Has anyone ever prayed this, ... or perhaps thought this, ... of yourself?
"God, you know I love you, but I consider myself a bad person in so many areas of my life." "I sometimes have wicked thoughts and desires." "There is so much anger and bitterness in my heart." "I know I've been forgiven, my sins being washed away by the blood of Jesus, confirmed by what is written in Your word:
1John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
And in 1John 2:1, "... And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."
1. Advocate: An attorney. One who pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court.
2. Propitiation: "Propitiation means the turning away of wrath by an offering; placating or satisfying the wrath of God by the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
"So yes, God has forgiven me". "But, How do I forgive myself?"
"How many of us have an easier time forgiving others than forgiving ourselves?"
"How do I forgive myself for all my sinful thoughts and oftentimes actions?" "How can I possibly be used by God, righteous and Holy, as bad as I am, or
as bad as I perceive myself to be?"
Again, does anyone have a problem with forgiving yourself, even though God has forgiven you? That, you are your own worst critic and judge?
The Bible does instruct us to judge ourselves, that we not be judged.
But, it also instructs us to forgive ... which includes forgiving ourselves.
Does anyone here keep doing things he or she doesn't want to do, knowing they are wrong in God's sight?
(ex) Withholding from giving to the church or to those who are less fortunate,
even though we may have money to spare?
(ex) Looking at a woman or a man with lustful thoughts?
(ex) Pursuing hobbies to excess at the expense of pursuing God?
(We can all think of examples of what we are not supposed to do or think)
-- Many of us know Christians or even the Christian we see when we look in the
mirror who have this problem. And it appears we're in good company ...
The Apostle Paul may have had similar issues ... when he wrote this in Romans chapter 7:
"But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire ..." Rom 7:8
"For what I am doing, I do not understand. (In other words, why am I doing or thinking this because I know it's wrong in God's sight) "For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." Rom 7:15
"For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”Rom 7:19-20
"For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (spiritual man). But I see another law in my members (in his fleshly man), warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Oh wretched (wicked) man that I am!" Rom 7:22-24
That there is a battle raging between our spiritual man vs. fleshly man.
In his book, The Spiritual Man, Chinese brother Watchman Nee warns us that
the Battleground is in the Mind. Satan delights in attacking our minds probably more than attacking our physical bodies. Which is why we must keep on the whole armor (Eph 6), but especially the 'Helmet of Salvation.' The 'Helmet' helps protect our head, but also our mind, located within our head, from wicked thoughts and desires.
Examples of wicked thoughts
1. "Why do I find myself attracted to that man or that woman? I'm married and a Christian!" "But, maybe God will overlook it, if it only happens once or twice?"
2. "Why am I so envious of my neighbor's new car? "How can he afford to have it but I can't!" "Should I scratch his car to get even with him?" "Then, it won't look so shiny and new!"
3. "I can't stand my boss". "I really hope something bad happens to him". "I just wish I could get away with just once, beating him to a pulp!"
4. "I'm home alone." "Who will know if I watch that pornographic movie?" "It's just one time." "It's not such a big deal."
Question #1: When Paul says, " Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me," ... is he using the excuse for his thoughts or actions which so many Christians use by saying: "The devil made me do it!"
Answer: No. But what he is saying is that sin, by nature, is part of our flesh ... and in direct opposition to the spiritual man's desire to remain obedient and pleasing to God. Every human being is born into sin because of Adam and Eve's disobedience that occurred in the Garden.
Question #2: Is a wicked thought considered sin, IF not accompanied by action?
Answer: Over the years, I've asked this question of fellow believers and even some pastors. Some have answered, NO. And some have said, YES.
So, if there is a controversy, we look to the Bible for clarification:
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:27-28,
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
***This is the only passage I found in scripture that states just thinking about something unlawful or wicked... about a woman or a man with lust in your heart ... is the same as engaging in the sinful act of fornication or adultery.
In Matthew 15:19, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."
In other words, wicked thoughts originate in the mind, then seep into the heart. When they mature and ferment in the heart, these wicked thoughts can then lead to actions. It's the actions that are sinful ... And sin produces death. The thought itself does not appear to be considered sin ... except for what Jesus said in Matt 5.
