Sunday, September 23, 2012

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

How should we, according to scripture reflect on the past, think about the future and what about today?

Unsanctified views of the past can prevent Gods nature character forming in us and cause us to go astray.  Unsanctified views of the future can leave us prideful or afraid.  Living in the troubles beyond today is a burden we were never intended to carry.

When Jesus walked on the earth He took great care to ensure that none of the disciples were lost.  He fortold events and prayed for them so that they would not stumble or lose faith.  In the same way, Jesus intercedes for us and gave us His Word and sent the Holy Spirit to remind of His word and teach us what we need to remain strong in the faith.

Here are some of the scriptures that provide the perspective we need for the past, present and future.

1. Remember that your past sins have been washed away

The past unlocks many keys to the future, but it can also stunt our spiritual growth and cause us to stumble if we forget that our past sins have been washed away.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 1:5-9)
If we're having difficulty becoming like Jesus, it may be because our conscience still plagues us.  Perhaps the adversary has found a way to accuse us such that the old sins still haunt us.  We need to keep a pure conscience before God and trust that He has cleansed us from all unrighteousness and written His commands on your heart.  Claim the promises in 2 Peter 1:
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
God has given us everything we need for life and for godliness and we cane partakes of His divine nature and escape the corruption in the world.

2. Listen to the memories of others who may spare you from trouble

The scripture documents many mistakes of others so that we don't have to make them.  In the same way that scripture exposes the consequences of sin, God has also placed people in our lives who have experienced the consequences of sin, who serve as a warning to save us from the same or worse.

3. Remember where you came from

The prophet Ezekiel received a prophecy explaining Israels condition using a girl as a metaphor.  God rescues the girl who was left abandoned and would have surely died without intervention and God washes her, gives her fine clothes and jewelry yet she plays the harlot with other men.  Why did she do this when God had blessed her and given her everything she wanted?
And in all your abominations and acts of harlotry you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, struggling in your blood. (Ezekiel 16:22)
She had forgotten where she had come from... If we forget where we came from before we were saved, we too risk succumbing to pride and thinking that the blessings of God were the work of our own hands.

4. Remember His works

Reflect often on the works He has done in your life, the most significant of all being your translation from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, your salvation and your inheritance among the saints.  We overcome by the blood of the lamb and the Word of our testimony!  David could so confidently take on Goliath because he carried with him the testimony of the lion and the bear.  Let the testimonies become praises that fill your day.
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. (Psalm 78:4b)
When we don't give God the glory due to His name, pride creeps in and makes us blind to what He continues to do so that He weeks bitterly for us knowing that we will be taken captive.
Hear and give ear:
Do not be proud,
For the Lord has spoken.
Give glory to the Lord your God
Before He causes darkness,
And before your feet stumble
On the dark mountains,
And while you are looking for light,
He turns it into the shadow of death
And makes it dense darkness.
But if you will not hear it,
My soul will weep in secret for your pride;
My eyes will weep bitterly
And run down with tears,
Because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive. (Jeremiah 13:5-7)

5. Forget grandiosities

Don't be like the world who keep talking about the grand plans they have, be mindful that these are in the Lords care.
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-15)
I can't think of a better way to sum this up than the way David the psalmist puts it:
1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.
3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)
It's better to just be obedient and do the works of God than to talk about them beforehand.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

6. Don't bring tomorrows troubles into today

Matthew 6:25-34 is I think, one of the most amazing promises and commands given to us in terms of practical Christianity, but I will focus on this one verse:
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
Jesus was telling us to live in day-compartments and not to cross over into the next compartment.  We were not designed to deal with the stresses and troubles of more than one day.  When we do, we're taking over God's job and it's a burden we could never carry.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6)
The troubles shouldn't trouble you, but rather that the adversary stole your peace, contend for it, get it back.

As a practical matter, I do find that it is best to bring neither the success or failings of yesterday into today,  that I come before Him empty, with my sins washed away and my conscience clean, coming boldly before Him for the grace for today.  I find that the success of yesterday brings complacency for today and the failings of yesterday bring shame and hiding for today.  Carrying neither over seems to set my heart in the right place.

Not worrying about tomorrow, does not mean that we don't plan and save for tomorrow, provided we are also generous toward God.

7. Don't fear the end times

The end times will be treacherous times, but at the same time Jesus says,
When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:28)
Luke 21 describes how difficult it will be and how some will faint from terror, but when we see these things start to take place, we ought to lift our heads high because this will be our finest hour.  The great cloud of witnesses, wait in anticipation for the unfolding of events and the redemption of the saints!

8. The Word is sufficient

Perhaps we think that we need to reflect on the past so we can correct our course, but when we dwell on the past we can easily become self-focused.  It is good to judge ourselves, but the Word is the measure by which we judge:
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Seeing ourselves in the mirror of the Word is sufficient, it will keep us on the path of life.  Be careful to repent and run toward Jesus.  Jesus died so that we can run toward Him and have a pure conscience at all times something the sacrifices of old could never do.  If you find that the conviction of sin causes you to feel sorry for yourself and distant from the love of the Father, repent and run back into His arms.