Newsletter for Oct 2010
One of the greatest battles we as Christians can face is that of dealing with memories of the past. Everything will be going fine and then, all of a sudden, we start thinking about the failures, wrong choices, and sinful behavior that stand out in our minds as landmarks of our lives. The more we think about those events, the worse we feel. It can even lead to bouts with severe depression. It is those feelings of dejection over the past which lead far too many Believers to see themselves as spiritual cast-a-ways and incapable of being used by God.
Here’s what I find very intriguing: have you ever noticed that you are rarely ever inundated with thoughts of your past successes? It’s always the negative episodes that try to play out as a mental motion picture. That alone should give you a clue as to who is behind the revival of those things you thought had been laid to rest.
The past is just that – the past. But Satan looks for anything of our past to try and use as a shackle to keep us bound. However, all he can do is work with the memories of the past because the actual events are, well, in the past. When Satan realizes that a formerly defeated Christian is pressing in to get back on track with God, he will do everything he can to get that person distracted from the goal. He will use the good, the bad and the ugly…including tormenting memories…to keep that person down.
I cannot begin to tell you how many people I’ve heard talk about the “scars of the past,” either theirs or those of someone they know. What they mean by “scars of the past” are those horrible episodes of life which led to great pain and heartache. But in reality, scars of the past are actually nothing more than memories (imaginations) of despairing events that Satan tries to bring to the forefront of our thinking.
If he is successful, those memories can begin to have control over our actions, reactions and beliefs. He will try to get us to judge our present circumstances and relationships according to those scars. This is one reason why divorced people can have such a difficult time if they remarry: the “scars” of the previous marriage cause them to measure their new marriage and their new spouse by the past struggles and pain. This can also negatively impact Christians who were “burned” by a former pastor or church: they now judge incidents in the church and actions of the pastor in their new church according to how they were previously treated.
God is a loving Father who will never put His children through the torment of reliving a distressful past. In 1 Corinthians 2:16 the Apostle Paul speaks of Christians having the mind of Christ. Very briefly, operating by the mind of Christ means living according to a thought process that lines up with the nature and character of God that we received when we were born again. Anytime we begin dwelling on those upsetting memories of an anguished past, we have strayed from the mind of Christ.
Keep in mind that God cannot change your past; but He will also not remind you of it. He wants to put you in remembrance of what He has done for you. He wants you to dwell on what you have and who you are in Christ. He wants to share His mind with you.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (Jeremiah 29:11)
This verse could never be fulfilled in your life if God were going to continually dredge up the heartache of your past and hold it before you, blinding your vision of His glory. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:5,
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The phrase “casting down” comes from the Greek word “kathaireo.” It gives the image of totally demolishing a building or of violently slamming an opponent to the ground to render him helpless and in agony. This is how we must deal with these scars (memories of the past) when they try to dominate our thinking and suppress the mind of Christ. Remember, these imaginations are being used by the devil for our total destruction; for if he can use them to drive us to suicide that is exactly what he will do!
Here is the heartbreaking pattern by which many people are living: those dreadful memories will torture them without mercy for a while and then diminish. For a time, it seems as though all is okay. But without warning they return, bringing with them their non-stop persecution, making the person feel worse and worse. Some people eventually reach the point of living in fear concerning the return of those memories. All of this misery creates in them a mindset that they are a failure and of not much value to others or to God.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your life can change and you can live in the freedom Jesus died to give you!
I know a woman who is one of the most dynamic preachers I have ever heard. The power of God flows in her services and numerous people have received miracle healings. Because she is so full of joy, people are often shocked when she recounts the horrors of her past. When young, she used to sing in crusades for very well-known evangelists. During the service, everything appeared to be ordained of God. But she shares how that, when the service was over, she would be sexually abused in the hotel room by the very man who had just preached before huge crowds.
Later on, she got married and thought her life would finally be blessed with stability. At first, it seemed this would be the case. But then her husband began beating her, tried to kill her and even decided he preferred men over his beautiful wife. She, as much as anyone, could seemingly justify using the scars of the past to live despondent, feeling hopeless and totally useless to God. Yet, that is not the case. She has buried her past in the “land of forgetfulness” (Psalm 88:12), living daily in the ever-present glory of Jesus.
How has she been able to live in continual victory over the devestation of her past? By living according to the anointed mind of Christ and refusing to allow the things of her past to dictate the course of her future. This is what all Christians can do, but it is up to us to decide we will no longer live a life governed by imaginations. If you are a person who has been troubled or tormented by memories of things that have happened in years gone by, and you truly want change, I want to share with you what you can do put an end to this fruitless way of living.