In James 1:14-15, we read: "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
Explanation: So, a wicked thought enters the mind, then seeps into the heart.
If that thought is not immediately renounced and covered by the
blood, it percolates and matures in the heart, and becomes a desire.
If that person continually thinks about that desire, it very often
becomes overwhelming, which could then lead to taking action,
giving birth to sin. The fleshly man becomes satisfied ... but the
spiritual man is grieved.
Example: (Share story about the music pastor and church secretary committing adultery).
Billy Graham once said: "The Bible tells that sin’s pleasure is only for a season (Hebrews 11:25). Then it’s over, leaving us bitter, and finally destroying us. A day of reckoning always comes. The Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23).
COMMENT: Had this pastor heeded the words from Prov 5:15-20, his desire for the church secretary might not have matured into sinful action:
"Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well ... let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?"
(He should have immediately renounced his lustful thought before it matured into an overwhelming desire ... which led to a sinful action).
So, isn't this why God's word tells us in Jer 17:9,
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
And that His word admonishes us:
1) In 2Cor 10:5" ... bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."
2) In Prov 16:3 "Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established."
3) And in Phil 4:8 "Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate (think) on these things."
So, getting back to the title of this message: "Forgetting those things which are behind."
(1) What if you had been that pastor or church secretary? (By the way, both were relieved of their duties by the senior pastor and church board).
(2) Or, what if a wicked thought percolated in your heart to the point where it actually matured into a sinful action?
Many believers think, "Well, that can't happen to me"! But, it may not be an act of fornication or adultery ... it can be ANY sinful act of which God disapproves. If a person thinks, "It can't happen to me," then why is it written in Gal 6:1-3,
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted, ... For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself". (In other words, deceiving themselves as being super human and above temptation)
or, (3) Though we know God's Word tells us He is faithful to forgive if we repent of the sin and ask Him for forgiveness, some believers still ask ...
--- HOW DO WE FORGIVE OURSELVES?
--- HOW DO WE PUT AWAY THE FEELING OF GUILT AS TO HOW WE
MAY HAVE DISAPPOINTED GOD AND GRIEVED HIS HEART?
--- HOW DO WE FORGET THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND?
WE HAVE TO REMEMBER:
--Satan is the accuser of the brethren.
--He is a liar and the father of it. "God will never forgive you of that sin!"
--The enemy attempts to kill, steal and destroy. "I love to steal your peace and joy".
--He walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
--It's Satan's evil desire to beat us down, to demoralize, to cause us to be depressed
and steal our hope and joy, saying to us: "How can God possibly forgive you of
Clearly, the enemy wants us to feel guilty of the sin we may have committed ... how we failed God.
We MUST come to the realization that Satan wants to inactivate us and take us out of the fight ... through guilt, demoralization and loss of hope and joy.
The enemy may attack our mind by asking: "How can God use you ... now that you have committed this wicked sin against Him?
BUT ... by attacking our minds or bodies, is Satan trying to discourage us from working for God in the present? Or, is he beating us down to discourage us from doing what God has planned for us in the future? Probably both.
Paul addresses this in Phil 3:12-14,
"Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." "Brethren,
I do not count myself to have apprehended (reached the goal); but one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Paul refuses to allow Satan to make him feel guilty of past offenses)
So, Satan's desire is to discourage us so we lose hope and no longer pursue the goal and upward call of God for us. We believers are a threat to Satan because ... "God has given us power over all the power of the enemy"... so we can tear down and bring to nothing his evil plans by: our spoken word ... through our prayers ... and through the power God gives us to bind and loose.
The devil wants to take away our joy because the Bible tells us in Nehemiah 8:10,
"The joy of the Lord is our strength." So, if our joy is taken away, we lose our strength to fight because joy in the Lord strengthens us spiritually.
How can we accomplish God's assignment for us when we are demoralized and feeling guilty because of an indiscretion or bad decision? That, perhaps, you have a divorce in your past, or have been in prison, or have been addicted to alcohol, drugs or nicotine, or had once been involved in a sinful indiscretion?
