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WHEN YOUR PAST IS A ROADBLOCK

At The Crossroads - Part 1

 

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’”  Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)

 

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)

     

               Roadblock #1: MY PAST

ACT 1:    AN EVENTFUL PAST

 

“They dragged him [Stephen] out of the city and began to stone him.  The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul… Saul was one of the official witnesses at the killing of Stephen.  Acts 7:57-59

 

“A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria… Acts 8:1

 

“Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church.  He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into jail… Saul was uttering threats with every breath.  He was eager to destroy the Lord’s followers….”  Acts 7:58, 8:1, 8:3, 9:1 (NLT)

 

[Saul] “I caused many of the believers in Jerusalem to be sent to prison.  And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.  Many times I had them whipped in the synagogues to try to get them to curse Christ.  I was so violently opposed to them that I even hounded them in distant cities of foreign lands.”  Acts 26:10-11 (NLT)

ACT 2:    A GENUINE CONVERSION

[Three accounts of Saul’s conversion: Acts 9: 1-19; 22: 6-16; 26:12-18]

 

“When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him.  They thought he was only pretending to be a believer!”  Acts 9:26 (NLT)

 

ACT 3:    AN AMAZING TRANSFORMATION

 

“And immediately he [Saul] began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is indeed the Son of God!’  All who heard him were amazed.  ‘Isn’t this the same man who persecuted Jesus’ followers with such devastation in Jerusalem?’”  Acts 9:20-21 (NLT)

 

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I [Saul] was the worst of them all.  But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst sinners.  Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”  1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT)

"Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  Yes, what joy for those whose sin is no longer counted against them by the Lord.”  Romans 4:7-8 (NLT)

1.  Read these verses (Psalm 86:5; Mark 3:28; Acts 10:43; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Hebrews 10:10; 1 John 2:2, 1 John 2:12, 1 John 4:10)

2.  Ask God to forgive your past (1 John 1:9)

3.  Talk to a follower of Jesus about your past (James 5:16) Get your past “out in the open” and allow that Christ-following friend to affirm what you know to be true, “You’re forgiven!”  Hear those words.  Remember those words.  Feel those words.  Live out those words.  Your past is gone!  (2 Cor. 5:17).

4.  Seek further help through small groups & prayer.


WHEN YOUR PAST IS A ROADBLOCK

At The Crossroads - Part 1

We’re starting a new series we’re calling “Crossroads.”  We now have a Youth Pastor…

When you have new roads, new roads mean new opportunities.  It was a no brainer.

A lot of times when you’re driving through life there’s not always a no brainer situation.  For example you come to a crossroads and I’m hungry.  There’s Tim Horton’s on one side and a Starbucks on the other.  I’ve got to get off on one side.  What do I do?  Typically I tend to panic in those moments.  I’m kind of caught.  My head’s spinning and I’m not exactly sure what to do.  Typically what I do in my life after I panic, I settle for what’s easiest.  So I wind up taking the right turn and avoiding crossing streets – which can be dangerous on my bicycle.  Easiest versus best. 

You know what I’m talking about.  You’ve done that before.  You’re in a panic situation.  You come to a crossroads.  You go south when you should have gone north.  You go left when you should have gone right.  You jump a curb, run over the orange cones, park in handicap.  When you do make those mistakes what happens?  No big deal.  You pull over.  You recalibrate.  You’ve lost a little bit of time.  Maybe you’re a little frustrated.  But then you begin to move on.  The loss and the consequences are minimal. 

Think about this.  Wouldn’t it be great if in life, you’re going through life, you hit the crossroads, you make the wrong decision and in life you go, “Oh!  No big deal.”  You pullover, make the U-turn.  No consequences.  That’d be nice on Planet Pretend.  But not here.  When we make bad decisions there are consequences to it.  It’s not no harm, no foul. 

For the next three weeks I’m going to be talking about this whole concept of crossroads.  When you and I come up to a moment like a crossroad moment, what do we do in these moments so that we can choose God’s way?  When we come to these crossroad moments we want to choose God’s way. 

I’m not talking about the no brainer situation.  There are some no brainers that don’t cause pause.  They don’t cause these crossroad moments.  Do I go to small group or do I commit arson?  Those are no brainers.  Do a tithe or do I rob a bank?  If I robbed the bank do I still have to give ten percent?  (The answer is yes!)

