Summary: It’s hard to move forward when you keep the past in the present


There was once an absent-minded professor who became so absorbed in his work that he forgot the simplest details. One morning his wife said, "Now Henry, remember, we are moving today. Here, I’m putting this note in your pocket. Don’t forget." The day passed by and the man came home to his house. He entered the front door, and found the place empty. Distraught, he walked out to the curb and sat down. A young boy walked up to him, and he asked him, "Little boy, do you know the people who used to live here?" The boy replied, "Sure, Dad, mom told me you’d forget."

It’s not to cool to be that forgetful.

But the Bible encourages us to be forgetful in at least one area.

Philip. 3:13-15

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

[15] All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.

Paul says that the first step in pressing forward is forgetting what is behind.

Literally Neglecting


Because It’s hard to move forward when you keep the past in the present.

Paul’s Past was littered with actions for which he was ashamed.

Consider Acts 7:57-58

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, [58] dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Sometimes our past is filled with some Huge Hurts

You may have been physically or emotionally abused

You may have been the child of divorce or been divorced yourself

You may have made a serious mistake and hurt someone

You may have lost a loved one in a tragic accident

Sometimes these hurts don’t get resolved like they should

Pain gets tucked away instead of dealt with

Offenders are not forgiven

Fears go un-confronted

Conflicts go unresolved

Many Christians Identify with Paul - They are forgetting those things which are behind

It’s under the blood

As we look at this subject of keeping the past in the past, you don’t need to dredge up because you have dealt with it.


You know how I can tell whether you have dealt with it.

By how you deal with current issues.

I look to see if you have you traded in your TOOLS.

Maybe you heard about the Desert Storm soldier who while he was overseas received a Dear John letter from his girlfriend back home in the states. To add insult to injury, she wrote, "Will you please return my favorite photograph of myself-- I need it for my

engagement picture in the local newspaper."

The poor guy was devastated, but all the soldiers came to his rescue. They went throughout the entire camp and collected pictures of all the guys’ girlfriends. They filled up an entire shoe box and sent it to the girl along with a note from the guy saying, "Please find

your picture, and return the rest,---for the life of me, I can’t remember which one you were!!"

We learn tools like




Holding grudges…

This morning I want to talk about the tools you need to Keep the Past in the Past


There are two tools

Two things we need to practice they are confession and Forgiveness

We can keep the past in the past by keeping our slate clean in the present through confession and forgiveness

1. Confession

If you grew up in the catholic tradition confession to a priest may have been a part of your experience.

In the protestant church we have moved away from that form because it placed a middle man between a person and God

But we lost accountability by throwing this form out completely.

The Bible Says

James 5:16

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

God intended that the church would be a body of close knit persons who could share their struggles through confession with one another.

You see when you confess your admitting that there is a problem

Your coming clean

Your being honest

A. You can’t overcome a problem until you admit that it exists

Lewis Smedes Former professor from Fuller TS from “The Art of Forgiveness”

“True forgivers do not pretend they don’t suffer. They do not pretend the wrong does not matter much."

Some people are living in complete denial.


-You may recognize that you have a problem with something in the past

you may be struggling with that thing.

You may go to God to find peace

But still struggle with that issue.


Dietrich Bonhoffer Suggests - it is often easier for us to confess to God than to a brother

BUT if we do find it easier, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession to God,

WHETHER we have not rather been confessing to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution (forgiveness)

AND is not the reason perhaps FOR our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness?

Self forgiveness can never lead to a break with the past.…

It’s just another form of denial...

We should be overcoming and walking in victory

But we easily get stuck in the mud of denial and walk in defeat

That’s why

B. The Biblical example is to include others in our situation

James 5:16

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

I found this little piece the other day on the web

Las Vegas now has a call-in “Connection Confession” line where people can call and confess their sins to a recording. America’s first confession line makes it possible, for a fee of $9 per three minutes, to record your sin and if you want to pay a little more you can listen to other people’s sins. Apparently the service is being bombarded by calls One of the originators said, "It’s a technological way to get something off your chest without the embarrassment that comes from confessing one on one."

confession without accountability.

We need loving support

From Fellow believer

Romans 12:15

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

I have another thought along these lines

Four preachers met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one preacher said, “Our people come to us and pour out their hears, confess certain sins and needs. Let’s do the same. Confession is good for the soul.” In due time all agreed. One confessed he liked to go to movies and would sneak off when away from his church. The second confessed to liking to smoke cigars and the third one confessed to liking to play cards. When it came to the fourth one, he wouldn’t confess. The others pressed him saying, “Come now, we confessed ours. What is your secret or vice?” Finally he answered, “It is gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here.”

C. Confession to another requires placing yourself in danger

Danger concerning your trust

Danger concerning your pride

You may feel - it’s too costly to tell another about what I have done in my past.

Consider an alternative.

