FORGIVENESS: A NEW THING
by David Sisler
One of the newest things today is nostalgia. We spend a great deal of time occupying our minds with “the good old days.” Successful movies and television shows are set in yesterday. Remakes of classics are common (and frequently inferior to the original). There has not been a notable futuristic television series in the past decade. Radio stations are tripping over themselves to include “golden oldies” in their formats.
With an increasing emphasis on the past, with all of the new things that are now old and all of the old things which are stylish again, a doctor’s conversation with an aging patient is refreshing.
It was December, and the doctor was making his rounds in a nursing home. He was enjoying hearing the patients reminisce about Christmases long ago. The last patient of the day was a 107-year-old woman.
As the doctor sat and chatted with her, he asked, “What was Christmas like when you were seven years old?”
“How should I know?” she snapped. “That was a hundred years ago!”
The believers in Corinth received more mail from the apostle Paul than any other congregation. In his second letter, Paul talked about adopting a new point of view toward spiritual things. He spoke about a new attitude in living, one that is defined by living by faith rather than by sight. He discussed a new perspective toward personal accomplishments, stating God’s perception of us is more important than how we are viewed by man.
Then he said, “Therefore – in light of all of these new attitudes – if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
One of the most dramatic stories in the New Testament is the story of Paul’s conversion.
He was sent out by the ruling Jewish council to hunt down Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial. When a mob executed Stephen, the first deacon in the Early Church, Paul held the coats of the men who threw the stones.
Clutching documents in his hand which gave him authority to arrest believers, he was on his way to Damascus. As Paul and his group approached the city, a bright light suddenly flashed around them. A voice from heaven spoke to Paul and changed his life.
For the next three days, Paul was blind. When the scales fell from his eyes, he could see more clearly than at any time in his life. He could not only see physically, but spiritually he saw himself as God’s man and as a messenger for Jesus.
Can you imagine the crowds Paul could have gathered if he had focused his ministry on his past? Audiences would have thrilled to hear how bad Paul had been, to have heard of the opportunities Paul had missed, to have heard of the people Paul had led astray by his earlier denials of Jesus. He could have become the hero of his past and the hero of his sins.
Thank God, that’s not the way Paul lived. Rather than focusing on his past, he allowed Jesus Christ to be the hero of his forgiveness. Many Christians today are hooked on nostalgia. Their focus is on their past. They are as blind to their future in Jesus as Paul was on the road to Damascus.
It may be fun to wear old-fashioned neck ties and listen to golden oldies on the radio. But if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, stop living in the past.
That lady in the nursing home was right: “How can I possibly remember? That was 100 years ago!” If your concentration is on anything except the grace and the forgiveness of God, forget it. Old things are past away. You are a new creature. Forgive yourself and let the past sleep.
Copyright 2003 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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