Paul tells us we are to move forward ... "and press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
We must reject the lie of Satan which tells us ... we can never again work for God because we failed Him!
As long as we repent and do not commit the sin again, the Bible tells us God is faithful to forgive, so we can continue to move forward and upward toward the goal!
--- Because it pertains to what we are discussing, I would like to read a portion of a prophecy I received at the Romanian men's prayer meeting Pastor Ken and I attended a few weeks ago. I believe this could also pertain to some of us here:
PORTION OF THE PROPHECY
"... you are not to look back at past battles or bad decisions, but look forward because the reward is coming. If you look back at all the battles, it will bring you into a state of discouragement and you won't be able to proceed forward. Your gaze is to keep looking forward and keep your feet on the path."
Why does Satan try so hard to get us to look back at past battles and bad decisions? Because looking back can cause discouragement, which then causes us to lose our joy and our will to fight the good fight!
Remember what the Bible tells us in Neh 8:10, that ... "The joy of the Lord is my strength." What's the opposite of joy? It's "sorrow" which can eventually lead to "discouragement." And if we lose our joy of the Lord because of past failures, we lose our spiritual strength. And if we lose our spiritual strength, we will have a difficult time fighting spiritual battles against the enemy.
Therefore, is it any wonder why the devil pushes us to look back at bad decisions and failures? The discouragement it brings will prevent us from moving forward in Christ.
THE PROPHECY (repeat):
"If you look back at all the battles, it will bring you into a state of discouragement and you won't be able to proceed forward. Your gaze is to keep looking forward and keep your feet on the path." (The path God has appointed each of us as individuals to walk)
The following are just four examples of people in the Bible who sinned just like you and me. Yet, look at how God used these imperfect people after they repented and asked Him for forgiveness:
#1. Moses: Moses killed an Egyptian task master, in front of many witnesses, while the task master was brutalizing a Hebrew slave. Moses ran into the desert to escape punishment. It was there that God first spoke to Moses at the burning bush. From there, God used Moses mightily to set free the captives of Israel and to take God's law to them. And we know the rest of the story.
#2. King David: Committed sins of adultery, deception, and murder because of his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11 & 12). David repented, asked God for forgiveness, and God forgave him of his sin. God went on to use David mightily, to the glory of His name. David remained King of Judah and Israel for forty years remaining faithful to God.
#3. Apostle Paul: As Saul of Tarsus, and a Pharisee before being renamed Paul, Saul Harrassed, Persecuted, and Murdered Christians in the early Church. Saul had a dramatic encounter with God on the road to Damascus. Saul repented, and God forgave him of his sins. The entire story of Saul’s Conversion is in Acts 9. After Saul’s conversion, he became known as Paul. The Apostle Paul was not perfect, but he became an extremely useful tool in God’s hands, teaching, growing, inspiring and encouraging the early church. He went on to write much of the New Testament and continues to be a blessing to us believers even today.
#4. Peter (Peter the Disciple): Denied Jesus three times, and failed many times just like us. He had enough faith to walk on water. He received divine revelation that Jesus Christ was the son of God (Matthew 16:16-17), but then turned around and became an adversary (speaking for the devil), trying to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His mission. Thus, Jesus had to rebuke him (Matthew 16:22-23). Even after all this, Peter was used mightily by God to encourage, teach, heal, minister, lead and grow the early church. He wrote books in the New Testament, and His writings continue to help us Christians grow today.
How many more people 'like these' has God used throughout the ages, and continues to use, even us in this generation ... imperfect people ... who love God ... but feel unworthy of His use?
Brothers and sisters, we must ALWAYS consider:
1. If God forgave and accomplished His purpose through IMPERFECT men
and women in the past, He will do it for us and through us.
2. God is not a respecter of persons. He has no favorites.
3. We may change, but God never changes; The Bible assures us He is the same
yesterday, today and forever.
4. That, in order for God to use us in the way He intends, we must continue:
to look forward ... to set our gaze upward ... to press on in our Christian walk
5. AND above all, ...
FORGETTING THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE BEHIND.