When I was a boy of twelve, I was saved. My Dad baptized me and I heard the congregation sing, “O Happy Day, which fixed my heart on thee my Savior and my God…” I knew nothing about what being a Christian was like. That was 69 years ago and I’m still learning.
When I was nineteen, I married my sweetheart Ann. I knew even less of what being a husband was like. Now sixty one years later, I am still learning. My precious Ann is in the nursing home and I still don’t understand or fully grasp the meaning of it all.
I was reading a book (502 pages) called “Dead Center,” and I ran across this saying, “Thank God for forgetfulness – we have to move on.” It was an unusual string of words and I made a note of them. I just thought they would make a good column. Hear what the apostle Paul says, “Once I was alive apart from the law, but then the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died… Did that which is good then become death to me? We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do, but what I hate I do… As it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me… I have a desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out (Romans 7).
Paul was holding the garments of those who stoned Stephen and later declared… Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man… but for that very reason I was shown mercy, that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life (Acts 7.58; I Timothy 1.12-16).
“THANK GOD FOR FORGETFULNESS – WE HAVE TO MOVE ON.” So it is with you and me and most who will read this article. The black deeds, terrible acts, the knowingly ungrateful sins were recorded in my life as with many of yours. I had to learn love, patience and forgiveness. But what about all the baggage of sin in your past? Hear again the Apostle Paul who wrote, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3.12-14)(ESV).
If I could interview Paul, I would ask, “Do you remember the stoning of Stephen?” “No” He would reply. “I remember the name but not the circumstances.” “Tell us a bit about the days when you were persecuting those “believers of the Way.” “I can’t recall those days and events anymore. You see I believe we ought to shut the door on those things that are evil behind us, and press on to the prize of the high calling in Christ.”
“Were you not afraid when you were condemned to death by Nero in Rome?” “No, because while I was there I spent time in prayer, and singing, and sharing my faith in Jesus… and I also wrote a number of letters to Timothy and Titus encouraging and instructing them on carrying on. I also had Timothy bring some parchments and books which kept me busy reading. In fact I did say this to Timothy, “and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (I Timothy 6.5-8; II Timothy 4.6-8)(ESV).
Paul did not live to see the “Fall of the Roman Empire,” but he realized Jesus was in control. His life was one focused on what lay ahead, not on what lay in the past. Our lives cannot “move on” while spending untold hours, and energy on dwelling on the past. The Hebrew writer says, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7.25).
Thank God for forgetfulness – We have to move on!”
Grow in grace!