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preaching notes from sunday morning 15th april:
The first time I met pastor peter was not at The River but at a conference by my church in Dunedin. When I got saved I was heading down a particular path and my life was very different from what it is now. In fact I LOOKED very different from how I do now.
Tony always asks me if there is photographic evidence of that era of my life… alas and alak… no.
I owned one pair of shoes. Doc boots to be precise. i wore them to uni, to church, out shopping, to the beach and as a bridesmaid.
Shaved my hair to a number 2 when I went to uni.
I morphed from grunge to semi goth to op shop alternative chick.
In fact when I was introduced to peter when I started at the river he was SHOCKED that I was THAT chick that he had met in Dunedin.
My life was very different.
The reality is if we do not overcome the past it will determine our destiny. If we don’t effectively and completely deal with our history our destiny will be dictated by events in our past.
We must break out!
My life was headed down a path until I made a change.
Direction determines destination.
What is the story of your life that you want to be telling in 2 years, 5 years, 25 years? What is the destination and destiny that you want to be living?
To get there we have to be walking on the right path, and I believe that one of the greatest obstacles we have moving forward is to overcome is our past.
History is filled with people who overcame great odds and then went on to change the world for Jesus, who went on and did great exploits with God.
In the bible we have:
Rahab – a prostitute, becomes a deliverer of Israel and is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus
Jacob – a liar and cheat, who becomes the father of the tribe of Israel
Joseph – rejected by his brothers, sold into slavery, sexually harassed and then falsely accused rises to become prime minister of Egypt
Mary Magdalene – demon possessed crazy women becomes disciple of Jesus
The nude rude dude – gets set free and becomes the first missionary in Matthew 8
And Paul. Who was Saul. Paul had quite a history.
In fact he kind of has two pasts. There is Saul the Pharisee, born into the right family, the right economic conditions, wears the right clothes, says the right things, knows the right people.
And there is Saul with rap sheet and a half. It’s Saul we find calmly stands by while a man is stoned and is involved in other persecutions and imprisoning of Christians. And by imprisoning I don’t mean a gray walled 3 meals a day modern respect your human rights type prison, I mean they beat you, throw you in a hole, torture you, violate every right type prison. This is Paul’s resume.
- Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2
Paul calls himself the chief of sinners – the worst of sinners – the overachiever of sinners:
- Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16
Paul wrote the most marvellous statement about overcoming the past in Philippians 3:13-14
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.
I love how he says BUT THIS ONE THING I DO – and then lists a whole bunch of stuff lol
I forget the past, I forget what is behind, and I strain and press on facing forward towards the goal and prize that God has for me.
Now when Paul is saying FORGET he’s not saying lets obliterate our memories, let’s just wipe the slate blank – because over and over again in the bible God commands his people to remember, to build altars of remembrance.
What Paul is saying is that we should be focused on moving forward and drawing nearer to God, nothing holding us back, throwing off every entanglement and everything that hinders us.
That we deal with the past appropriately and completely.
If there are things we need forgiveness for, ask for it.
If there are things we need to forgive, forgive.
If there are things we need to talk through, find someone to open up to.
Ask for God’s perspective on your past. Remember His promise, the works out ALL things for the good of those who love Him and are called.
And then leave it there.
That might be a dark past. Something you did. Something that happened to you. Regrets. Pain. Failures. Things that paralyze us, or make us feel unworthy to follow God or do anything significant for Him. Why would God use us… look how messed up and broken I am? Look at what I did, how royally I stuffed it up?
Even in the midst of your mess, God loves you. He died a death on the cross so you could be forgiven of your sin and start a new life in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
God can take your mess and turn it into your message. Don’t be ashamed to use your undesirable past to minister to others. God wants to take your history and transform it into HIS story. Be bold to testify God’s power that changed you. Chicas – You Are Worthy
Others of us were born in church, our first word was jesus, and the worst thing we’ve ever done is worn socks with sandals…
Seriously some of us have been blest to grow up in a Christian family and have walked with God as long as they can remember. I myself celebrated my 19th Christian “birthday” on Tuesday. But we still have to completely trust in the grace and salvation of Jesus because even our goodest works and best intentions fall short of the glory of God, even our best isn’t good enough.
