Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Not looking back and looking forward

Working on a lesson, thoughts? B.E.

Dealing with the past is a big part of what being a Christian is about. Repentance is knowing what your past was and making the conscious effort to not be that way anymore. Changing our past behaviors and attitudes.

(Mark 7:20-21 What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”)

Or even ending unhealthy relationships that are not beneficial to our Christian progress. Making the conscious effort to be forgiving, that means forgetting the past. Forgetting mistakes people have made. Being patient means we don't worry how many times we have to deal with the same issue over and over.

This lesson revolves around the words of Jesus in Luke 9 where he compares the Christian to a person putting their hand to the plow. Lets read the whole context here verses 57-62. We always have to think about the context so we can think logically about scripture, not just emotionally how we “feel” about it.

57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60And Jesus said to him, Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him,No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (emphasis mine)

What do we see here? We see individuals that were probably very honest and sincere disciples of Christ, but were NOT FULLY COMMITTED. We could say they wanted to be Christians, but couldn't let go of their "baggage" first.

When He found out they were not fully committed, why did Jesus use the illustration of the plowman? What is the sin of looking back? Often times we say that the person that is looking back is looking wistfully at their sinful past they enjoyed. We always mention Lot's wife and speculate that she was sorry to leave Soddom and Gomorrah, That could be the case.

When my Granddad was teaching me how to run a cultivator years ago, we set up the equipment where the cultivator would run very straight with the tractor. We took all the slack out of the linkage and hitch, and even put in little spacers to keep it really tight. That way, where you drove the tractor you had confidence the cultivator would track right where you expected it would. We did that so we didn't have to look back so often to check where the cultivator was tracking. Once we had the cultivator set, and all the slop and sway taken out I would put a piece of black tape on the hood of the tractor I could line up with a row of crop. All I had to do was concentrate on keeping that mark lined up. If I got to looking around at the neighbors, or watching traffic, or LOOKING BACK I would bobble and knock the crop down. It would cause a blank spot called “cultivator blight.”

Isn't that the illustration Jesus was using? Again I ask what is the sin of looking back to the past? I'll say it in my plain way of saying things. Almost like Yogi Berra, IF YOU ARE LOOKING BACK YOU AREN”T LOOKING FORWARD! You can't do both at the same time.

Let's think about a couple examples contrasted in the Bible of one person that looked forward, and one that looked back, and how they are portrayed.

Joseph.

Joseph had a pretty good life. He was his Father's favorite. He was spoiled, and got special gifts. He didn't have to go and shepherd the flock, but he had the fun of being the “informant”. He was sent to check on his brothers, and tattle on them when they were misbehaving. Don't you think he had a pretty good life before his brothers turned against him?

We know how it all came crashing down, and he went from the top of his family's little world to the point of almost being murdered. Can you imagine the hate and disgusting things his brothers said to him? He even had to do a couple stints in the Egyptian prison. He was falsely accused by Potiphar's wife. He was forgotten by the cup-bearer. Along the way he had a choice to make. He could either hold a grudge against his brothers because of all the evil things that happened to him and decide to live just for himself, or he could forgive and try to save them with the power he had.

Do you think it was an easy decision? Do you think it took some effort? I can't imagine him being like a friendly Australian, “Eh, no worries mate.” He had many years (20+) to let it fester and grow in his mind. But what did he do? He had a "mind to work" and realized he could do better looking ahead. God would not have forced him to do the things he did, he had to make that conscious determined effort to leave the past behind. Especially when his brothers came to him for help. He could have come up with all kinds of vicious revenge, and even have them tortured and killed. He showed his brothers that multiple times with the tricks he played on them. Thankfully we have the wonderful account of forgiving and forgetting, and the lineage of Israel was preserved because of the good character Joseph had.

The Older Brother in the account of the Prodigal son.

I think this is one of the most deep and educational parables Jesus told. It covers so many different lessons about human nature. And illustrates human behavior vividly. It shows how poor stewardship leads to hardship. It shows how jealousy and envy affects a persons character. It shows what a truely repentant heart looks. And it shows how God's forgiveness works, and how it should be reflected through us and our relationships.

When the younger son came back, what was the Older Brother only concerned with? His own “good deeds”. He never neglected his father, and had been faithful serving him. He was looking back at all the good things he had done, upset he had been “cheated” out of a reward he thought he deserved, and couldn't turn his head around and be glad his younger brother had been “saved”.

The lesson here is when we are concentrating looking forward in our Christian walk, we won't have the time or energy to dwell in the past. Just like driving that tractor cultivating, if I fully concentrated on the task at hand, and my goal -keeping the tractor on the “mark” I did a better job and reached my goal of getting the crop cultivated while minimizing collateral damage.

What did Paul say about looking ahead? Something like, “more than that, I count all wrongs to keep track, in view of the surpassing value of my deeds, knowing my Lord Jesus Christ, for whom I have suffered greatly, and count them valuable that I may look better than my neighbor before Christ.”

Wait a minute!!!, those are my words. That is what we want to say, to make ourselves feel better about keeping a tally of the wrongs committed against us. Let's read GODS WORD: Philippians 3:8 and following:

8Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him ...........But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way,

If we keep our eyes affixed on our goal, Christ Jesus, we won't drag down our brothers with us in our pit of the past. Press on to the goal and DON'T LOOK BACK.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, this is really good. Every day I talk to and work with and meet people who are so unable to move forward and progress in their lives or relationships because they are still so hung up over something in the past. I know that many people have had to deal with a lot tougher stuff than me in their past so I don't know firsthand how hard it is to get over certain things...I just know that at some point we ALL have to deal with and let go of things, no matter how hurtful. Saw a quote yesterday "When you hold a grudge, the grudge really holds you." Great lesson...when are you going to use it?

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  2. Maybe Sunday evening, depends on what Bill wants.

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  3. I enjoyed reading this. Very good and challenging. I think often times we limit our potential by looking at the past as well. By focusing on our failures we don't look ahead and try try again. Of course we can learn from our failures but only if we are looking forward and trying to avoid repeating the same mistakes again.

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  4. Very good! Very challenging. I will probably be working on this one until the very end. I think going forward is a lot of work, thus the word "straining". It takes effort every day, otherwise, we seem to lose our momentum and slip back. Hope you get to share this, or maybe you already have.

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