Going Forward: How to Leave the Past Behind

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When you think back to your past, do you experience feelings of shame and regret? If so, you’re in good company. Most of us have some chapters in our lives that we would love the opportunity to edit out. If we could go back, view our lives as a film, and remove some scenes, it’s safe to say that we would do it. While that’s not possible, it is entirely possible to not be a prisoner of your past. Today, discover how to move past your past.

Psalm 103:12 (TPT)
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

This passage of Scripture was the inspiration behind Casting Crowns’ 2007 hit “East to West.” In both this verse from Psalms and the song written by Mark Hall, the writers discussed the power of knowing that God had taken the worst moments of our lives and thrown them into the abyss, removing them as far from us as the east is from the west. Exactly how far is that? If you view this through the lens of geography, no matter how far you go east, you will never be going west. Conversely, if you were to start traveling west with no finite destination in mind, you would never find yourself moving eastward. That means when God throws our sins, our shame, our regrets, and the worst moments of our lives away from us, He throws them so far that we will never run into them again as long as we are following Him.

Unfortunately, we often struggle with going in the opposite direction from our sin. That doesn’t mean that we look for opportunities to continue committing those sins. Instead, it means that we often become so focused on the shame and regret that we experience because of those moments that we’d like to forget.

Picture your life as though you were driving down a long, open road. It’s much easier to drive if you’re looking out the windshield instead of looking in the rearview mirror, right? Our lives are much easier to live if we look forward instead of constantly looking back. Fortunately, when God casts our sins as far as the east is from the west, that’s exactly what we have the ability to do.

If you find yourself struggling with moving past your past, today is a great day to begin the journey. No, you probably won’t immediately experience freedom from every bit of guilt and shame that your past brings about, but there are times where healing is a process. Your sins have been thrown in one direction, and God is calling you to walk in the opposite way. Today, take your first steps forward while you leave the past behind.

Jesus and the Woman Caught in Adultery
The Bible tells a powerful story about a woman who had plenty to be ashamed of. When brought to Jesus, her very life was in His hands. She didn’t know it, but there was nowhere better for her to be.

John 8:3 (NLT)
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

Committing adultery in Biblical times was a crime punishable by death. The fact that this woman had been caught in the act left her with no defense. There is plenty of speculation about where the man who she was caught committing adultery with was at during this story. Some commentaries imply that the whole thing was a setup to try to trap Jesus, and that the man had been hired by the religious leaders. Others point to a possibility that the man simply ran away before he could be caught. Today’s study isn’t going to focus on that aspect of the story.

The fact is this woman had no defense and was looking at death.

John 8:6 (NLT)
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stopped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

In the verses between verses three and eight, the men who had caught the woman presented the Law of Moses to Jesus. They pointed out how Moses’ Law dictated that the woman should be stoned to death. They did this for two reasons. As we learn in the passage we just read, they were looking for a way to trap Christ into saying something that they could use against Him. However, they also did this because they didn’t realize they were talking to the One who had written the Law of Moses.

The same finger that stooped down to write in the dust was the finger that wrote the Ten Commandments in stone. The same finger that wrote “You shall not commit adultery,” was the same finger that was now writing in the dust instead of verbally responding to their questions. They had no idea.

There has long been debate about what Christ was writing in the dust when He ignored their words. Some ancient Rabbinical texts say that Christ was writing the sins of the men who stood around Him and the woman with stones in their hands. That would certainly make sense in the context of Him looking at the crowd and telling them that the one who was without sin should throw the first stone.

Can you imagine what would have been going through their minds if that were the case? Suddenly, the men who were ready to kill a woman for sinning were standing there reading their own sins in the sand at their feet.

While this may seem like a “gotcha” moment, this actually goes beyond pointing out the hypocrisy of the crowd. The same finger that wrote the law in stone was writing sins in sand. Do you see the contrast there? The Word of God was forever etched in stone, but sins were being written in sand that could easily be wiped away.

Thankfully, our sins are the same way. God’s Word doesn’t change. He said what He meant, and He meant what He said. That includes His promise to throw our sins as far as the east is from the west. In the meantime, our sins were written in sand. Writing in the sand can easily be erased with the brush of a hand. That’s what grace is.

John 8:10-11 (NLT)
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

When Jesus told the first sinless person to start throwing stones, the men began to drop their stones and walk away one by one. By the time He raised up, the only person standing there was the scared, embarrassed, sinful woman. We don’t know her name or what she was thinking. But in that moment, she had to experience a glimmer of hope. Suddenly, the men who were once bloodthirsty and ready to kill her were gone.

Condemnation is the result of our past sins. Even when God offers us grace and forgiveness, we often hold onto self-condemnation. That’s the entire point of this story. Jesus didn’t want the woman to condemn herself, especially after He had already forgiven her. However, He did admonish her not to return to her sinful lifestyle.

The call to “go and sin no more” is a vital part of this story. We cannot move past our pasts if we choose to repeat them. God’s forgiveness doesn’t give us a license to return to our sinful lifestyles. It offers us the chance to move past them forever. That’s grace. That’s God.

A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for forgiving me for the sins of my past. I know that I have missed the mark so many times that I’ve lost count. I rest in the fact that You’re not keeping score. Help me to embrace Your forgiveness so I can forgive myself. I am not condemned, I am called. I praise You and thank You for Your goodness. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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