Rising Above Our Past Understanding the Menace in Theatre 9 Preached by: Matthew S. Black Series: Rooted in Christ Text: Philippians 3:12-16 Date: July 22, 2012, 10:30am Living Hope Bible Church of Roselle, IL Introduction: Open your Bibles to Philippians 3. We are continuing our series entitled “Rooted in Christ”. We are going to take a detour for a week from the book of Ephesians and look at a passage in Philippians. The title of the message is: “Rising Above Our Past”. Terror in Theater Number 9 On Friday, July 20, 2012, just after midnight, a gunman opened fire during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in a Cinemark movie theater in Aurora, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. The gunman, acting alone and dressed in protective clothing, entered the theater and set off tactical grenades, then opened fire with multiple firearms on the theatergoers. The attack was one of the largest mass shootings in terms of number of casualties in United States history. Aurora policemen arrested a 24 year old James E. Holmes on 12 counts of murder and at least 58 counts of attempted murder. The terror of that night will haunt hundreds and thousands of people for years and decades to come. Where was God when this happened? How could He let this happen? God was on His throne. God is always good. Man is not. Don’t get the two confused. The Past Can Be Ugly The past can be ugly. For most of us it is filled with sin and shame. We are ashamed of what we were exposed to through no fault of our own. We are ashamed because of hurt and even sometimes abuse. And a lot of our shame is our own sin and how we have hurt others. Are You a Prisoner of the Past? Are you a prisoner of the past? There is a downward spiral to guilt and shame and Satan is a master at keeping us at the bottom. Satan is the great accuser of the brethren. He wants to keep you enslaved to the past. He wants to remind you of your past. Remind Satan of his Future Someone once rightly said, “When Satan reminds you of your past, you remind him of his future.” How can we get out off the downward spiral of the slavery of the past? Paul tells us three important things. · Move on from the Past, “forgetting what lies behind” vs. 13a. · Move on to God’s Purpose, “straining forward to what lies ahead” vs. 13b. · Move on for the Prize, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” vs. 14. Philippians 3:12–16 (ESV), “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. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” I. Move on from the Past, “forgetting what lies behind” vs. 13a. Often we come into contact with Christians that are filled with bad and haunting memories from their past. In them they are confused, don’t understand, and seem hopelessly in a “prison in the inner being. Perhaps you have dark memories from your past that bother you. Maybe you find that they are crippling you and keeping you imprisoned in an inner struggle of your mind. If this is the case and you struggle with your past, you are not alone! In fact more Christians than you could ever know struggle with this serious issue. You know what? Each of them desire to understand their past and escape this prison so that they can live life not as a victim of the past but live victoriously in Christ Jesus.More Christians than you know struggle with this serious issue. Some Past Memory Issues People Struggle WithWhile not knowing your particular memory issues, some frequent types of dark memories from the past that haunt Christians may include but are certainly are not limited to: · child abuse · drunkenness issues of the past · issues of lying · failed marriage · sexual issues in your life · bad financial decisions · war related memories · work related memories from such work as paramedic work · blasphemy of the Holy Ghost · etc. Now the issue(s) of the past you are dealing with may or may not be from sin in your life. Past issues fall into two categories. · The first is category is that of a non-sinful innocent past. For example in this category the person committed no wrong, something could have been done to them or they have difficulty with the past due to extreme circumstances they found themselves in. · The second category is that of a sinful guilty past. This is where sin has been committed by the person. Sin, being properly defined as the lack of conformity unto, or an actual transgression of God’s law. A. Your Responsibility with Your Past We all are responsible for how we react to our past. Most of our past we did not choose. · I didn’t choose my parents · I didn’t choose my country · I didn’t choose my personality · I didn’t choose the hurts/pains/abuses caused by others’ choices I didn’t choose any of these things, but I am responsible for how I respond to them. Jesus’ example · Jesus was born poor · Rumors were spread about his mother · He was considered illegitimate · He was rejected by his family · He was rejected by his own people · He was rejected by his own disciples (remember Peter’s denial and the scattering of all the others?) · He was crucified · He chose to respond in love, in faithfulness, and in fforgiveness You Are Responsible You cannot control the choices of others. You cannot control what people do to you or how they hurt you. But you can choose to respond in a godly way. No matter what has happened in your past, you are responsible for how you respond. No one can make you sin. You and I choose to sin. Morality does not come from circumstances, it comes from the heart. Two Experiences in the Past Remember I said there are two kinds of experiences we have in the past. We might call it: · non-sinful innocent past · sinful guilty past Innocent Past – Someone hurt you / sinned against you Bad Responses · Bitterness (Naomi) – she did come out of it and encouraged Ruth “Bitterness is like locking someone up in prison, and then realizing that the person locked up is me”. · Cursing/Anger (Job’s wife) · Self-pity (Esau) · Escapism/Addiction · Elitism: I’m the only one that understands / My case is special (King Saul) · Vengeance Addicts come in all shapes and sizes and smells. Some are CEO’s, white collar professionals, deacons and Sunday school teachers. Others are homeless street people and bag ladies whose aroma lingers in your office long after they’ve left. But, if