Most of the big decisions in life are not that easy.  The big decisions that we know if we make the wrong choice they’re going to result in personal and relational consequences are made right here at this crossroad. 

Money.  How are you going to manage your money?  What are you going to do with your money?  Are you going to manage your money by God’s standards, by God’s set of values?  Or are you going to manage your money the way the world tells you to?  The way everybody does.  Go after the possessions and the pleasures and use your money this way. 

Your sexuality.  When it comes to sexual decisions.  What are you going to do when you hit the crossroads?  Are you going to express your sexuality in the way that God has designed it to be expressed?  Or are you going to express your sexuality in the way you see in the advertisements, billboards, media, television. 

When it comes to relationships.  How do we treat one another?  Do we treat one another based on God’s standards and how He wants us to treat one another?  Or do we look to the world’s way and just long for the advice of Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura and Dr. Oprah. 

If we’re honest we would admit that the world’s ways are a lot easier to follow.  The world’s way is alluring.  It’s seductive.  It’s tempting.  It’s easy to walk that way.  I know a lot of people that I have relationships with they want to be characterized by God’s way.  They want to be identified here as setting the course of their life by walking God’s way.  But because of the ease and the decisions of the world’s way they make many of their decisions based on their character and their morality and their ethics on the world’s way.

That’s why this concept of crossroads is so important.  I want to look at the advise in one of my favorite Old Testament scriptures – Jeremiah 6:16 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and  you will find rest for your souls.’”  Circle all the verbs.  Everything that communicates action.  Stand.  Look.  Ask, twice.  Walk.  Find.  I’m not an English major but I count six verbs there.  There’s a lot of action at the crossroads.  Stand and look and ask and then to walk and to find.  Find God’s preferred life.  Find rest for our souls. 

Jesus used a similar metaphor.  He added a gate to it, which He can do because He’s God.  In Matthew 7 Jesus is speaking.  It says, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”  Circle these three words.  I think these three words clumped together describe the world’s way.  “Wide,” “many,” “destruction.”  This way is wide, many go this way.  And ultimately Jesus says it leads to destruction.  “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” 

What was Jesus trying to say?  He was trying to say, there is the world’s way.  The world’s way is wide and it’s easy to travel.  But it leads to destruction.  There are severe consequences.

My hunch – in my mind I know it’s a fact – that there are a lot of people here who have stories and scars because they have journeyed the world’s way.  Not just journeyed the world’s way before they became Christians.  But having a relationship with God, filled with God’s Spirit have also made decisions to walk the world’s way.  Because of that we’re filled with stories and scars. 

There are so many things in this moment, right here, that prevent us from going God’s way and even, I would say, push us to go the world’s way.  There’s three that I want to talk about – one each week of this series. 

The first roadblock that’s keeping us from going God’s way, that makes it more difficult, we’ll identify it as

Roadblock #1: MY PAST. 

Let me be very clear about this.  Whether this is your first time ever in church or your millionth time, you will be able to identify with all three roadblocks I’m going to talk about during this series.  You will be able to identify with them, I promise.  They’re not Christian roadblocks or non-Christian roadblocks.  They’re just roadblocks.  For me to talk about the past in my life, just me, those of you who are regulars.  You’ve been to TSA before, you know my style.  I pretty much am an open book. 

I’ve got a past that makes Paris Hilton look like a nun!”  I say that with no offense to nuns.  When I talk to people and we just talk about life and we get into one another’s past most of the friends that I’ve talked to their past is over bad decisions.  At the crossroad they went the world’s way.  Their sexual past, that they’re not proud of.  Their financial decisions that they’re embarrassed of.  Relationships that have gone sour.  Anger that wasn’t able to be controlled.  Substances that were abused in different forms. 

You may not have the resume I do, I do know sin.  In the eyes of God, one man’s lie is another man’s murder.  Sin is sin.

Here’s the big deal about our past.  Our past brings up this guilt.  And this guilt is a road block that keeps us from pursuing God’s way.  That keeps us from seizing these God sized opportunities.  In my life when I’m reminded of my past all of a sudden these guilt blocks come up and say, “Bruce, who are you to teach the Bible to anybody?  Who do you think you are?  What if people knew all your flaws and blemishes?  Do you think I want to use a person like you?”  That’s what guilt does.  It triggers feelings like that. 

