I wish there were some wonderful place called the Land Starting Over. Where all of our past mistakes and heartaches, all of our poor selfish grief, could be thrown away like garbage. Never to be seen again. If we are honest, there are many things from out of the past that we regret. There are words that we have said that we would like to take back. There are relationships that we have damaged that we would like to repair. There are things that we have done that we would like to do over (and differently). Maybe we look back and the things that we spent most of our life focusing on no longer seem so important.
We all have regrets, and chances are, we have learned some lessons the hard way. And the fact is we cannot go back, there are no do-overs. Though we may have been given a second chance, we cannot erase the errors of the past. But by turning to the Lord this week, I have come to believe that there is good news: “The past has past, the future is wide open! No matter how old or how young you are… your past cannot be altered, erased or re-written. But you can start today to make the rest of your life, the BEST of your life!
Some people cannot get past their past! Some spend their life dwelling on regrets and missed opportunities. Some can’t move forward for God because they dwell on sins that have long been forgiven. The Devil loves to remind you of past sins and convince you that you are worthless! We forget that when we truly repent our sins to God, He no longer remembers.
Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Oh how we often forget that and our minds bring up sins that have been forgiven. Living lives that are consumed with guilt, shame and discouragement is not what God desires. It doesn’t have to be that way! The Christian life should be an abundant life.
“In Christ” you are a new creation – 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” God desires you to have a great new life now, starting today,…before you get to heaven. Paul gives us the keys to starting today as he wrote in Galatians 1:13”For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted…”
Then Paul went about telling how nasty he was. I am sure he would have liked to change things. He held the coats while Stephen was stoned, he raised holy cain in the early church, Paul no doubt wished he wouldn’t have done a bunch of what he did….before He met Jesus on that road to Damascus to persecute. But you know what, Paul realized that he could not change the past, but he could make the rest of his life the best of his life!
Starting today you have a choice: Will you allow your past to cloud your future? Or, will you make today a turning point and so that the future will be brighter than the past? In Galatians 1:13-24 there are 4 things that you can do to determine that your future will be better than your past…
I. STARTING TODAY… REMEMBER YOUR PAST v13-14
It is beneficial for us to remember our past. But we CANNOT dwell on our past! (repeat) Remembering helps us to learn from the errors. Dwelling on the past blocks us to seeing what Jesus has done for us, especially after we have surrendered to Jesus.
Throughout the Bible we have great detail concerning Paul’s past. How do we know these things…? Because he told us himself and it’s a long list! Paul “Remembered His Past” . What we do know from the Bible is that Paul did not spend his life dwelling on the mistakes of his past. He also did not attempt to forget all that he had done. He used his past to illustrate the transformation that had occurred in his life.
Paul understood that his reputation preceded him – “ You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it.” Too many times we handle our past the wrong way: Many spend time obsessing on past mistakes, Some focus on what might have been or some constantly analyze missed opportunities. Some are right now beating themselves up over things that happened years, months, weeks before. The past may be difficult but it can be beneficial! Lessons learned the hard way so to speak!
Others will try to hide their past, and ignore it themselves. If you have a history of drug abuse, alcoholism, sexual sins or any other issue you have a better chance of reaching someone with that problem than one who has never faced that temptation! You are a picture of what God can do with a life surrendered to him.
Starting Now…Remember your past:
a) Your past before Christ will show you what He has done for you!
b) Your past since your surrender will show you what areas to focus on for improvement!
c) Your past victories will encourage you!
d) Your past failures will teach you!
II. STARTING NOW… REALIZE YOUR PRIVILEGE v15-16
We have many privileges in this life, but none compare to the privileges that we experience as a child of God. It Is A Privilege To Be Called By God – v15 “But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace” Paul realized that God had a separated him for His work before he was ever born. – Ephesians 1:5 “He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
It’s a privilege that God has called us by name! If you have TRULY been surrendered just like Saul on the Damascus Road, Jesus met you where you were! Just like He appeared to Saul, He has appeared to you! Just as Jesus called Saul’s name, HE CALLED YOUR NAME! What greater privilege is there than for the Son of God to see you for who you are and while knowing your faults and failures loved you enough to offer you ETERNAL LIFE! We didn’t deserve it! That’s a privilege. So realize it!
