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« on: January 01, 2018, 05:42:35 PM »

Breaking Away from Our Past
From Timeless Grace Gems
J.R. Miller, December 1902

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14

We have here Paul's plan of life progress by forgetting, by letting go the things that are past. This is such a wise theory of life that we may profitably study it a few minutes this morning.

"Forgetting what is behind." There are some things we would like to forget. Probably most of us have done things this year we would much like . . .
to leave behind,
to blot out from memory,
to cut altogether loose from,
to bury in oblivion.

We may have spoken words which we would eagerly recall words which hurt tender hearts, or which left a stain where they fell, or which misdirected a trusting life. Or it may have been a silence over which we grieve the word that was not spoken. We may have done things we would gladly forget. Even when sins are forgiven, they leave their marks. They stay in the memory.

Looking back on the year, we must know of things in our lives we wish we might forget, but cannot.

Someone tells of a picture of a man in agony, on his knees, praying that God would turn back the hands on the dial of time, and give him again hours that were past. "O God!" he cried, "turn back your universe and give me yesterday." But the prayer could not be granted. Even God cannot turn back the hands of the clock, that we may have any day over again. But one thing God will do we may bring to him all the mistakes, the follies, the sins and he will forgive us, and then use even these poor broken things for good.

A traveler tells of finding beside the sea, at a place where many ships were dashed upon the rocks a beautiful house built altogether of pieces of wreckage gathered from the shore. That is about the best many of us can do. We have little else to bring to God but wreckage disobediences, broken commandments, mistakes, sins. Yet it is a wonderful thought that even with such materials, if we are truly penitent and repentant, our Master will work, helping us to build beauty in our lives. Sins forgiven become lessons for us. Out of a past full of failures we may make a future full of strength and beauty through the grace of Christ. We cannot forget our sins, but we may be wiser and better for them.

Then there are things in our lives which we would not want to forget. George Eliot wrote, "I desire no future that will break the ties of the past." Memory is a wonderful treasure house. It keeps for us in store the sweet things, the joys, the happy experiences, of all our days, so that when we will we may live them over again.

There are sacred hours and holy days in every good life, the remembrance of which it would be sacrilege to have blotted out. We would not forget the sweet friendships which have woven their threads of gold and silver into this year's web. We would not forget . . .
the lessons we have learned,
the beautiful things we have seen,
the blessings that have come into our lives.

Everyone has red-letter days that stand out in the calendar as days never to be forgotten.

Paul does not mean that he absolutely forgot everything in the past.

He never forgot the days when he was a persecutor the memory of his violent opposition to Christ in years past stirred him to the last to more earnest and hearty devotion to his Redeemer, to burn out the old shame in flames of love and service.

He never forgot his friends. His epistles are full of grateful mentions of those who in days gone had shown him kindness.

He never forgot the goodness of God. His life was one long anthem of joy. Paul does not mean any such forgetting as this.

Yet there is a forgetting which is part of every one's duty. "Forgetting what is behind." We are about at the ending of the year. There are many things that we should not carry out of this old year into a new.

When a family is relocating from one house to another, especially if they have been quite a while in the old house, there are likely to be many things that they would better leave behind, either having an auction or a bonfire. Just so, there is rubbish in most of our lives that we should get rid of before we enter the New Year's paths.

A friend of mine has written a little book which she calls "The Evolution of a Girl's Ideal." The text of the book is a sentence which the author says she found somewhere a good while ago "The way of life is wonderful; it is by abandonment." Most people believe that the way of life is by acquisition, by getting things, by adding to their possessions. The way to grow rich is to keep all you have and continue to add to your wealth saving and accumulating.

By and by, if we are wise, we learn that it is by abandonment, by giving up things, by leaving things behind, by growing away from things and ideals, that we really grow.

So Miss Laughlin tells us the story of the girl's life in illustration of her text: "The way of life is wonderful; it is by abandonment." The little girl lives in her dolls for a while. Then she gives up her dolls for her school-girl friendships. For a time these fill her life. If she could not see these friends daily, two or three times a day, life was blank, empty, intolerable. Then "affairs of the heart come in" before the girl is ten. In two or three years the boys are supplanted by clothes these again by a more serious love affair, with its dreams, which, too, collapse and fall to nothing, by and by. So the story goes on to the end one hope after another cherished, then given up and left behind, always for something better and more substantial. Thus was the truth of the writer's text illustrated and proved, "The way of life is wonderful; it is by abandonment."

Paul states the same truth when he says, "When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child; now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things." Childhood is very sweet and beautiful, but who would want to stay a child always?

Thus we begin to catch hints of the meaning of the apostle when he says he forgets things behind and presses on to things before. It is the law of life.

The blossom is not lost when it is left behind by the coming of the fruit.

The boy is not sorry when he feels himself growing into manhood. He seems to be leaving much behind, much that is winning and attractive. Perhaps his mother grieves as she sees him lose one by one the things she has always liked his curls, his boyish ways, his delicate features the qualities that kept him a child, and taking on elements of strength, the marks of manhood. But if he remained always a boy, a child with curls and dainty tastes, what a pitiful failure his life would be! He can press to the goal of perfection only by putting away, leaving behind, passing by the sweetness, the simplicity, the innocence of boyhood.

The same principle runs all through life. Manhood is stern, strong, and heroic. It would seem that childhood is more beautiful. But who regrets passing to man's ruggedness and man's hard tasks? Growing up in Nazareth was easier for Jesus than what came after; but when he left the carpenter shop and went to the Jordan to be baptized, thence to the wilderness to be tried, and thence started on the way to his cross do you think he was sorry?

He forgot the easy, pleasant things which were behind, and with joy entered upon the harder way before him, as he pressed toward the goal.