you peer into the soul of any of these addicts, or your soul or mine, you smell the same thing: desire, thirst, hunger, longing, craving and lust. Addiction and the human condition live in the same family. The difference between you and me and the addict is wafer-thin. Good Responses · Trust in God’s grace (Paul–thorn in the flesh) · Worship/Thankfulness to the Sovereign God (Job) o 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV), “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” · Give Your Burdens to the Lord (Hannah / Elkanah / son, Samuel) · Draw near to God in suffering (Joseph) · Trade Addictions/Escapism for Worship (Augustine) Augustine was an pastor in Hippo, North Africa, but before he was saved he had a deep addiction for lust. He talks about making a false profession of faith and not having the power over sin that he needed. He said… "I was astonished that although I now loved you... I did not persist in enjoyment of my God. Your beauty drew me to you, but soon I was dragged away from you by my own weight and in dismay I plunged again into the things of this world... as though I had sensed the fragrance of the fare but was not yet able to eat it." He knew that he was held back now not by anything intellectual, but by sexual lust. Listen to him again: “I was still held firm in the bonds of woman's love.” Therefore the battle would be determined by the kind of pleasure that triumphed in his life. Notice the battlefront: How shall I find strength to enjoy God more than sex? “I began to search for a means of gaining the strength I needed to enjoy you, but I could not find this means until I embraced the mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ." Then came one of the most important days in Augustine’s life. He writes in his book, Confessions: “O Lord, my Helper and my Redeemer, I shall now tell and confess to the glory of your name how you released me from the fetters of lust which held me so tightly shackled and from my slavery to the things of this world." It was late August, 386. Augustine was almost 32 years old. He had friends that were truly Christians and were free from the slavery of sin. Through these friendships Augustine was stung by his own bestial bondage to lust, when others were free and holy in Christ. Listen to the story of Augustine’s own conversion in his own words: “There was a small garden attached to the house where we lodged.... I now found myself driven by the tumult in my heart to take refuge in this garden, where no one could interrupt that fierce struggle in which I was my own contestant.... I was beside myself with madness that would bring me sanity. I was dying a death that would bring me life.... I was frantic, overcome by violent anger with myself for not accepting your will and entering into your covenant.... I tore my hair and hammered my forehead with my fists; I locked my fingers and hugged my knees." But he began to see more clearly that the gain was far greater than the loss, and by miracle of grace he began to see the beauty of chastity in the presence of Christ. "I was held back by mere trifles... They plucked at my garment of flesh and whispered," Are you going to dismiss us? From this moment we shall never be with you again, for ever and ever. "... And while I stood trembling at the barrier, on the other side I could see the chaste beauty of Continence in all her serene, unsullied joy, as she modestly beckoned me to cross over and to hesitate no more. She stretched out loving hands to welcome and embrace me. So now the battle came down to the beauty of Continence and her tenders of love versus the trifles that plucked at his flesh. He goes on: “I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes... In my misery I kept crying, "How long shall I go on saying' tomorrow, tomorrow '? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?"... All at once I heard the singsong voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain' Take it and read, take it and read. 'At this I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before. I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall. "So I hurried back to the place where [my friend] was sitting... seized [the book of Paul's epistles] and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: "Not in reveling in drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature's appetites "(Romans 13: 13- 14). I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.” Augustine learned what it was to replace the escapism of sexual sin with the worship of God. It began with conversion. All who are in Christ have the power to repent and to say NO to sin through the Word of God, the Spirit of God, prayer and other means of grace. · Augustine dealt with his past by trading Addictions/Escapism for Worship (Augustine) · Forgiveness (Jesus) – The most awful sin committed in the universe was the crucifixion of the Son of God. Jesus was absolutely perfect. When a tea bag is put in hot water what comes out? Tea. When you are put in hot water, what comes out? If we are in Christ and have been forgiven, then you ought to forgive. Jesus said while dying on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” · Comforting Others / ministering to others (Paul) · Returning Good for Evil (Paul) Romans 12:17–21 (ESV), “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Guilty Past – You sinned Bad Responses to My Own Sin · Hiding (Adam) · Sneakiness/lying (Achan) – He stole “a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels”. He not only stole them, he hid them. He should have confessed, but only confessed when he was forced to. He was buried under a pile of stones (Joshua 7) · Escapism/suicide (Judas) · Escapism/giving up/checking out (Peter, “I go a fishing…”) · Escapism/addiction (The Samaritan woman at the well) – she was hurt by her circumstances. She was an outcast of Israel. Who knows what pain she was dealing with, but she covered it with religion and men. Remember she knew about her own religion. She was well versed in it. Perhaps that was one of her escapes. But she also escaped to the arms of men that was not sanctioned by matrimony. She was a fornicator. · Cover-up (Cain; David; Moses) o Cain – his sacrifice was not accepted. He got bitter and then killed his brother o David – he committed adultery with