B. It Is A Privilege To Be Commissioned By God – v16 “to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles.” When Paul was persecuting and being nasty all the way to even before he was born. God had a plan for Saul! In Acts 9:15 it says God revealed His plan to Ananias when Saul was blinded when he told Ananias that Saul was a chosen instrument of God’s plan.
Just like Saul and because of the Great Commission, we have the responsibility of reaching people with the message of Christ! That’s a great privilege to be given the task by Jesus to deliver the Gospel of Christ to a lost world. Oh how we often forget this privilege and commission. If you apply for a job there are usually many applicants. Employers interviews them then you hope to be chosen. When you are chosen for the job, don’t you feel that’s an honor? What greater honor than for God Himself to look at you with all of your imperfections and shortcomings and choose you to do a task for Him! If you are going to make your future better than your past then “Starting now… Realize Your Privilege”.
III Starting Now… Revise Your Priorities – v16-19 “I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother.”
New priorities after surrender. Paul went to persecute and now he’s a new man. New outlook, a different agenda, in fact he had a different life. Now, his life before Christ was not one lived for himself. In fact, it was the direct opposite; before he was extremely dedicated to the Jewish faith which was against the church and Jesus.
This is the case for us as well. Before salvation we were sinners focused on everything but Christianity. Before surrendering to Jesus we were living for ourselves, we were:
1) Focused on worldly pleasures
2) Focused on climbing the corporate ladder
3) Focused on attaining material goods
4) Focused on recreation and hobbies
5) Focused on things that were sinful and contradictory to the Word of God
Take a moment and examine your priorities.
i. Are they centered on fulfilling the will of God in your life?
ii. Are you building His Kingdom or yours?
iii. Are your priorities any different than before surrendering to Jesus?
If your priorities have not changed, there is still time! You can make your future more productive than the past… How? …By “Revising Your Priorities!”. If you will Remember Your Past, Realize Your Privilege and Revise Your Priorities it will help you to accomplish the 4th item on our list… It will set you up to where you can Reach Your Potential!
IV. Starting New… Reach Your Potential – v22-24 “and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.” As we all know a reputation will follow you around for a long time. Sometimes that reputation will arrive before you do! Paul dealt with this reputation constantly especially because many knew he held the cloaks of those who stoned Stephen and Paul encouraged them to stone him.
We know this happened a lot because in Acts 9:6 we are told “When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” The Galatian’s knew his reputation. But he has already been with them; he has a different reputation among these people. This is the missionary who led them to Jesus. His reputation among these people was as one who had been so radically transformed by the power of God and it was a cause to rejoice in the church – v24 And they glorified God because of me.
Did you have a bad reputation before you surrendered? Has it followed you around? USE IT TO SHOW WHAT GOD CAN DO IN SOMEONE”S LIFE! If they don’t know, let them know. Your testimony can have a great impact on the lives of people who need a savior. God called Paul, He had a plan for Paul and obviously he reached his potential for God.
Are you reaching your full potential for Christ? Are you dwelling on the mistakes of the past?
If you have surrendered to Jesus and look on your life after that with regret, you can’t change the past but you can make some necessary changes STARTING NOW!
A business man from London was selling a warehouse property. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and thrown trash around the inside. When he showed it to a buyer, he told the buyer all the things the buyer could fix, the structure, the windows, clean the garbage. The buyer said, “Forget about the repairs. When I buy this place, I’m going to build something completely different. I don’t want the building; I want the site.”
The Lord doesn’t want to clean your life up! He wants to completely transform you! The Lord didn’t just clean Saul’s life up…
– He gave him a new life
– He gave him a new name
– He gave him a new outlook
– He gave him a new relationship
– He gave him a new purpose
If you have surrendered to Jesus He has done the same for you! Maybe you are consumed with the guilt and shame concerning things you did before surrender… LET IT GO! Jesus’ blood paid the price for your sins. Maybe you have not done what you should since you have surrendered. Today is a new day. You have an opportunity to make a fresh start right here right now. Remember Your Past, Realize Your Privilege, Revise Your Priorities and then Reach Your Potential. Then watch to see what Jesus can do through you… Starting Now!