Sometimes, while scrolling on social media, I’ll come across a quote that sounds something like this:
“Don’t judge me by my past, because I don’t live there anymore.”
We so often believe that we can overcome the mistakes of our past with the good decision-making of today. We think we can make up for our anger by giving to charity, or make up for our lust by giving financially to end human trafficking. We want our present and our future to define us. And we don’t want anyone bringing up that shameful past.
Problem: Even if everyone else forgets your past, there are two people who cannot simply “let it go.” One looks at you in the mirror every day, and the other brought the world into existence. No escaping either one of them.
We have not invented time machines yet, and I doubt we ever will. I cannot change the mistakes I made today, yesterday or 12 years ago. I cannot go back in time to the times in my life when I have made some ridiculously stupid, sinful decisions. I can’t make that disappear. I can’t “fix it.” And God is holy, and He can’t just forget about it.
So what’s our response? So often, we say things like, “I’ll do better, I promise!” “I won’t ever do (insert sin here) again!” And time and time again, we fail. We do not and cannot keep our promises to God. Our past will not disappear. It cannot simply be wiped away because we “don’t live there anymore.” And if we’re hoping that tomorrow or 5 years from now will look better, we’re fooling ourselves. We may be able to make some changes to our behavior, but in and of ourselves, we cannot please God. Our hearts remain wicked, and if we do change, it’s certainly not for God’s sake. Whether you want God to judge your past, present or future, it’s not going to end well for you. Our sin, no matter where or when it happened, remains as a record against us, leading us to a coming condemnation that we justly deserve and that in and of ourselves we cannot escape. If we stood on the scales of God’s justice in ourselves, we would all be found wanting.
Praise be to God we don’t have to stand before God in ourselves. Praise be to God that He sent Jesus to live the perfect life for us and pay for all our sins, past, present and future, so that we can be forgiven, not on the grounds of our present or future obedience, but on the solid rock of His obedience and His blood, shed for us. Because of Jesus, we can be judged on His record, not ours. That’s a lot better than, “try harder,” and, “I’ll do better.”
If you are a Christian, that is, if you have and do currently trust in Christ to make you right with God, and trust in Him as the Lord of your life, you are not defined by the sin of your past. You are not defined by the struggle of the present. You are not defined by the sin you will commit over the next 50 years. You are defined by the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. You are defined by the blood He shed for you. You are defined by your Father, who adopts you through Christ. You are defined by the ongoing work of the Spirit to make you like Christ, and the glorious promise that one day, all who have trusted in and followed Christ will look just like Him. Not 90% like Him. Not 96% holy. 100%, perfectly holy, in a way we cannot even fathom right now.
You are defined by Christ. Fix your eyes on Him, rest in Him, and follow Him in gospel-believing joy. Live out your new identity. You are righteous. You are a child. You are a follower of Christ. And when, not if, you fail…go back to Christ. Trust Him. And move forward.