I’ve had many friends I’ve invited to church.  They always say no to me.  I try everything.  I know you like the drums.  You could play in the band.  When the offering comes by, take money out.”  I did everything I could to get people to come to church.  You know what they usually say to me?  “My past wouldn’t play well at church.”  What if I were to say “No, it’d play well.  We’ve get jumbo screens and everything.  It’d be awesome!” 

As a matter of fact, what if I said that to you.  What if I said to you that your past, I’ve created this machine and you’re actually sitting on this machine and this machine can capture your past and project it on to these screens for everybody to see.  What if?  Think about that for a second.  Your past, the worst moments of your past projected up here.  How would that make you feel?  Get out of the seat.  Anxious.  Humiliated.  Shame.  Frustrated.  Embarrassed. 

For some of your past’s they’re so wild, we could actually charge admission to watch them.  That would be kind of a cool deal. Again, regardless of where you are spiritually your past comes into play.  Three types of people – you’ll be able to identify with one of them is my guess.

Maybe you can identify with the first type – My past doesn’t play well.  I’m not a bad person and neither are you.  You’re kind of checking out this whole God thing.  You don’t really get it.  Somebody invited you.  You drove in thinking there would be free food or something.  You’re here and kind of curious about this whole God thing but “I don’t want to get into my past because my past won’t play well here.”  If that describes you, your past is a roadblock to you having a relationship with God. 

Or maybe you’re the second type of person.  The second type of person has really already aligned him or herself with God’s way.  You would say I’m a follower of Christ.  But you’re thankful for God forgiving you of your past.  You’re thankful for your ticket into heaven but you’re kind of living your life spiritually on the sidelines.  You can’t imagine that God would want to use you to do anything for Him.  You watch other people being used for God.  In the back of your mind you go, “That’s kind of cool!  I’d kind of like that.  But my past!  If they knew…”  So what happens is you’re sitting on the sidelines.  Spiritually.  You might show up to things every once in a while but you’re on the sidelines.  Thankful for your ticket into heaven but just on the sidelines in God’s game of life.  If that describes you, your past is a roadblock. 

There’s a third type of person.  This person is a follower of Jesus Christ, actually may be involved in a Bible study, serving here at the church.  You’re really involved but here’s the deal.  When it comes to intimacy with God, it just feels like you can’t get real close to God.  You hear about this personal relationship with God.  You hear about people having an intimate relationship with God.  You hear about people sensing God’s presence, hearing God’s still small voice. 

But your life is more like on a treadmill.  You’ve all been on a treadmill before.  Say there’s a stain on the treadmill.  You see the stain but it doesn’t go away.  Depending on how fast you run on the treadmill you’re going to see that stain pretty soon.  You kind of see life that way.  That stain is your past.  Because you’re embarrassed of your past and the closer you get to God, the more you remember your past, you’re embarrassed by that so you think God’s embarrassed too.  You’re disappointed in your past and you think God’s disappointed. 

You’re doing all the “right things.”  But you still feel this distance from God.  If that describes you, your past is a roadblock to depth and intimacy with God.

If I just described you in any of those three ways I want to try to help you move past your past.  I want to try to help you kind of go through life and when you hit these crossroad moments of life that you take God’s way with confidence.  With clarity and with total conviction that that’s the right decision. 

In order to do that I want to show you somebody who had quite a past.  As a matter of fact he had such a past that he makes your past, as gruesome as you might think your past is, makes you look like a Boy Scout.  This guy’s name is Saul.  He has a very treacherous past.  I’ve kind of taken Saul’s life and captured it into three parts:

ACT 1: AN EVENTFUL PAST. 

I want to take a look at this guy named Saul.  You may need to forgive me.  Sometimes in the Bible he’s called Saul.  Sometimes he’s called Paul.  And sometimes I confuse them.  Sometimes I say Saul, sometimes I say Paul. 

Here is the context of this.  Saul is anti-Jesus.  He’s the leader of the anti-Jesus movement.  Another guy that we’re going to see right away named Stephen.  Stephen gets stoned to death – rocks.  Stephen was a follower of Jesus.  Before Jesus died on the cross and resurrected all these guys that would follow Jesus, they were Jesus is cool, He teaches some radical things.  He’s pretty wild.  He’s done some crazy things.  But He says He’s God.  He’s going to rise from the dead.  It’s a neat idea, I hope it’s true, but… so some of them kind of lived in fear as He was in the grave for three days.  But as soon as Jesus resurrects and appears to all of these persons the fear goes away and it’s game on!  These guys are now ready to go to their death for what they see and what they believe. 

