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Don't Let Your Past Hinder

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Phil. 3:12-14

Don’t Let Your Past Hinder Your Future

June 11, 2000

Mt. Zion MBC


Thanks – God, pastor, preachers, deacons, deaconesses, choir, ushers

I think all of us would agree today who have had the privilege of reading the book of Philippians, we all come away with a renewed spirit and a rededicated mind.  For these 104 verses, these four chapters that were pinned by Paul and have been classified as the Epistles that were written from prison.  They are very powerful and prolific words.  It is an awesome book, if you please.  In chapter 1 he deals with life’s purpose – “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  It is in chapter two that he deals with life’s patterns – “Let this mind be in your which was also in Christ Jesus.”  It is in chapter three that he deals with life’s prize for he says “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  But thank God for chapter four where he deals with life’s power for he himself says, “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.”  It is in this letter that he writes to the church at Philippi that was founded on his 2nd missionary journey, you’re familiar with some of the members.  First of all there is Lydia, the seller of purple.  Not only was there Lydia there was the Philippian jailer and there was Aphroditius who had brought Paul, while he was in prison a token of love from the church.  For not only was Paul concerned about the church, the church was concerned about Paul.  As a matter of fact I need to drop this on you but I won’t try to push it, they did not try to put him out when he got put in jail.  They were concern about him so much so that they took up a collection and sent it to him, yes they were concerned about their leader.  And so this morning I want to suggest parenthetically that maybe you too ought to be concerned about the man of God.

Paul talks about how his imprisonment has caused the furtherance of the gospel.  It was because of his imprisonment not that the gospel was hindered but rather that the gospel had fallen out to the whole world.  Paul is in prison now he is shackled to the Pretorian guards and everyday when they would change their shifts Paul would have the privilege of talking about the gospel of Jesus the Christ.  It was in the innermost part of the prison that he would have the privilege of talking to some of the rulers best prison guards.  And he would testify about how it was when he was on the Damascus Road that the Lord had saved him.  The gospel was not hindered but helped by Paul’s being in prison.  For three reasons it was helped First of all it was because the confinement of his feathers.  But not only the confinement of his feathers there was the courage of his friends.  And not only was there the courage of his friends there was the carnality of his foes.  And so Paul says over and over again to the church that is located at Philippi, “I am happy.”  As a matter of fact I am rejoicing even right now.  Well, the 1st thing that I wondered was, how in the world could a man in prison rejoice?  It is in chapter three beginning at verse one that you’ll notice Paul says “finally”.  Now this is not the finally of the baptist who says I am closing now for that finally comes in Phil 4:8 where he says and “finally brethren whatsoever things are true”, that’s where he says I am closing now.  Whatsoever things are honest.  Whatsoever things are just.  Whatsoever things are pure.  Whatsoever things are lovely.  Whatsoever things are of a good report.  Whatever is of virtue and of praise, think on these things.

Chapter three verse one says, “finally” Paul says in the original language now for the rest of the story.  He says there is nothing else for me to do now but rejoice.  Over 18 time in the book of Philippians he talks about rejoicing.  Over and over again he tells them to rejoice.  He is in prison but he is concerned about the Philippians, yes he is saying unto them – “Rejoice.”  I need to stop right here for a moment to tell you that sometimes condition and circumstances may not always be conducive for rejoicing to those outside of Christ but Paul says to “rejoice in the Lord always” and then like a good baptist preacher he turns around and says “again I say rejoice.  Let your moderation be know to all man, the Lord is at hand.  Be careful for nothing but in everything through prayer and supplication (thanksgiving) let your request be made know unto God.  And the peace of God (somebody ought to holla “glory” right there for not only do we have the peace of God we have the God of peace.) which passeth all understanding shall guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”  No circumstances; sometimes conditions, sometimes chaotic situations might not give way for us to have comfort, we might not be comfortable to be can be content.  Life sometimes places us in uncomfortable places, uncomfortable positions but I wanted to stop long enough to tell you that you can be content.  Paul says in the 4th chapter in verses 11-13 he says that I’ve learned in whatever state I’m in therewith to be content.  And how are you able to do it Paul because I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.  I know how to be hungry, I know how to be full, I know how to act if I’m up and I know how to deal with being down.  I am content in whatever situation I find myself in.  You see the problem with the world is we are looking for happiness instead of joy.  Happiness is dictated by external, joy is an internal fountain.  No matter what your situation or your circumstances are you can have joy in your heart...  Check it out, God might not bring you out, but I know he’s able.  Eph. 3:20 says it like this:  “God is able to do.”  Now really he could have stopped at “God is able”, I think that he wasted a little ink by telling us anymore but he said “God is able” and then he hooked on to do!  That adds a little more weight to it, “God is able to do.”  But then not only is God able to do, He’s able to do exceedingly!”  Could have put a period right there, I would have been happy with exceedingly but then he gets happy and adds a little more to it and says abundantly!  I said he could have just stopped at exceedingly, but he adds more weight to God’s ability by saying abundantly and then he gets happy and says “above anything you can ask or think.”  And so even in prison Paul understands that God can do anything but fail.  And he’s content being right there in his situation, he’s not comfortable but he’s content.

