Paralyzed by The Past

First off, I must give credit to Dr. Gene Donaldson for preaching a powerful message this past Sabbath at the Capitol Hill SDA Church, Washington, DC, entitled "Making Peace with Your Past" from Genesis 45:3-7. Without question, these thoughts have been influenced by that sermon.

Luke 22:54-62, NIV: "Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with Him." But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know Him," he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them." "Man, I am not!" Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with Him, for he is a Galilean." Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.

This is the version of Peter's denial of Christ that I remember most readily. But the denial is told in each of the Gospels. However, John's account gives unique insight that causes me to identify more with this failure of Peter than the other accounts. It does not excuse Peter's denial. Rather, it humanizes him in the situation and underscores our vulnerability to failure and our utter need to distrust self.

Peter had declared the he would NEVER forsake Christ. But when the pressure was on, when it became evident that Christ was facing some serious charges, that the system was against Him and it was likely the high priestly prosecution was going to get a conviction and were going for the death penalty, the real character of the disciples, including Peter, got exposed.

When Judas led that crowd into the olive grove to arrest Jesus and betrayed Him with a kiss, John's gospel makes it clear that Peter was the one who drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus.

Peter did it! Peter's temper got the best of him. Peter acted first and asked questions later. He cut off Malchus' ear because he was trying to defend His Lord. Only problem was, that his will wasn't Christ's will. Jesus didn't want that! (Remember, He told Peter to put his sword back into its sheath and healed Malchus' ear.) Peter's good intentions didn't eventuate into God-glorifying actions. When the disciples asked, "Lord, shall we fight?" Peter didn't wait for Jesus to give an affirmative answer.

So, even when you mean to do right, you can still do wrong when you forge ahead without getting an approval from God.

There are too many working on behalf of God without seeking the face of God and praying to know the will of God. It seemed that fighting was the best thing to do. So Peter did it. But it wasn't right. And it wasn't God's will.

John's account shows us how Peter's decision to do what he thought Christ needed intersects with circumstances to cause him to be unfaithful even though his intentions were good. When Peter promised Jesus that he would never deny him, he meant well. When Peter unsheathed his sword to defend Christ in the olive grove, he meant well. But Peter was more committed to his own ideal than he was to Christ, as was evident in the firelight denial.

John's gospel says "one of the household slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Didn't I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?"

Wow! What Peter did is coming back to haunt him. If Peter had just kept that sword in its sheath, he may not have felt the pressure the way he did at this moment. Now his actions have complicated matters. Peter obviously feels that he can't admit that he's the guy who cut off his cousin's ear! (It really says his relative, so it could have been his uncle, his brother, his nephew ... you get my point though.) Peter probably thinks, if I admit that I was with him, they'll crucify me first!

Peter did it! And you know what? Your stuff is coming back to haunt you. Stuff happens in ways that you could never have dreamed and before you know it, you are faced with the reality of your past, stupid mistakes.

And if you have not made peace with your past, you won't know what to do when you are faced with the reality of the things you have done. If you have not sought forgiveness and allowed the Lord to cast your stuff into the proverbial Sea of Forgetfulness, you'll cave just like Peter.

The Enemy of our souls will never let you live down your past. But let me give you an encouraging text. This is one of Evelyn's favorites. I've fallen in love with it too. 1 John 3:20: For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." If you confess your sins, He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says that godly sorrow leads us away from sin and results in salvation. God ain't trying to beat you up forever. He wants you to feel sorrow for your sin so that you can turn from it; not to keep digging at you pouring salt again and again into an open wound.

If you give it to the Lord, the Enemy can broadcast your stuff on the AP Newswire, he can tell all your dirty details to CNN, MSNBC and Fix News. It won't matter, because you will have made peace with God, therefore, you will have made peace with your past.

Peter eventually got to that point. Church history and tradition has it that Peter was willingly crucified upside down. First time, he said, "I don't know the man." Second time he said, willingly identified with him to the point that he said, "If you crucify me, do it upside down 'cause I'm not willing to be crucified the way my Lord was crucified."

You have made mistakes. Some a long time ago. Some not so long ago. And I promise you, they are coming back. But you erase them of their power over you when you have confessed and forsaken them.

I want to encourage you. Don't be paralyzed by your past. Yes, it's coming back. Revelation 12:10 calls the Devil the "accuser" of our brethren. He will remind you of your past. And people who belong to him and this world will do the same. That's par for the course.

But if you've been forgiven, you can say to that situation, my past no longer has power over me. It's under the blood. Forgive I am! And if you must go to your own Calvary, like Peter, you will go unafraid. Why? First of all, because the truth is that even Calvary is in the will of God. But secondly, because resurrection comes after Calvary!

I'll let you go on this. I was reading Revelation 11 today and saw those two powerful witnesses, those two olive trees, those two prophets, those two lampstands. The Word says that the beast who came up from the bottomless pit was allowed to conquer and kill them. The people who belong to this world gloated over their deaths and gave presents to each other to celebrate their deaths. But after a few days (Revelation 11:11), God breathed life into them and they stood up! If you die for Christ, you'll live again. Paul says, "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim. 2:12).

Life is challenging, child of God. You trip up. You make mistakes. Often we make mistakes because we are too confident in ourselves. We don't trust in the Lord with all our hearts, we lean too much on our own understanding, and we mess UP! We think too much of our own thoughts. And then we end up boxing ourselves into difficult situations. Oh well. Confess it. Repent. Tell God, "I have sinned." Turn from it.

And when the devil and his trouble making imps come to remind you of it, be loyal to Christ, even if it costs you something. In the end, we know "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15).


Belle said…
Sometimes I make a decision without talking with God about it first. Always a mistake. I've asked him to remind me to do that from now on.

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