Far too often I don’t remember where I put my car keys; I’m not sure how much time I have wasted over the years looking for them. But now my beloved Kim has come up with a solution: she put hooks on the wall by the front door on which to hang the keys when I come home. Now I just need to remember to do it! A poor memory has not proved profitable over the years when it comes to my car keys.
Today however, I want to encourage you with a word from our Lord, which tells us when a poor memory is profitable:
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12b-14)
When the apostle Paul speaks of “forgetting what is behind,” he is talking about his painful past as a persecutor of the early Christian church. Paul knew that in order to make forward progress in the direction of accomplishing God’s purpose for his life, he would have to get past his painful past. If Paul had let himself get bogged down with dwelling on his past sins, he would never have been able to pursue God’s purpose in his life.
And the same is true for you! Listen, we all have pain in our past. We are all broken and all of us have a “history” littered with shattered dreams, broken promises, and unmet goals. Some, like Paul, once lived lives of open rebellion against God. But the key is to learn from the past and not live in the past. As I’ve told our congregation, falling is not failing unless you fail to get up again! And that is why Paul said that in order to press on toward the goal, he had to forget the past. This is when a poor memory is profitable!
So what past do you need to get past? Is there anything keeping you from pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you—personally . . . professionally . . . relationally? Paul knew that when Jesus forgives, He also forgets. The slate is not just clean; it has been broken, never again to be used by your Abba Father to keep score.
Jerry Bridges illustrates this need for forgetfulness beautifully in his marvelous book, The Gospel for Real Life. He quotes Micah 7:19, in which the prophet assures us that the Lord “will again have compassion on us; [He] will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Bridges observes that, “Instead of living in the sunshine of God’s forgiveness through Christ, we tend to live under an overcast sky of guilt most of the time.” The antidote is to recall that God has forcibly hurled our sins into the depths of the sea, never to be seen again. And then, as Corrie Ten Boom said, “God put up a sign saying, ‘No fishing allowed.’”
Forget the failures and disappointments of the past; God has! We all must leave the past in the past and get on with living in the present, knowing we are progressing into our promised future. And this is when a poor memory is most profitable.
And if you are anything like me, do what my Kim did for me: put a key hook by the door for your car keys and your sunglasses. As I advance into this new habit, I am forgetting about all the times I lost my keys in the past!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!