Living in the past

How many of us have had one time in our lives that we found ourselves on top of a spiritual mountain, and we loved how it felt? We knew what we were doing, what we needed to do, and that we were where we needed to be. But then, as life goes, everything constantly moves forward. There is no moving backwards or staying stationary. Sooner or later you find that you aren’t on that mountain anymore. But the struggle to get back just seems too hard. Or maybe you don’t know how to get back. So instead, you start to live in the past. You tell yourself, maybe even subconsciously, that your spiritual mountain was all you needed to secure your spot in God’s favor. As long as that is in your past, you’re good. While you may not be where you were on that high point, you definitely aren’t where you were at before that high point. You’re still okay where you are. Maybe you’re even deceiving yourself and you think that you are still on that mountain when you really aren’t. But that spiritual high point is what you reassure yourself with. It’s your trophy. Your achievement that you can point to as proof of your spirituality. No matter that you might have slipped along the way.That one high point is proof that you had it right. And noting major has changed in your life, you don’t drink, you don’t cuss, you don’t commit any sexual sins, you don’t lust, you don’t covet, and you are selfless most of the time. It’s what you tell people about when the topic of spirituality comes up, bringing up the time in your life when you were doing all you could for God, praying regularly, and studying God’s word. You don’t ever seem to bring up anything about what you’re doing in the present. You talk about how great you felt, but not how you’re feeling now. You don’t really search yourself because you’re afraid of what you might find. It’s easier to assume you’re not far from that time, when in fact, if you looked back behind you the mountain would be just a speck in the distance, covered in fog.

Paul is a perfect of example of the opposite mindset. The Corinthians had been doubting and questioning Paul’s apostleship, as we see in 1 Corinthians 9. They thought themselves high enough to question the validity of Paul’s authority, so he begins to show them how he is without blame in the works of God, and how he puts forth the effort to be able to preach the word of God without reproach and avoids any situation where his works could be called into question. First he brings up the fact that he does not ask any support from the brethren where he preaches the word, choosing rather to support himself, so that no one can say he preaches for the worldly gains even though he would rightly be entitled to monetary support. (v. 8-17) Then he goes on to show that he has made himself a servant to all men. He didn’t do it for the praise of men, but “for the gospel’s sake, that I might be a partaker of it with you.” Lastly, he disciplined himself in the same way that an athlete does. Denying himself that which is harmful and doing only that which was beneficial to his spiritual health. So what was Paul’s spiritual mountain he could have rested all his hope on? I would say it was his conversion account, which we read of in Acts 9. After all, what higher plane could you be on than if God spoke to you? Paul heard the voice of God and was struck blind as well. It was in this high moment of his life that he was converted. He could have merely said to the Corinthians, and anyone else who questioned him, “God spoke to me on the road and blinded me. Surely you can see from this that I was appointed by God, and He Himself has validated me in this service of an apostle.” Paul might have rested contented with this remarkable manner of his conversion, content he was on the right track. He might have supposed that that put the matter of his apostleship and authority that is derived from this time beyond all possible doubt. But he didn’t. It wasn’t enough. He felt it was necessary to have evidence day by day that he was then a Christian. Of all people, Paul was perhaps least disposed to live on past experience, and to trust such an experience. Of all people, he had perhaps the most reason to trust such experience, yet he seldom refers to it. The great question with him was “Am I now a Christian? Am I living as a Christian should now? Am I convincing to others, and I giving myself daily, constant, growing evidence that I am actuated by the pure principles of the gospel?” He didn’t let that one moment of his life define him. He pushed on to even higher ground. To be without blame, he knew that he would have to push on to the future. No living in the past. The past was not enough to assure him of the current state of his soul.

So we should daily ask ourselves, “Is the gospel is the object of my highest preference, and my endeavor every day to live and act for Christ and for souls with as much steadfastness and fidelity as did the apostle Paul? Or am I letting my past rule the actions of my future?” Don’t let something in your past define the rest of your life. Push on to higher ground, and ever strive to let each day define you as a Christian. Plan to convince others around you that you are a Christian by your words and deeds. Don’t fall on your past to support your future. Things decay with time and the one thing we don’t want to decay is our relationship with Christ. If we don’t continually build on the foundation each day, but instead let it slowly rot (whether it be intentionally or not) before we know it, what we thought was our foundation will crumble beneath our feet, never to be regained in the day of Judgement.

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