Instant replay. Some say it is the downfall of football. Giving the fans the opportunity to review, over and over, a play and judge the calls of the officials has certainly changed some of the flavor of the game. What was an attempt by broadcasters to energize and involve the fans was the beginning of a whole new way of life for those fortunate enough to live in such advanced times. Today we can replay many of the events of our lives, sometimes events we would love to forget. The criminal thought he had committed the perfect crime until he saw himself on the television news in the act. The actions of teens that would have simply been remembered by the ones who were there are now immortalized in the minds of a world through Facebook and YouTube. We can’t seem to escape our past.
Of course some of us don’t need videos to remind us of the stupid or sinful things we have done. We remember plenty. We remember too much. In fact, because we remember, we find it hard to think of those things as separate from us in any way. We allow those dumb things to define us. We say things like: “I am a —,” based on what we have done. Or: “I always —,” because we remember doing something foolish.
Now, most of us have been taught that we should not let our failures define us. We know that our sins are forgiven. But we still look back on those things with regret and fear and shame. Because we can remember what we did, we find it hard to think of ourselves as separate from what we did. So what if I could show you that the things of your past have been redeemed in your relationship with Jesus?
Because you have eternal life, you live forever in the present—in relationship with Jesus. That means that the mistakes and sins of your past have been more than wiped away. They have been incorporated into the wonder and joy of your present.
Now, so that you don’t think I have gone too far off the deep end, here’s what I mean. Those evil things you and I did in our past are no longer on our accounts as sins held against us. We know that. But, beyond that, those evil things have themselves been used in your life, and apparently in the lives of others, to accomplish the purpose of God. Nothing you did was a surprise to Him. When you came to Him, those things were in the package you brought. Not only did He wash you clean from guilt and shame, He also used those things as part of the building process of your life.
Don’t get me wrong. Those things were sins and they were evil. But notice Joseph’s understanding:
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:20
And God tells Isaiah that the sins, though stained as deeply by evil as possible, will be washed and purified.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18
And here is the promise for you and me:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
All things? Even those awful things I have done, those things I regret so deeply? Yes, even those things! All things have been brought into your present, washed and made useable for your good. Under the blood, in your relationship with Jesus, even those things have worked good for you.
Now, I realize this may be a difficult teaching to swallow. We have been taught to hate our sins and think of them as the reason Jesus went to the cross. We have been made to feel terrible whenever we think about what we did, no matter how long ago. But the truth is that we are not to live in the past. We live in the present and, if we are truthful, those evil things that weighed on our hearts contributed to our need for a Savior.
A wise friend reminded me one day that people who fail need a Savior, so I should never be ashamed of the fact that I failed. In the same way, people who sinned needed a Savior and—Praise the Lord!—a Savior was sent for us.
I never want to do those things again, but I also no longer will live there. My life is in the eternity of Jesus, full and free because of His love.