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« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2018, 05:43:27 PM »

Breaking Away from Our Past
From Timeless Grace Gems
J.R. Miller, December 1902

A word in the book of Hebrews tells us that for the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame. Just so, every true and worthy life rejoices to go on to where the burdens are heavier, the path steeper and rougher, the thorns sharper if thus fuller, larger manhood is reached.

Look at the lesson in another light. We should not permit ourselves to remain entangled in the experiences that are past. Some people do. They never get entirely out of the meshes of the sins into which they have fallen. They never come up out of their sorrows. They never rise altogether from the dust of their defeats. I believe one reason God gives us time in little sections in little short days is that we may finish up each day's duties and tasks, its struggles and sorrows, and then leave all behind forever. Night is meant to cut off completely yesterday's life.

Suppose you did fail yesterday that has nothing to do with today, except to make you all the braver and stronger. Suppose you had a sorrow yesterday one very dear, on whom you leaned your whole weight, being taken from your side; do not let the sorrow quench the light of your path today. We are to forget the things that are behind. We cannot forget love. We cannot but miss the companionship. But our own life need not be hurt by the grief, for our journey is not yet finished. Besides, God is a Comforter; he is able to make the love all the sweeter, and to send light into our darkness.

The old year will soon be done. Let us break ourselves away from all its entanglements. Let us carry none of its burdens through the gate of the new year. "If you are feeling the sting of past defeat, let it quicken your steps, and let every failure and disappointment of the old year stimulate you to greater effort in the future." If you have failed and stumbled this year, making a sad story of your life, well, confess it all with penitence. You cannot change it now. Though you should weep for years, you cannot make one of this year's crooked lines straight. Why then waste a moment in unavailing tears? The penitence that avails is that which puts its sorrow into holy living for the future. The only true way to repent for yesterday's evil ways, is to make today a holy, clean day.

Perhaps some of us are grieving over a year of idleness, of indolence. At least we have not lived up to our privileges. We have not done our best work in school. We have dawdled over our lessons. We could have done far better. Of course, we cannot change anything now. But we can learn a lesson from our trifling we can save ourselves from such shame and humiliation another year as we feel today.

Or we have fallen below our possibilities in other ways in business, in home life, in friendship, in our self-improvement. We have wasted time minutes, hours, days. We have been content with a low standard of excellence. We have left undone the things we ought to have done. We see many blanks in the story of the year duties not attempted, ministries of love not performed. Oh, if we could only go back to the beginning of this year and live it over again, how much more beautiful a year we would make it! If we could only go back with the wisdom we now have how well we would live the year!

This we cannot do, but we can make our new year better if we will. But will we? That is the question.

But not only past follies and mistakes and failures and sins must we leave behind but past successes as well. Paul is not speaking of sins when he uses the words of my text, but of attainments. He is pressing toward a goal perfection. He says he has not yet attained, is not yet perfect, but he is pressing on that he may at length reach the goal.

Think a moment of Paul's splendid career. How far above ordinary Christians had he climbed! What consecration was his! What self-forgetfulness! How he trod the world under his feet! How he rose above all jealousy, envy, love of ease, desire for honor, longing for applause! How such a life as Paul's shames our poor Christian living! Yet notice, he says he has not yet attained the mark, is not yet perfect. He saw measureless heights above those to which he had climbed.

How far, then, have you and I still to go? Yet some of us seem almost content with our attainments. We think we have done quite well this year. We think we have given a good deal of money how much have we given? We think we have been rather respectable Christians have we been? How does our record appear to the eye of Christ? What sacrifices have we made? Satisfaction with our attainments as Christians, is a mark of death. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."

Suppose you have done well this year, following Christ closely, doing worthy service in his church, fulfilling the law of love you are to leave all that behind, forget it all. It is not to be your standard for the new year. No matter how good yesterday was, today must be better.

See this old apostle far up the mountain yonder, yet crying back to us, "I have not yet attained, I am not yet perfect: but this one thing I do: Forgetting the things which are behind, I press on toward the goal!"

That must always be the attitude of living faith. Only dead men are satisfied living men are always climbing higher. We used to sing an old song: "If at first you don't succeed Try, try, try again." A better way to sing the song, however is this: "If at first you do succeed Try, try, try again." The men and women who are nearest to Christ today, are those who are pressing the most earnestly after him, singing from their hearts most yearningly, "Nearer, my God, to You, Nearer to You."

Shall we not all strive to attain better things? Let us leave the record of this year far behind us as we enter the new year.

"Forgetting the things which are behind." Let us keep our eyes forward. When we leave this old year, let us not look back upon it with regret. Whatever its story, it has led us another year nearer to our eternal home.

If it has been wasted, not lived well, if we are ashamed to have the volume go to God as it is then let us take the wisdom into our life and apply it to the year we soon shall enter.

If we have lived it obediently, earnestly, faithfully then let us make the new year better still, more worthy yet.

Let me speak another word of comfort to those whose hearts are sad today with memories of loss. Are you looking backward to see your loved ones, as if they were lingering in the shadows? They are not behind you. Do not think that in leaving this old year you are going farther away from your Christian loved ones. This is the year they left you it is sacred, therefore, and will ever be remembered as the year they vanished from your sight. But they, the beloved ones, are not behind; they have just gone on before. If you would get to where they are, to see them again, you must forget the things which are behind and press on toward the goal. They have reached the goal, and are waiting there for you.

"Forgetting the things which are behind." Need I remind you that only those who are in Christ can forget the past and look forward with confidence and hope?

"I press on toward the goal." Are you moving at all toward the goal? Are you in Christ? If not, where will you come at last, if you press on?

On this last Sunday of the year should not everyone of us make sure that we are believing in Christ?

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