You know when you’ve had some trying times, you learn how to just be content.  Things don’t bother you like they used to.  You know I hear people saying all that time “Rev. Browder you know I can make it through a storm…” And then a little light will come along and throw them all of course.  How in the world are you going to make it through a storm and you can’t even make it with a little light bill?  You’ve heard people complain about having a cold, “Lord knows I have a cold.”  If you can’t make it with God with a little cold how will you make it with him with cancer?

He says “no my situation is not the best but for the furtherance of the Gospel,” he says, “I’m content with it.  As a matter of fact, I am going to make the best of it, I’m going to write from prison and I’m going to preach from prison and I am going to leave on record what I thought while I was in prison.  No, I am not comfortable but I am content.  He says finally brethren there is nothing left to do but rejoice.

Verse two he talks about the corruptors of the prize.  He says I’m here in prison and I really don’t need to write to you, it is not grievous to me, but it is for your benefit.  First of all I want you to beware of dogs.  You heard that sermon “watch them dogs?”  Now I need to tell you all of them ain’t dead, there are still some alive.  Now he is not talking about house-pet dogs, like what Jesus call the Pharisees.  But rather he is referring to mange, flea-bitten, scavenger dogs who would roam the city by night and the wilderness by day.  Who by their devouring techniques would cause people to stumble at Jesus the Christ.  Not only does he say watch those dogs but he says watch evil-workers.  Now the opposite of dogs who work by devouring was evil workers who worked by deceit.  All of them are not dead this morning there are still some evil workers, who through deceit try to get us and trick us with subtlety ; they work on Satan’s side they ain’t all dead (y’all).  There are some people that get up in the morning with evil on their minds; they go to bed at night with evil on their minds they are just evil workers.  But then notice he goes on to say “and watch those of the concision.”  Which a play on words here, it literally means mutilation.  Watch those of the concision.  So not only do you have to watch out for dogs who work by devouring, and watch out for evil workers who work by deceit; we also need to watch out for those who teach duty.  For here were individuals who taught as Acts 15:1 suggest there came some men down from Judea who taught that unless you be circumcised with the circumcision of Moses ye cannot be saved.  Well, we’re still doing it today.  We still put road blocks in people’s way to salvation.  We tell them a whole lot of stuff that they got to do that they don’t have to do to be saved.  All you got to do to be saved is to believe that Jesus Christ died, He was buried, and rose again and the Bible says thou shalt (not might, thou shalt) be saved.  You see circumcision says “do” while Jesus says “it is already done.”  Watch out for those of the circumcision; not of work lest any man should boast salvation is a gift of God through faith by grace.  He says you need to watch these fellows these Judi-isers who creep in and teach things that are not true, who come in and teach false doctrine.  And that’s why I want to promote that you gotta know that you know that you know that you know that you know that you know.  You got to know what you are believing, you got to know where you found, you have got to know that you know that you know so that when fellas come in with damnable disease, trickery, and words that sound good you can make certain that they are good and sound!  So he says here; watch out for dogs!  Watch out for evil workers!  Watch out for those of the concision.  Matter of fact it was Moses who said there will come a day when the Lord won’t circumcise your flesh but your heart and you will begin to love each other and you will begin to love God.  Colossians 2:11 says this; it says circumcision without hands, it will be the putting off the body of sin from the flesh.  Then Romans 15:8 calls Jesus the Christ the minister of circumcision.