Bathsheeba and tried to cover it up by having Uriah sleep with her and then having Uriah murdered in battle. o Moses – killed an Egyptian and buried him in the sand. · Paranoia (King Saul) – when he sinned and lost the kingdom he turned to paranoia and tried for over ten years to kill David. He eventually committed suicide and fell on his sword in battle. Guilty Past – You sinned Good Responses to My Own Sin If you are guilty – stop the cycle! Examples: · Repentance (David-Psalm 51) · Restitution (Zacchaeus) · Faith (Matthew Levi) ----------------- I. Move on from the Past, “forgetting what lies behind” vs. 13a. ----------------- II. Move on to God’s Purpose, “straining forward to what lies ahead” vs. 13b. Grow from your past by focusing on God’s purpose. Romans 8:28–30 (ESV), “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Christ’s Response to the Sin of your past You are Forgiven and Transformed! · Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new”. · Paul says, “Such were some of you”. · You are a “new creation”. · “Old things are passed away…” John Newton, “I am not what I used to be, and I am not what I hope to be. I’m not what ought to be. But I am not what I once was! And by the grace of God, I am what I am!” Forgive as You Have Been Forgiven Genesis 41:51–52 (ESV), “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Be Fruitful in Your Affliction Joseph – Pit, Potipher’s house (slave), Prison, Palace Naomi – Foreigner in Moab, Widowhood David – caves Job – lost children, wealth, love and respect of wife, friends You will Not Always be Treated Right · Isaiah – cut in two · 11 of 12 Apostles as well as Paul were brutally murdered. Only John died a natural death (after he was boiled alive in oil). Where was God when I received such abuse? Such pain and suffering? He was on His almighty throne. But our sin wrecked world and all our pain shows us how desperately we need a Savior. Job’s Example Do you know what the difference was between Job and his wife in their response to the tragedy of losing everything… Job 1:20 Job was the only one that worshiped in the midst of it. David’s Example 75 Psalms in the Caves and other Dangerous Places Though we don’t have all the answers, God does indeed listen to the cry of our hearts, and we cry out: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4 God’s Purpose in Everything ----------------- I. Move on from the Past, “forgetting what lies behind” vs. 13a. II. Move on to God’s Purpose, “straining forward to what lies ahead” vs. 13b. Grow from your past by focusing on God’s purpose. ----------------- III. Move on for the Prize, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” vs. 14. Your Reach for the Future I know the plans I have for you… Think on what is true! Phil 4:8 Vengeance is God’s – no one gets away with anything. To focus on the mistakes and failures of the past brings a paralysis of anguish and remorse. Paul's statement to the Philippians gives us that action which is essential for us: "forgetting what lies behind." It is God who enables us to cover up the past, to forget the unforgettable, to erase those memories which paralyze us. God surrounds us with His love and shouts, "Your past is forgiven!" From such redeeming grace, we find that peace which comes in forgetting. That peace enables us to forget, to begin anew. No Fully Satisfying Answer for Evil We must admit that there will be no fully satisfying answer to the question of evil in this life. Christians know that God is sovereign, and that nothing is outside of his control. We also know that he allows evil to exist, and human beings to commit moral atrocities. We cannot allow the sovereignty of God to be denied and evil allowed its independent existence. Nor can we deny the reality of evil and the horror of its threat to be lessened. We are reminded that evil can be answered only by a cross. Theologian Henri Blocher explains this truth vividly in these words: “Evil is conquered as evil because God turns it back upon itself. He makes the supreme crime, the murder of the only righteous person, the very operation that abolishes sin. The maneuver is utterly unprecedented. No more complete victory could be imagined. God responds in the indirect way that is perfectly suited to the ambiguity of evil. He entraps the deceiver in his own wiles. Evil, like a judoist, takes advantage of the power of good, which it perverts; the Lord, like a supreme champion, replies by using the very grip of the opponent.” Listen to the words of Horatius Bonar: I hear the words of love, I gaze upon the blood, I see the mighty sacrifice, And I have peace with God. The clouds may come and go, And storms may sweep my sky– This blood-sealed friendship changes not: The cross is ever nigh. I change, He changes not, The Christ can never die; His love, not mine, the resting place, His truth, not mine, the tie. -Horatius Bonar This is the message that the world needs to hear. There is sin and pain and suffering. But there is a Savior who is greater than all that! No More Tears – Revelation 21 And one day, as the Apostle John says in Revelation 21, God will wipe away all tears and there will be no more pain and suffering. There is a Savior and the world needs to hear about Him. Press on to that calling and to that PRIZE!! Because one day all that we see will be passed away. All will be in the past! Conclusion: There is a world out there that needs a Savior. He’s the only one who can fix it. Joni Eareckson Tada Story I think of the story of Joni Eareckson Tada. She was born in 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of four daughters. As a teenager, Tada enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and swimming. On July 30, 1967, she dove into Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water. She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and deep doubts about God, His goodness, and His sovereignty. However, Tada learned to paint with a brush between her teeth, and began selling her artwork. To date, she has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for disabled people. Most of all she has moved on from the bitterness of the past, and used it for the purpose of God and is “pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). May God give us all grace to RISE ABOVE OUR PAST in the same way.