I’m sure you are aware of 90-, 180-, 360-day or longer drug and alcohol rehab programs wherein people live on-site at the location of the program. Typically, outside interaction with friends and family is severely limited, even to the point of no visits, letters or phone calls during the first 30 days or more. Those running the program know that the residents need to focus all their energy on a life-change. You see, just being separated from the drugs and alcohol is not enough; new life patterns need to be established in preparation for return into the “real world.”
In the same fashion, Christians coming out of a wilderness of destructive behavior or recurring battles with condemning memories need to see themselves as being in spiritual rehab. Just because you’re not going through “it” at the moment does not mean those problems will not try to return. If completely honest, those who have gone through such struggles will admit to thinking they have claimed victory because there is a season of peace in their lives; but then the conflicts start all over again.
If this is you, then what you need is change, not a reprieve. If you want permanent change, here is what you must do, no options:
1) Get in church and stay in church. Not just any church, but the church where God has placed you. Every time the doors are open, you get there. Stop making excuses for not attending. There are no relationships (friends, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc) or social events (concerts, birthday parties, picnics in the park, etc) more important than your relationship with Jesus and the work God will do in you at church. You need the God-saturated atmosphere you have at church. You need the support and interaction you get from others at your church who are faithful in their relationship with Christ. Be honest with yourself: If you had truly replicated at home the anointed environment you have at church, you probably would not have faced the same recurring problems.
2) Ask God to help you find a mature elder in the Lord. I don’t mean a person who holds the title of Elder at your church, but rather someone who has great spiritual maturity and stability in their walk with the Lord. This is someone with whom you can openly confide; a person who will lift you up in prayer and not condemn or criticize you for what has happened. But you must be willing to receive this person’s counsel, even if you feel it is stepping on your toes; you see, this person’s goal will be for you to permanently break out of the bondage wherein you have been living. Some people may say, “But I have Jesus; why do I need anyone else?” It is because you have not yet learned to fully trust Jesus, something your elder will help you develop.
3) Lay down essentially every book other than the Bible. The Bible is God’s word, spoken from His heart and recorded in print for our edification. His word has the power to restructure our way of thinking. It helps us develop the mind of Christ. I suggest focusing on three books: Psalms (a continual emphasis on God’s love, goodness, forgiveness, and acceptance of His children); Proverbs (tremendously deep insight into the working of God’s wisdom); and the Gospel of John (powerful revelation of who Jesus is to us and our potential in Him).
4) Spend time in worship away from church. Do this in the car and at home. Worship establishes a supernatural flow of God’s presence into your life. It will bathe your emotions in the glory of His peace. Play worship CD’s and sing along. Get in the habit of letting the CD’s play in the background throughout the day at home. Personally, I find the worship music of Terry MacAlmon to be among the best I have ever heard.
5) Pray more in the Spirit (praying in tongues). This type of prayer enables you to open up your spirit and pray directly to God in a way that you can’t when praying with the understanding. God has said in the Bible that praying in tongues is praying according to His perfect will and it leads to our spiritual edification, growth and maturity.
6) Do some fasting. Fasting helps us develop better control over the things of the flesh. (For a detailed teaching on fasting, refer to my series #153 “Unlocking the Secrets of Fasting.”)
7) Turn off the TV (after all, it hasn’t helped you so far, has it?). I mean not only secular TV, but Christian TV as well. To be blunt: Christian TV is so inundated with a flowing barrage of emotional hype, doctrinal error and misleading blessings promised in exchange for offerings that it will be next to impossible for anyone to get anything of real spiritual substance by leaving it on all the time. Also, by turning off the TV you will find it much easier to do numbers 3-6 above.
Granted, you may have a job; yet all of these things can be accomplished outside your job. You know, when you think about it, the seven points I have outlined above are basically describing the lifestyles of the Apostles and Christians in the book of Acts (obviously, they had no TV to turn off). Remember, what you are after is permanent change, rising up to a new spiritual level in Christ where you have once and for all conquered those little foxes that have been spoiling the vine of your life (Solomon 2:15).
You can do this! Fight the good fight of faith. Put into practice the steps detailed above. When you do, you will see Isaiah 10:27 fulfilled in your life: the anointing of God that will be released will destroy those yokes of bondage!
May His joy be your strength,