Christianity is a forward- looking faith. For some, that sounds too positive to be connected with Christianity. For many, Christianity, especially my particular denomination, is often viewed as negative. It seems Christians are known more for what we disapprove of rather than what we believe in. The adage "Don't smoke, drink, chew or go with girls that do" could be more of a mantra than a felicitous catchphrase. But Christianity is a forward-looking faith.
In the letter written to the Christians living in the city of Philippi, Paul wrote: "I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." (Philippians 3:13-14)
If there was ever a man in history who could legitimately be disgruntled and discouraged, it was Paul. He was from a good family, highly educated, extremely well networked and on the fast track to a prominent and prestigious career. His life included not only excellent study and reasoning but the trial and execution of men and women who called themselves followers of Jesus.
One day on a mission to seek out and bring back Christians for trial, he met the living Lord of their faith. He became what he once hated and persecuted. If there was anyone whose past actions of hatred could be a continual discouragement, Paul was that person. But Christianity is a forward-looking faith.
Putting the past in the past requires a decision to receive and live in grace. Forget the past and look forward. Forgetting does not mean not be influenced by the past. Our past is defining, but we are not completely defined by it. Our outlook is shaped by our past, but our future is shaped by grace.
The key to putting the past in the past is to look to the future and run the race, to have a picture of where by God's grace you are going and decisively taking steps in his strength to get there. Christianity is more than annual resolutions. Faith is daily looking forward to the grace that God will give while living in the grace he already has given.
Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at www.robhurtgen.wordpress.com.