You notice he says there are some corrupters of the prize.  He says really if you want to see who is of the circumcision let me tell you what their record is.  He says first of all they worship God.  And how do they worship God?  They worship God in spirit.  For they that worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth.  But not only that he says that we rejoice in Christ Jesus.  And last of all we do not have confidence in the flesh.  We don’t have confidence in our worldly attainment.  If you want to know somebody that ought to have confidence in the flesh, he says “you’re looking at him.”  He says when you look at me you are looking at somebody who ought to have confidence in the flesh.  He says when you think about everything that I’ve had, if anybody ought to be bragging it ought to be me.  He says I’ve got some things that I want to talk about.  So it is here in verses 4-6 that not only does he give us the corrupters of the prize but he tells us the cost of the prize.  Now you’ll notice here that he says “though I might have confidence in the flesh and though I might brag about worldly attainments.  He says if there is anybody else that think they can stand up to me… He says just let me run off a few things that I had…  Just let me talk about a few of the things that I had going for me… He says first of all I was circumcised the 8th day.  I’m of the stock of Israel of the tribe of Benjamin; I am a Hebrew of Hebrew; as touching the law, I’m a Pharisee.  He says but then concerning zeal: persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is of the law, I’m blameless.  He says if you want to talk about ritual, I had  it.  If you want to talk about right, I had it.  If you want to talk about religion, I had it.  If you want to talk about reputation, I had it.  If you want to talk about righteousness which was human righteousness, I had it.  If you want to talk about race, I had it.  He says I had everything going for me.  But notice what he says next he says and everything that was gain (in the original text there’s an “s” on the word “gain”).  He says when I thought about my ritual, my religion, my right.  When I thought about my reputation, and my  human righteousness.  When I think about my relationships and my race.  He says there was a time when I thought that all of that was gains.  He says but I put it in a bag called the bag of loss.  In the original language that word “loss” is singular which implies that he took his ritual and he put it in the bag.  He took his right and he put it in the bag.  He took his relationships and his religion and his reputation and his human righteousness and his race and he put it all in the bad that he calls the bag of loss.  He says I put it all in the bag of loss for Christ’s sake.  May I say to you this morning until you are willing to put some things aside for Christ’s sake…  And I know how it seems sometimes when everything is going good for you…

Not only does good hinder our progress but bad hinders our progress.  When we are introduced to Paul on the pages of Holy Writ we meet him in Act 7:58.  They were stoning Stephen.  And the writer records these interesting facts:  they laid their coats at the feet of a young man by the name of Saul.  It is in chapter 8:1 (yea it’s a continuation) and “he” talking about Saul (his name has not yet been changed) was consenting unto “his” (talking about Stephen’s) death.  And he went into houses and he hailed men and women out of houses leading them off to prison.  When you get to chapter 9 we still see him raising hell.  Act 9:1 says this… “and yet he was still breathing out threatenings and slaughter…”  I think that you would agree this morning that he was a pretty bad dude.  And so the first thing we need to understand this morning is that no matter how bad you’ve been in the past, you ought to not let it hinder your future.  Paul gives us a very key and interesting fact as he talked to Timothy the other day in 1 Timothy 1 he says son if you only knew.  If you only knew how I used to be, then you’d appreciate where I am now.  And you know a lot of people really cannot appreciate some of us because they really don’t know how far we’ve come.  You know a lot of people really might not be able to appreciate where we are in our spiritual lives right now because they don’t know how far the Lord has brought us.  In that passage he says “I was” first of all “a blasphemer.”  But not only was I a blasphemer, I was injurous.  And not only was I injurous, I was a persecutor.  In essence he said, I just threw my weight around.  He says everywhere I went I just threw my weight around.  But he tells Timothy that it was by mercy and grace that I was the chief of sinners.  He says you have never seen a sinner like me if you want to see a sinner let me show you one.  But it was by grace that the Lord did three things for me… First of all the Lord He enabled me.  He counted me faithful which meant He examined me.  And then He put me in the ministry and that means He exalted me.