Stephen was one of those.  So that’s the context.  Stephen wouldn’t shut up about Jesus.  And because of that it led to his death. 

Notice Saul’s position here in the death of Stephen, Acts 7 “They dragged him [Stephen] out of the city and began to stone him.  The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.  Saul was one of the official witnesses at the killing of Stephen.”  This is a very powerful image to me.  I see Saul kind of like this – just standing there with a look of disgust on his face that somebody would die for what they believe, This posture of power.  He’s the official witness.  All of the other hoodlums that are throwing the rocks before they could throw the rocks, they take off their coats and they lay them at the feet of Saul because he’s the official witness.  There he is watching a follower of Jesus Christ be stoned to death.  That was his position.  It goes on to say, “A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria.”

I love this little section of scripture.  I don’t love it because of the persecution that happened.  I love it because of what God does in the midst of persecution.  I love how God takes a negative situation and makes it positive.  How is this positive when persecution hits?  It’s positive because all the believers begin to flee.  When they take off on different roads into Judea and Samaria what are they taking with them?  They’re taking their faith.  They’re taking the message of the Good News.  They’re spreading the Good News.  So Stephen gets stoned.  Saul’s right there cheering it on.  Persecution hits and the Good News of Jesus Christ begins to spread out. 

Now Paul (or Saul) needs to go after them.  Verse 9 “Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church.  He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into jail.  Saul was uttering threats with every breath.  He was eager to destroy the Lord’s followers.” 

Saul didn’t have any confines.  We have a lot of anti-Jesus people today.  They don’t have much power – a microphone, a website, maybe they’ve got a TV show or something like that to get their anti-Jesus message out.  Saul wasn’t limited.  He had the power to destroy.  His goal was to devastate the early church.  Acts 26 even describes what he was like and what he did.  “I caused many of the believers in Jerusalem to be sent to prison.  And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.  Many times I had them whipped in the synagogues to try to get them to curse Christ.  I was so violently opposed to them that I even hounded them in distant cities of foreign lands.” 

 

It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to see that Saul was a despicable human being.  He had innocent blood on his hands.  He was a murderer who was against people whose only crime was being that Jesus was who He said He was, the Messiah. 

When you look at Saul’s past, we’re not talking about a minor character flaw.  We’re talking about big stuff.  But thankfully Saul didn’t stay rooted in the past. 

ACT 2: A GENUINE CONVERSION.

What I would encourage you to do is read this on your own.  There are three accounts of it in the book of Acts.  Acts 9 is the actual account of it happening to Saul, him having an incredible conversion experience with God where he moves from a persecutor to a passionate follower and then he then in Acts 22 and Acts 26 he retells his story.  I began to think about this.  Those of you who’ve got kind of a wild past.  It’s probably not a bad idea for you to retell your story, if you’re a follower of Christ today.  Think about this.  Do you retell your past so that you glory in your sin?  No.  You retell your past so that God gets the glory for bringing you out of your sin.  That’s what Saul did in Acts 22 and 26. 

It’s interesting to me that Saul’s background was so eventful that the believers at that time who saw Saul they found it difficult to believe.  Acts 9 “When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him.  They thought he was only pretending to be a believer!”  Somebody who has gone through a genuine conversion.  You can’t pretend that.  You don’t put a disguise on that.  When somebody’s gone through a genuine conversion the next step is to watch this amazing transformation.  That’s what happens when somebody becomes a follower of Jesus Christ.  When they turn their back to the world’s way and say, I want to base my life on God’s way.  God’s Spirit through a conversion process, enters them and a transformation begins. 

When you have a genuine conversion experience you are transformed. 

ACT 3: AN AMAZING TRANSFORMATION

That’s what is happening here – a total change of being.  Those of you who have gone to the movies recently and you’ve seen Transformers. In Saul’s life it was an immediate transformation.  He goes from a destroyer to become a follower.  The leader of the anti-Jesus movement becomes a missionary for Jesus.  A terror becomes tender.  It was amazing and it was immediate. 

