There are few people in life more discouraged than Christians stuck in their own past. But it’s so common. I have so many friends who trudge through life weighted down by the guilt, shame and secrecy of their past. In some ways, we’re astonished by just how far we can fall. In other ways, we can’t get over the devastation caused by our sin. We’ve left a wake of hurt, of pain, of regret and brokenness and we feel like we’re meant to spend the rest of our lives looking back and letting Satan rub our noses in our failures.
Some of us define ourselves by our past. You’re the person who had an abortion. You’re the guy who had an affair. You’re the girl who was enslaved to pornography. You’re the guy who stole from family to get out of debt. You’re the girl who lied. You’re the guy who cheated at work. You’re the girl who slept with the boss to get ahead. You’re the guy who sold the drugs that led to the car wreck. It’s just who you are.
The crazy thing is we still see ourselves that way even when we know God has forgiven us for our sins. The forgiveness of sins is the core of the gospel. We’re broken, we’re sinful, we need a Savior. Jesus is holy, He’s perfect and He is the Savior. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. Our life is found in His death. The wrath of God has been satisfied. Sin has been paid for on the cross. Life Himself died that dead men could be made alive. We’re forgiven and we’re free.
God sees you as son, daughter, friend, redeemed one, adopted family member, part of His body, member of the household, ambassador, light, salt, beloved. He doesn’t see the shame of your past. Only the glory of His Son.
What’s more, He promises to restore everything that sin destroyed. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,” God takes back the years eaten by the locusts of sin. What sin destroys, God rebuilds. It’s how the sexually broken find intimacy. It’s how the lonely find community. It’s how the fearful are made strong. It’s how the self centered become loving. God doesn’t just forgive. He restores.
Maybe your life has a long chapter of devastation. Maybe the locusts of sin chewed up all of college. Maybe you look back at your 20’s and all you see is devastation. Could I suggest it’s time to stop looking to devastation of the past and start looking to the restoration of today? The God who makes all things new is for you. He will restore those years. He’ll do it in this life and He’ll finish it in the life to come.
You aren’t defined by your past. You’re defined by Jesus, Christian.