What a terrible man Paul or Saul was.  And everyone of us here this morning, whether we want to admit to it or not, we’ve been something in our lives.  And I know that you don’t want to tell anybody but turn to somebody and tell them I’ve been something.  Y’all gonna help me preach ain’t you.  I know that you didn’t come to church to testify this morning but it’ll help everyone of us if we just go on and admit that everyone of us has been something in our lives.  As a matter of fact some of us are still something.  Paul says if you want to see a sinner, I’m a picture of what a sinner was.

But not only can your bad hinder your future, but your good can hinder it too.  There are some here this morning who the Lord has blessed tremendously.  You’ve got to testify that He’s been good to you.  You’ve got all of these things that Paul had; you’ve ritual, and right and religion and reputation and relationship and righteousness.  And you’ve got to be careful not to let what the Lord has done for you good, become a hindrance to your life in the future.  I remember in high school when I played on the chess team as a junior.  I won third in the state of Illinois that year.  I got awards and accolade.  My game was in good shape because I had been reading about and studying things on the game of chess.  But then the following year I could scarcely win a game.  See I became complacent and tried to rest on my history and my game was dying.  It was dying!  It was dying!  It was dying!  It was dying because of some good heritage and good history.  Like some of the members of most of our churches on Sunday morning I was singing “Like a tree planted by rivers of water, I shall not be moved.”  You see even though I had good history and heritage on my side, I had allowed the good of the past to stop me from somehow progressing in the future.  And so maybe there is someone here this morning that done got a little money and you have sat down thinking that you don’t need the Lord.  I need to tell you this morning; don’t let you past hinder your future.  Somebody here this morning, you got you a little education, you’ve got degrees on the wall (nothing wrong with that) ah, but somehow or another you’ve allowed your education to block God out.  Maybe you’ve been able to move out of the city into the suburbs, which ain’t nothing but the country.  Anything on the outside of the city brotha pastor in Chicago that’s the country.  Ah, the Lord has allowed you to be able to move out into the suburbs and somehow or another He’s been good to you in the past.  And somehow you don’t think you need Him. You are sitting downtown in a good job and you don’t think you need Him but they are still writing pink slips.  They don’t only write them on blue-collar jobs they write them on white-collar jobs.  And maybe you’ve got everything going for you but I need to stop long enough to drop this on you.  I’m just a mailman trying to deliver the mail – you need the Lord!  You need every day you need Him every step of the way and no matter how your life is going, no matter how good it is, when the tables are turned… What side will you be on?  Maybe you need to ask somebody this morning, have you allowed your past to hinder your future.  He says here in the text; there were some costs.

