Let’s look at the objective facts of your past in the scriptures. 2 Corinthians 5, verse 17 tells us, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation!” The New Century Version of the Bible shows unique insights into this verse by translating it:
“If anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation.”
I liked this rendition because it stands outside the influence of the conversation and points to the facts—there is a new creation! The same verse in the ever-illustrative Message Bible paraphrases verse 17:
Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!
I might add that anyone “united” not only gets a fresh start, but, more to the point, is that fresh start. When Paul writes that the believer’s former life has “died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” he means that the past is concluded, buried and not to be dug up in all its corruption. This is the objective “facts” of the scriptures. It’s the unwavering principle by which believers choose to live the life of Christ.
Sadly, in the minds of those considering themselves to have experienced a past of extreme unrighteous behaviors, the powerful reality of forgiveness is too soon forgotten. Somewhere along the lines, when the scriptures ought to be a comfort, the guilt and weight of a former life presses upon the memory and the choice is made to cast off the forgiveness once realized. Now, I’m not referring to those who fall back into the wretched behaviors of the past, I’m writing to those who are cursed with the short memories of the goodness of God’s forgiveness.
Let’s look at the subjective realities of our feelings. They speak to us about failures and weakness. Sure, there are a couple good sentiments thrown in there for good measure, but in the whole, a believer desiring holiness finds the subjective feelings of past sins weighing heavy upon the mind.
At this point there is one of two choices to make—finding blame or giving thanks. Too often I’ve read about Christian counselors encouraging prolonged periods of introspection and reflection of how the past was realized. This may briefly help those with no hope, but it’s terrible advice for those who want to know the power of the blood of Christ. The necessary grasp of the sinful nature is there, but the darker exploration of what caused the iniquity continues to grow in an unhealthy manner. The search finds negligent parents, cultural backgrounds, and spouses—any variety of different variables on which to cast the excusing, self-justifying eye. And to what end? To defend why I am the wretch I am.
Maybe these explorations are true, or maybe they become overblown in our minds. The problem with such deeper introspection is one can never rebuild a relationship with someone taking the blame for past sins! This is the travesty of this type of counseling. You may feel good because you’ve “discovered your problems,” but it can never restore fellowship with the one who “inflicted” the pain. It’s not the fresh start, the new life burgeoning from 1 Corinthians 5:17. Sadly, this look inside only tends to create greater darkness through self-deception.
So, what is the answer to experiencing the new life in Christ, for understating how to put away the feelings of guilt and remorse? Let me say it in one word—thanks! Okay, I need three more words—remembering to give thanks! Anytime the thoughts of guilt and remorse of the past creep in, remember to give thanks that the old is passed away, the new has come! This is the most productive, positive way to choose deliverance over remembering passed failures. Give thanks for the precious blood of Christ that has forgiven you and bestowed new life!
There’s a reason why the pattern of the early church was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper at least once every week. Remembering His work by the elements of the bread and the wine keep the victory fresh! When I do so in a thoughtful way, I recall the blood of the Lamb that concluded my release from sin and bondage. Every chance I choose to give thanks instead of harboring resentment is an opportunity to develop wholesome relationships with those who “done me wrong.”
So, is forgiveness a fact for fiction? The way it becomes real is to know I’m forgiven and now I can forgive others in the same way. So you choose—do you want to dwell in the past or look in thanksgiving at your future? After all, it is the facts of scripture!
“If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13 (ESV)
J. Robert Hanson