If we never deal with our past

The devil will use the concealment of your past to fill your life with guilt



as you re-hash all your past problems over and over again.

Don’t misunderstand me

When God promises to love and forgive you …you can count on it.

Psalm 103:11-12

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

[12] as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

But with some baggage in life it’s just too heavy to carry alone

Christ gave you brothers and sisters in Christ you are going to have to trust


Forgiveness is a wonderful thing

A. It is a power I have that allows me to lay down my right to hurt you back for what you have done to me

The baggage we carry around with may be because we have failed to forgive others.,

Maybe you have been rejected

Your loves has been spurned

Been betrayed by a spouse

Abandoned by a friend

Dishonored by a child

Misled by a minister

You were wronged in some way

B. The Bible says you must forgive

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. [15] But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

To hold a grudge

Or nurse a grudge

Is to go around saying bad things about another person

James 5:9

Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

James 5:9

Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

In his sermon "Loving Your Enemies," Martin Luther King, Jr., said:

When Abraham Lincoln was running for president of the United States, there was a man who ran all around the country talking about Lincoln. He said a lot of unkind things. And sometimes he would get to the point that he would even talk about his looks, saying, "You don’t want a tall, lanky, ignorant man like this as the president of the United States." …

Finally, one day Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States.… Then came the time for him to choose a secretary of war. He looked across the nation, and decided to choose a man by the name of Mr. Stanton. And when Abraham Lincoln stood around his advisors and mentioned this fact, they said to him: "Mr. Lincoln, are you a fool? Do you know what Mr. Stanton has been saying about you? Do you know what he as done, tried to do to you? Do you know that he has tried to defeat you on every hand? Do you know that, Mr. Lincoln? Did you read all of those derogatory statements that he made about you?"

Abraham Lincoln stood before the advisors around him and said: "Oh yeah. I know about it; I read about it; I’ve heard him myself. But after looking over the country, I find that he is the best man for the job."

Mr. Stanton did become secretary of war; and…later, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. And if you go to Washington, you will discover that one of the greatest words or statements ever made about Abraham Lincoln was by this man Stanton. As Abraham Lincoln came to the end of his life, Stanton stood up and said: "Now he belongs to the ages." And he made a beautiful statement concerning the character and the stature of this man.

If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, if Abraham Lincoln had answered everything Stanton said, Abraham Lincoln would not have transformed and redeemed Stanton. Stanton would have gone to his grave hating Lincoln, and Lincoln would have gone to his grave hating Stanton. But through the power of love Abraham Lincoln was able to redeem Stanton.

[Martin Luther King, Jr., on Lincoln, Citation: Martin Luther King, Jr., A Knock at Midnight, edited by Clayborne Carson and Peter Holloran (Warner Books, 1998) p.154]

It goes the other way to

C. It is a decision I make when I know I have hurt another that places me at the mercy of that person I have hurt - saying please forgive me.

This is probably the harder of the two.

Matthew 5:23-24

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

In God’s economy it is inappropriate for a believer

a worshipper

to think he or she is offering of worship is acceptable to God when you know good and well that there is someone mad at you for something you did

The following is an excerpt from a sermon on forgiveness by evangelist DL Moody

A lady in the north of England said that every time she got down before God to pray, five bottles of wine came up before her mind. She had taken them wrongfully one time when she was a housekeeper, and had not been able to pray since. She was advised to make restitution.

“But the person is dead,” she said.

“Are not some of the heirs living?”

“Yes, a son.”

“Then go to that son and pay him back.”

“Well,” she said, “I want to see the face of God, but I could not think of doing a thing like that. My reputation is at stake.”

She went away, and came back the next day to ask if it would not do just as well to put that money in the treasury of the Lord.

“No,” she was told, “God doesn’t want any stolen money. The only thing is to make restitution.”

She carried that burden for several days, but finally went into the country, saw that son, made a full confession and offered him a five-pound note. He said he didn’t want the money, but she finally persuaded him to take it, and came back with a joy and peace that made her face radiant. She became a magnificent worker for souls, and led many into the light.

My dear friends, get these stumbling stones out of the way. God does not want a man to shout “Hallelujah” who doesn’t pay his debts. Many of our prayer meetings are killed by men trying to pray who cannot pray because their lives are not right. Sin builds up a great wall between us and God. A man may stand high in the community and may be a member of some church “in good standing,” but the question is, how does he stand in the sight of God? If there is anything wrong in you life, make it right.

Philip. 3:13

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,


This last week I was watching a television broadcast that featured a pastor by the name of Casey Treat.

He was being interviewed because now after 20 years he was having to deal with something from his past.

In May of 2005 he was diagnosed with hepititas C that he had contracted 20 years earlier while sharing a needle and living as a drug addict.

Your past can come back to haunt you.

You are always going to remember your past

But the past needs to stay in the past.

And it will if you live a life of confession and forgiveness.