Our victories can be beautiful things – times when God has come through for us and done great things – but they can make us complacent and self righteous. They can be a hindrance instead of a propellant.
Paul chooses to forget everything – the good and the bad
He has overcome his past regrets and is leaving behind his own achievements
He has made a choice to forget – and the tense is a present tense – forgetting – he is continually making choices to continually forget, to leave behind, conscious refusals to let his history absorb his attention and impede his progress.
He chooses to forget what lies behind
The achievements and the failures
The victory and the fall downs
The success and the regrets
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Philippians 3:7-9
He counted all the good things, his good heritage, his good upbringing, his education, his connections, his accolades as rubbish, as trash, as nothing compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus.
Paul had his eyes on the prize.
Remember he said:
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
The phrase PRESS ON is translated from the greek word Dioko and it speaks of an intensity of effort leading to a pursue with earnestness and diligence with a goal in mind. It gives us the picture of going on the track of something like the hounds on the hunt and pursuing after the fox and implying a continuing effort to overtake, reach, or attain the goal or the determination that an Olympic runner might have in pursuing the gold medal.
Paul uses this language over and over again, that we are to strive and stretch forward, that it is an intentional focus of direction, that we are taking conscious steps to live our lives with an aim and a goal, not just breathing but intentional.
What does straining forward look like? What does it look like in real life to press on?
For me – its intentional time in worship, prayer and reading His Word – which is not new information for anyone here I am sure.
It’s about walking with God and filling my mind and heart with fired up preaching and books. It’s about being with people who challenge me to grow closer to Jesus and having conversations that give me heart burn in a good way. It’s about living my life in a position to say YES always to God, to obey the nudge of the Holy Spirit. It’s not a system of rules and box checking but it is a lifestyle of living fired up and evidenced in the things I really do, not the intentions I have.
If someone looked at our life would have see an intensity of effort to know God and make Him known? The lightfoot version puts it like this: Forgetting the landmarks already passed as straining every nerve and muscle in the onward race
What is the goal, the prize – some flavours say THE UPWARD CALL? What was he straining for, pressing on for?
Paul isn’t straining forwards for the kiwi dream, the white picket fence, 2 point 5 kids and an allergy friendly spca rescued dog… he isn’t driven by ambition, reputation, or even trying to live a good comfortable moral decent life.
His life is completely revolutionized
He is on a totally new path.
He is relentlessly pursuing God and His Kingdom and His call
Paul overcame his past by changing the direction he lived his life in. He stopped looking back, at the regrets and also the self effort – and he faced forward with his eyes fixed firmly on Jesus Christ and His purposes and plans.
This is how we too overcome. We face forward into the forgiveness and faithfulness of God and the destiny that He has planned for us.
Paul could have been devastated by his history as a persecutor and murderer – but instead he allowed God to use that as testimony of the great faithfulness and gracefulness of God and he pressed forward into his destiny and became one of the most pivotal Christians of all time.
Out of the greatest weakness from your past, God can raise up the greatest strength for your future. Craig Groeschel
If we are in Christ then our HISTORY does not establish our IDENTITY nor does it determine our DESTINY!
Do you know what your goal and prize is? Do you know what your upward call is?
Are you passionately pursuing it? Are you facing the right direction and straining forwards to achieve the goal?
John Newton was a slave trader on the west coast of Africa. One day in a storm at sea he met Jesus Christ. He went back to England and became an Anglican clergyman. He wrote scores of hymns, one of which has become the modern popular song, “Amazing Grace.” This is what Christ can do for anyone who puts his trust in Him.
Joyce Meyer, who speaks to millions of people around the world each week overcame a history of sexual abuse and depression to move forward into her destiny.
And then there’s me again.
