From The Past Through The Present Toward The Future

Eph. 3 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform 1 Co 15:43–53

“>four lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Christ’s church always ministers to the present situation. It builds on the foundation and lessons of the past. It grows on the hope of an eternal future.

Many congregations have a “past-present”-orientation. The ghosts or demons or failures of the past define their present situation. Today’s business often is the rehashing of yesterday’s business, the unsettled dust of mistakes, arguments, conflicts, etc. The future is an elusive dream, always hindered and hampered by this or that factor in the past. Pastors sometimes joke about churches which need exorcisms…or at least some effort to put the ghosts to bed once and for all.

Life itself can be like this. You and I can be haunted by our pasts and unable to move forward as a result. Regret, guilt, and shame can completely stop us in our tracks. Nothing halts present progress and clouds our future hope quite so well as the past. It can be a great teacher. It can also be a great pain inducer.

I told our PPC this past January that we needed to move from a “past-present”-orientation to a “future-present”-orientation. I explained that this meant moving from letting the past define our work today to letting the future define it. I explained to the Voters Assembly Meeting in June a very specific game plan for reaching this future. It involves setting goals, developing a strategic plan, developing a policy manual for our church staff, officers, and boards, and dreaming about new and exciting ministry possibilities for us to do.

Moving from the past to the future puts a lot of emphasis on the present. Paul wants us to strain ahead toward the prize in our text, but his advice is centered on the present. TODAY we push forward. TODAY we redouble our efforts to attain to the prize. TODAY we fix our eyes on the finish line and do what we must in order to reach it strong.

If the regrets and guilt of the past hinder us in this regard, it is important to remember that the fear of the future hinders us equally much. Christians are called to see Christ’s finish line, the finish line of eternal life as the end toward which we strive. Paul’s words say nothing about fear because it is not allowed. These words are fearless. As Christians forgiven by Christ, having our sins removed from us, we do not need to live in the regrets and guilt of past actions. As Christians set free from our pasts, we are able to live in the present and pursue the future fearlessly. Sadly, if this fear hinders, it hinders because people prefer the “normal,” the “comfortable,” even when every indicator suggests that the normal isn’t working anymore. Fear is the Bible’s term for the opposite of faith. Faith seeks the future. Fear does not.

Toward what end is the Church striving these days? Is it the end of a life that’s eternal and joyful? Or is it the end of destruction which Paul warns about in v. 19? For the forgiven Christian, the best is ALWAYS yet to come. So striving ahead, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the end of our faith.

So often we forget to ask, “what is the Lord’s will for His Church?” It is, after all, His Church. The devil will try to use the regrets and guilt of the past to stop us. He will try to use fear of the future to stop us. Christ wants us to live freed from the past and hopefully toward the future. His will is for a successful Church in the present…TODAY. He called you and baptized you for this moment! He fills you with a hope that not even the devil and the gates of hell can prevail against.

NOW is the time.

Looking ahead to the finish line with all of you,

Pastor T.