This One Thing: What to do about your messy past
February 26, 2019
By Dr. J. Vernon McGee
The past is gone. You can’t do anything about it. You can’t change one event or one experience. But Paul the apostle said a Christian can do one helpful thing about the past. In fact, he made it very personal and said it’s what he, himself, was doing:
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13, 14
“This one thing I do.” A simple statement of the simple life. Most of us—even in Christian work—are busy with pots and pans. We try to bring so many things to a boil that we’re not able to watch all of them. In our complex world, we need to simplify.
Say, like Paul, “This one thing I do.”
Call it the power of concentration, consolidation of purpose, or singleness of heart. Whatever you call it, we need it in our walk with God. In fact, this concept is all through the Bible.
What is this one thing that we should do?
I lift out one phrase from Philippians 3:13: “Forgetting those things which are behind.”
First, forget your mistakes. We all blunder, don’t we? Well, let’s forget them. How many of us lose sleep over things we wish we hadn’t said or done? My friend, correct what you’ve done and then forget it.
Talk about a blunderer—Simon Peter’s list was long. Once in Caesarea Philippi when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
What a glorious confession of faith! But not two minutes later, Peter turned right around and said something stupid. When our Lord forewarned the disciples He was going to Jerusalem to die, Peter rebuked Him, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22). How did Jesus respond? “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). One moment Peter declared rightfully Jesus was the Son of God, and in the next moment he let Satan deceive him.
But let’s not be too hard on Peter. He knew how to get up, dust himself off, forget those mistakes behind him, and press on to what was before him. This same man on the day of Pentecost, without mentioning his own mistakes and sin, stood up and said,
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. -Acts 2:36
He preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it brought conviction to those who listened, and thousands turned to Christ!
God uses blunderers. I’m sure glad.
What not to forget
Dr. McGee reminds us that in Scripture, “remember” is usually associated with God, and “forget” is linked with man. God remembers better than we do. In Genesis, God remembered Noah (see Genesis 8:1). When God brought the children of Israel out of the land of bondage, He said, “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:3). They were to remember God’s deliverance and never forget it.
The problem is, we constantly forget. The psalmist sums it up with, “They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt” (Psalm 106:21). How tragic. They forgot what God had done. Scripture is clear: To forget certain things is sin.
We’re supposed to remember some things and forget other things. It was said of the villainous king, Richard III, “He forgot the things he should have remembered, and he remembered the things he should have forgotten.” How true this is of us today.
- Name three things about your relationship with God you want to remember (you may want to write them down).
- Name three things about your past that is forgiven that now should be forgotten.