He says I had to put everything down for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But what I noticed about him brotha-pastor is that everything that I put in the bag, He pulled it back out for me.  He said I put my ritual in, He gave me the right reason for ritual.  He said I put my right and my religion in.  He said and when I began to put it in He pulled it back out for me.  I put my reputation in and my righteousness in but I didn’t come back with my own righteousness for they have  not submitted to His righteousness and when you don’t submit to His righteousness you go about to establish your own righteousness.  He said I put my relationships in the bag and he just pulled it back out for me.  And have you ever noticed that when you give up something for the Lord, He blesses you tremendously?  Whatever you put in the bag of loss for Him, He pulls it back out for you.  He says here in the text “I did it all for Christ’s sake.”  He says what thing were gain for me those I count as loss for Christ.  Yea doubtless and I count all things but loss.  And I am doing it for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus for whom I have suffered.  Ah, you are going to suffer.  Paul tells Timothy that “yea and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer tribulation.”  Many of us in the church; we want the good side of religion but there’s some suffering involved in this thing, and it ain’t written in the small print.  They tell us in the top of the contract that you are going to have some suffering.  And there are some religions that are coming along now talking about if you are suffering it means that your relationship with God is not intact.  Well I want to tell you this morning that that is a lie.  Job suffered, didn’t he do it?  Moses suffered.  The Hebrew boys suffered.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego suffered.  Daniel suffered, yea, there have been some sufferers in the Gospels.  And you are going to suffer  likewise; Jesus the Christ suffered.  And if I suffer with Him I will reign with Him one day.  You know that you are in good company when you suffer some mighty good fellows have suffered along the way for the furtherance of the gospel for the promotion of the gospel, yes! You are going to suffer in this life.  And it ain’t if you suffer, it’s when you suffer because sooner or later life will bring you to the doorstep of suffering.  He says I have suffered the loss of all things.  I gave up my mother’s religion, I gave up my father’s heritage, my friends they stopped speaking to me when I gave my life to Christ Jesus.  They didn’t treat me the same.  He said but it didn’t bother me.  Everything that I just mentioned it was as dung to me because I want to win Christ and I want to be found in Him.  I don’t want my own righteousness that comes out of the law.  He says but I’m rather concerned about righteousness that is through faith.  And all I want to do is I wanna know Him.  I’m not confident in just knowing about Him, I wanna know Him.  I wanna know the power of His resurrection and I don’t mind knowing about the fellowship of his suffering.  I wanna be made conformable unto His death and if by any mean that I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  He says first of all I must make an honest admission I have not already attained and maybe I need to tell you this morning that I’m not where I ought to be and you’re not where you ought to be.  You know while you’re around here sticking your finger out at other people, there’s three fingers pointing back at you.  He’s says no I’m not where I ought to be.  He says I’m not perfect yet, now that word perfect means I’m not mature as I ought to be.  And I need to tell you right now that no matter how long you’ve been in church that none of you have reached a perfect maturity.  Every (yea) day of our lives we’re growing stronger day by day.  He says I’ve got to make an honest admission, I’ve got a little more ground to cover. I hear him saying I got a few more things that I’m dealing with and a few more things that are dealing with me.  He said I got a few more things that I’ve got to put down and I’ve got a few more things I want to put me down (you gonna pray with me a little while?)  He said I’m not perfect yet but I’m gonna keep on growing in the likeness of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And everyone here today ought make an honest admission, you’re not what you ought to be and maybe you need to turn to somebody and tell them I’m not what I ought to be I’ve got a little more growing to do, I’ve got a little more ground to cover.  I’m feeling a little better now, I heard him say I have not apprehended but I gonna hold on for that which I have been apprehended.  Not only must I make an honest admission, I’ve got an honorable ambition he said brethren I count not myself to have apprehended but this one thing I do, I forget those things which are behind me and I am reaching forth unto those things which are before.  And then thank you Paul for telling us I press, I’ve got and humble anticipation, I press toward the mark.  And that word press in the original language, it means I’m bearing down, it talks about a runner that’s  only gonna win by a head.  But he says I’m bearing down, I’m pressing toward the mark of the Gospel of Jesus; it’s in Christ Jesus I’m bearing down.  I’m trying to run this race, I’m trying to run it with patience for I understand today that the race is not given (hold on mothers and don’t worry about it) the race is not given to the swift but to them the endure do the end.  And so my brothas and sistahs, I’m kinda like Paul   tonight, I don’t want my running to be in vain, I’ve come to far from where He brought me from.  I don’t want my running to be in vain sometimes up, and sometimes down, sometimes level to the ground but I’m gonna hold on to God’s unchanging hand.  He promised He’d never leave me alone.  He promised He’d go all the way with me.  He promised, He’d be right there.  So I’m gonna hold on!  Hold on!  Anybody here (help me Holy Ghost) made up your mind, you’re not gonna let your past hinder you future you’re gonna hold on!  Hold on til one of these old days – by and by; when the morning comes – by and by, when we all get there – by and by.  No more sickness or sorrow.  Everyday is gonna be howdy-howdy – by and by.  I’ve got some things behind me that I’m not proud about but I’m gonna hold on to God’s unchanging hand.  I’ve got some things behind me that every now and then, they catch up with me but I’m gonna hold on; talk about me if you please.  But I’m on the Lord’s side and He’s on my side.  I got some things behind me but I’m not the only one today got some things behind them.  But I wanna tell you today whatever is behind you keep on marching forward.

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