On Friday night my kids went to the “date night” at childrens chuch – while tony and I went out on a date. The kids watched mr poppas penquins and dressed up in p things – caleb was piri weepu and Evangeline, a princess, and we caught the end of the movie with them. There are a lot of p words in mr poppas penquins.
So much so that my thoughts were then punctuated with a plethora of ps as I sat down to try and finish my preaching presentation.
So forgive me.
I was thinking about what positioned me on a new path, a path that looked and looks radically different from where I was 15 years ago.
I can pinpoint a defining moment at one camp where I spent a long time on the floor before God and He totally did a total heart surgery on my life. I got up different.
I’m not saying it was a flick your fingers and it was done moment – it took – it takes a lifetime of CHOOSING to forget and CHOOSING to face forward and fix my eyes upon Jesus. But it was a good start – to get myself before God and lay it out there that I didn’t want to live held back by the past, to ask for forgiveness and then to actually embrace it.
I think I got up from that encounter with God and “all of a sudden” realized that my identity and destiny did not need to be determined by my past, and that though I was human and flawed and broken, for that very reason Jesus came and lived and died and paid the price that I could never pay.
2 corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all- surpassing power is from God and not from us.
My life is a demonstration of His love and grace. Jesus set me free and changed me. He empowered me to stop looking behind but to look ahead to the future and the plans that He had for me and to look ahead to HIMSELF, the great prize. I choose not to look back or be impeded by mistakes I have made. I choose to look forward and be motivated by the greatness of God and the faithfulness of His promises.
When I had been a Christian for a few months I went on a camp with my church and – this always happens to me – they told us to go away, find a quiet place and talk to God. I sat under a tree – and yes – cried and made snotty wet patches on my sleeves – and tried to talk to God and tried to listen to God. After a long time of me crying and pouring my heart out to God I went into the bathroom to wash my face, splashed the water on and then looked up – to check how horrendously puffy I was and was kind of shocked/surprised to see MY NAME written on the mirror, scratched. I went back outside and looked over to the tree where I had sat… the sun glinted and made something shine. I went over to investigate. Where I had been sitting was surrounded by dirty broken bottle glass. Immediately in my heart God said “your life was like that dirty broken glass, but I will made you reflect me – like the mirror”
Like paul says, I don’t claim to have it all together
Not that I have now attained or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of and make my own, that for which Christ has laid hold of me and made me His own. 3:12
Jesus has laid hold of me and made me His own, and so I lay hold of Him and this is what my life is about – to know Him and make Him known. I’m on a journey and the past is the past and shapes me, but I am more shaped by the promises of the future in Jesus. My life sometimes still feels broken and dirty and non mirror like – but I know that God has begun something and will complete it. That’s His promise.
We are all on a journey. God has a personal tailor made plan for your life. God has purposed good works and great exploits for us to do.
It might take you getting up every day and making a choice to believe that you’re forgiven and set free.
It might take exchanging the guilty feelings for a particular verse of God’s truth every time you start to feel them.
It might take an aggressive decision to forget the past and press on into the future.
Your history may feel like you are staring down a ginormous giant, like goliath. Jesus is the David in the story. He is the one the can and will and has knocked that giant down and overcome and won the victory.
Jesus died on the cross to give you a new start, a fresh beginning, a new identity as a son or daughter of God, forgiven, cleansed, set free, chosen, accepted and righteous. The cross is the definitive answer to our sin and our past. The cross declares NOT GUILTY over our lives. It proclaims we are FORGIVEN AND ACCPETED AND RIGHTEOUS in the sight of God.
Today can be a day of new beginnings, letting go of the things behind, making a conscious choice to surrender those dark things and those good things into the hands of God, and to face forward, to strain forwards, to press on, to relentlessly pursue intimacy with Jesus, to live our lives racing for the prize.
The challenge for each one of us today is this:
Which direction are we living our life in?
Are we allowing the things of the past, both the good and the bad, to hold us back?
Have we accepted that we are forgiven?
Have we let go of the pain and let God heal us?
And are we straining forward into the things God has planned for us?
Are we pressing on for the prize – intimacy with Jesus?
This is your moment. This is your NOW.