Acts 9 “Immediately Saul began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues saying, ‘He is indeed the Son of God!’ And all who heard him were amazed.  ‘Isn’t this the same man who persecuted Jesus’ followers with such devastation in Jerusalem?’” 

Saul had a past and makes yours looks vanilla.  God took this life – and by the way, that’s what He wants to do with you.  He wants to take your life, your eventful past and lead you into a conversion where you’re filled with His presence and lead you to an amazing transformation.  Saul was totally transformed.  It was a turnaround in Saul.  Let’s turn this around to you.  What does this mean for you?  What does this look like for you? 

If you’re like the first person, like my buddies that I invite who never come, what this means is if you’re not a follower of Jesus Christ and you are here, let me just say I’m thrilled that you’re here.  I couldn’t be happier that you chose to check out God and come to TSA for a weekend.  But God wants to take your eventful past and He wants you to experience a relationship with Him and transform you into this preferred life, this dream life that He has for you, this life where you can seize these God size opportunities that God wants to do with your life.  He doesn’t want you to waste your life.  He wants you to use your life.  Just like people were amazed at Saul’s transformation, people are going to be amazed at your transformation. 

Your past is not too bad for God.  Your past is not too much for God to handle.  It’s not too much.  It’s not too bad.  Don’t miss out on a genuine conversion experience, a transformation of your life because of your past. 

Check out this passage in 1 Timothy.  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- and I [Saul] was the worst of them all.  But that is why God had mercy on me, so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of His great patience with even the worst of sinners.  Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”  Saul’s saying I was the worst of sinners and God changed me so those who believe in Him can receive eternal life.

You say, “What am I believing in?”  What you’re believing in, the Bible says, is that when Jesus died on the cross, He died on the cross to pay for my sins that I couldn’t pay for on my own.  When I sinned I separated myself from a perfect and holy God.  Jesus’ death on the cross closes that gap and allows me if I believe that He died in my place as payment for my sins, I can have a relationship with God and my past it disappears.  That’s the Good News.  Your past it disappears.

Here’s the image that came to mind.  I have a sheet of paper with the word “past” written on here.  This sheet of paper represents your past.  Pretend this represents your past.  For some of you, we would need butcher paper.  For me, this little slip of paper. 

A genuine conversion experience, when you ask God to forgive you of your past here’s the image I want you to see.  He takes it and makes it disappear.  Your past is gone.  That’s an image of what God does with your past.  No matter how bad it is.  You don’t go back and get it again.  It is out of sight. 

If you’re the second type of person here who’s sitting on the sideline and isn’t being used because you feel like your past is too much, what I want to encourage you to do is Jesus when He died on the cross He paid for your past.  He paid for your past so you can move on.  He doesn’t want you sitting on the sidelines.  He paid for your past.  Here’s what I want you to remember, you move past your past because God has. 

One of the reasons I love the Bible is because the Bible isn’t filled with a bunch of goody-two-shoes messages.  The Bible is filled with all these radical people who lived wild lives.  God intervened and changed them.  Saul is just one example of many men and women who had wild pasts who were totally transformed.  That could be you.  You’ve got to move past your past because God has.  When God forgave you of your past it disappeared. 

Or the third type of person.  There’s a barrier between you and God.  You’re kind of doing some of the right things that Christians do.  But there’s still a distance between you and God because of the treadmill remember – you keep seeing that stain, that embarrassment.  You need to move past your past because God has.  When you move from intellectually understanding forgiveness to living it out that I am forgiven, that changes everything. 

A lot of people say, “Intellectually I understand that God forgives me of my past,” but then they don’t live like it.  Let me give you an example of a sentence written by a person who lives like it.  Romans 4 “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight.  [Circle “out of sight.”]  Yes, what joy for those whose sin is no longer counted against them by the Lord.”  This is from a letter in the New Testament written to the church in Rome.  We know that Saul wrote that.  But what Saul’s doing is quoting somebody named David.  Why this is interesting is – you don’t need to know much about David but here’s two words to describe David – “adulterer,” “murderer.”  David says “What joy it is that my sins are out of sight.”  What has he done?  He’s moved from forgiveness being just intellectually and all of a sudden this understanding forgiveness and living it out he has joy. 

