Don't Live in the Past

Don't Live in the Past

I disliked going into his store. If the owner was there, he would engage me in conversation. No matter how I tried to direct the conversation, he would steer it back to football, and specifically when he played on the high school state championship team. Now I really like talking about football. But tired of reliving his glory days which were twenty plus years in the past! It took great self-discipline to not scream, “Quit living in the past. Move on!”

Isaiah had a similar word for the nation of Israel. He wrote “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18). He reminded his people God had created them and called them by name, that he had redeemed them while promising his presence (Isa. 43:1-3). Still, the nation was stuck in very unhealthy patterns. They lived what one author called the seven last words of God’s people: “We’ve never done it that way before!”

Isaiah called the nation to “forget the former things.” The high point of their national existence was clearly in the rear-view mirror. 200 years earlier, King Solomon led the nation when its borders were the largest, its economy the greatest, and its military the strongest. But the more they reveled and lived in those glory years, the more trapped they became.

They were trapped by who they once were. Yes, they were God’s people, but they stopped seeking a fresh encounter with God. And much like that store owner, we, and our churches, can become trapped by living in our past successes. We can and should celebrate God’s faithfulness and rejoice in past spiritual victories. But living there can breed stagnation, causing us to miss the “new thing” (Isa. 43:19) God wants to do in and through us.

Isaiah also called the nation to “not dwell on the past.” The people of God were divided for those 200 years. The fragmentation saw the cousins of Israel and Judah move farther apart politically and spiritually. Since all attempts at reconciliation had failed, there was a growing acceptance of this brokenness as “normal.” They were increasingly susceptible to the lie of the enemy who whispered their failures defined who they were.

It is the same lie Satan whispers to us. He wants us to believe our identity is defined by the failures and brokenness of our past. But that is NOT our identity. Our true identity is in Christ; we are new creations in him (II Cor. 5:17). Jesus said “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). As Neil Anderson writes, “only God can speak our true identity. And he calls us his dear child!
What successes do you have to forget and what failures do you need to release? Surrender both to the God who loves you and has spoken your real identity. It won’t be pinned to a goalpost but rather nailed to a cross that changed everything!

Pastor David

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