Author: Ron Graham
Remembering and Forgetting
—Living in the Past
People say you shouldn't live in the past. However, in your relationship with God, the past, present, and future, are all one. If remembering Jesus is living in the past, forgetting Jesus is destroying your future.
Let us begin with a remarkable statement by John...
¶“5...Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and released us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be kings and priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and the dominion for ever and ever, Amen. 7Behold he is coming with clouds and every eye shall see him...” (Revelation 1:5-7).
Notice, in those verses, how past-present-future are considered together as one. What Jesus did in the past is as powerful and active now —as though it had happened today. The future is absolutely tied to the past. If we do not live in the past with Jesus, we will not live in the future with him.
There is a philosophy that the present is what matters: we should “live in the moment” without attachment to the past. But there is also a philosophy that the present moment is a figment. After all, the past is ages long, but the present has no duration, not even a moment, so how can you live in the present?
Note:— If I speak of “this present century” I can hardly mean that the past ends at the beginning of this century, whilst the future begins at this century’s end. I speak of “this present century” only in accommodative language. Really, no part of this century is present. It's a combination of past and future.
The main idea of this lesson is that we should live in remembrance of all that God has done in the past. Our thoughts and actions today become history as we do them. Are they in harmony with the history of what God has done prior to this day including long ages ago?
It is foolish to live only for today, forgetful of the past and disconnected from it. Yet so many people do. They have no interest in what God and his Son have done through the ages and up to now. This results in them having no care for the future which eventuates from the past. So they live faithless and godless with no light from the past to let them see reality.
1 Living in the Past
Paul writes of his relationship with Jesus in these terms: ¶“...forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal...” (Philippians 3:13-14). Does this mean we should not live in the past?
No, because Paul’s reference to “what lies behind” was about his own efforts to be righteous without Christ. This was not in harmony with the history of what God has done. So of course Paul wanted to forget it. He wanted to press forward in God’s history and live in harmony with that.
Paul did not forget that Christ shed his blood to release Paul from his sins. Paul did not forget that Christ had taken hold of Paul and set him on the right Way. Paul lived every day in remembrance of what Christ did for him in the past.
Paul no doubt believed the principle that ¶“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever!” (Hebrews 13:8). If we take the “yesterday” out of our relationship with Jesus, we will lose our “today” and our “forever” with him.
2 Remembering Our Past With Jesus
So we should always remember how we first “obeyed from the heart that form of teaching” of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:17). We, as it were, died with Christ; the old person we used to be was buried with him, and a new "born again" person was raised in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
We should never forget that beginning. ¶“But remember the former days after you were enlightened...” (Hebrews 10:32). By remembering our early zeal and struggle for Christ, we strengthen ourselves for today and for the future.
3 Never Forgetting the Ancient Story
We should even remember what God has done since the dawn of time. As the Psalm says to God, ¶“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” (Psalm 143:5). This is living in the past —because the past gives meaning to today, and the past is the foundation of the future.
The story recorded in the Bible is a connected story. As someone has said, the story unfolds in the following way: “Someone is coming; someone has come; someone is coming again.” This someone is of course Jesus the Son of God. From the beginning of time his sacrifice for sins was prophesied.
The pivotal event of the past is the crucifixion of Christ, his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Without his sacrifice we cannot be saved. If we do not live in that sacrifice, though made so long ago, we do not really live at all.