If you’re that third type of person and you’re a Christian your past is creating a barrier should be just the other way around.  That joy for forgiveness ought to draw you closer to God.  You say, “I want to be closer to God.  I can’t believe that He would forgive me.  What a treat this is!”  You move past your past because God has. 

Here’s what a lot of us do.  We just kind of reach back into our past and bring it up, and play with our past, we come to the crossroads and look at life through our past.  For some of us we even nurture and pet our past.  Some of us even wear it on our sleeves.  “I’m a victim of my past.  I can’t get past my past.”  We just keep bringing it back up.  The image I want you to get is this image: your past is out of sight.  It’s completely out of sight. 

Let me be very practical with you.  I want you to remember that image of your sins being out of sight, your past being out of sight.  What happens then is when your past is out of sight the roadblock isn’t there.  It’s gone.  But I want to give you some very practical things to maybe consider this week.

First, I want you to read these verses.  Study them.  Do your own Bible study on forgiveness.  At least get it up in your head what the Bible teaches about forgiveness.  

Two, ask God to forgive your past.  First John 1:9 says this “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Every time you come to a crossroad and you bring up your past remember “If we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  He’s already forgiven me.  I don’t have to relive that.  I don’t have to say “God, would You forgive me again for this,” and He says, “Again?  What do you mean again?”  It is out of sight.  Ask God for forgiveness.

I think a very practical thing to do that a lot of people don’t do is talk to a follower of Jesus about your past.  James 5:16 “Confess your sins to one another.  [Why?  So that they can gossip?  Why do you confess your sins to one another?]  So that you will be healed.”

Thirdly, When I meet with a buddy and I talk about my past because I keep being reminded of it, or I’ve got a friend who’s bringing up my past or I ran into somebody who triggered my past, and I say to my friend “I did this stuff in the past,” am I expecting my friend to all of a sudden to be God and say, “You are forgiven, my son.”  No.  I’m talking to them as a friend.  But if this friend is follower of Christ get your past our in the open and allow that Christ following friend to affirm what you know to be true.  You are forgiven.

So if I’m with my buddy and he’s telling me about his past I could say, “You’re forgiven.  You know that.  You hear those words.  You remember those words.  You feel those words.  You live those words.  Your past is gone.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 says this “If anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation.  The old has passed, the new has come.”  If anyone is in Christ.

The fourth would be to seek further help, through your small group that you’re in or if you want to get involved in some groups with people with all kinds of pasts. 

Pause with me just for a minute.  Imagine what your life might look like if you come up to these crossroad moments of your life and your past wasn’t a roadblock. 

Some of you, you’re shackled to the sins of your past.  So you’re not free.  We can’t reach our community for Christ, being an instrument in God’s hands when we are not free of our past.  That’s what I want for my life.  That’s what I want for your life.  I know that’s what you want for your life.  That’s what God wants for you too.  I believe it’s possible because God’s forgiveness makes it possible.

Prayer:

       God, I pray that we would walk out of here with that image in our mind of our past being removed out of sight.  That we don’t hang on to it.  That when we ask for Your forgiveness, that You wipe it away. 

If you’re sitting here and maybe for the first time you need to ask God to forgive you, you’ve never done that before, just ask Him in the silence of your heart.  You don’t have to say anything out loud.  You don’t have to attend a class.  Just say, “God, You know my past.  Would You forgive me?  I confess to You that I have messed up in the past.  I ask for Your forgiveness.”  Just say in these words, “As much as I understand, I accept what Jesus did on the cross as the payment so that I could have a relationship with You.” 

Or maybe you’re that second type of person and you’re on the sidelines.  You keep bringing out your past and playing to it.  It’s keeping you from being used by God.  Just say, “God, I don’t want to do that any more.  You’ve forgiven me and I want to move on.  I want to be used by You.”

       Or you’re that third type of person.  You’re distant from intimacy with God because you’re embarrassed and you think God is embarrassed.  You’re ashamed and you think God is ashamed.  Would you just beg Him right now in your spirit to help you draw closer to Him?  To thank Him for this forgiveness.  That your past is out of His sight and doesn’t come into play.

God, thank You that You want to draw us close to You.  That as a perfect and holy God, we can have a relationship with You in spite of what we’ve done in the past because of Your forgiveness.  We pray that we will not be the same people who walk out of here as we were when we came.  We pray in the name of Jesus.  Amen. 

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