because they’ve never confessed their darkness to another person and felt his or her full acceptance. One of the ways we feel God’s acceptance is through the love of his people (1 Peter 4:10).

Changing the Past
It is wrong to teach that we should just forget the past, for the simple reason that the past will one day be our entire life. Past, present, and future are aspects of our soul that need to be reconciled to God.

We cannot change our past. But we must change our internal connections to those who have hurt us by forgiving them. We must release our demand that they somehow make it up to us. We need to let go of lost dreams and people.

We must take our living hurts from the past to those who can heal them. We can bring to light patterns we have learned from our parents and other adults, confess those destructive patterns, disagree with them, and repent from them. If we have wronged people, we must confess our sin, apologize to those we have hurt, and make amends.

Though none of these processes change the past, the can redeem the past. God is in the process of reconciling everything that has gone wrong, including our personal past. But in order for him to deal with our past, we need to bring all of our broken parts to him.

Bring your history to God, whether it happened two days or twenty years ago. Bring it to him and to his people, allow his light and grace to transform it, bring his truth to bear on it, and experience the reconciliation of your whole life.

Taken from 12 “Christian” Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy, © Drs. Henry Cloud & John Townsend, Zondervan 1995

12 “Christian” Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy helps you find relief from 12 false assumptions that are commonly believed. Drs. Cloud & Townsend explain the origin of these false principles, show where they go wrong, and pressent a biblical path for resolving emotional and spiritual problems.



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