Some Things We Can Do Without In 2014

Bible Book: Philippians  3 : 13-15
Subject: New Year; Renewal; Revival
Introduction

We have come to the portal of a new year. In order to make the most of the approaching span of 365 days which lie before us, we must learn and re-learn a lesson concerning what we should do with the days that lie behind us. We are going to gain this insight from one who knew exactly how to handle this matter. Turn to Philippians 3:12-16a. Note that the text reads:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I pres on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us should take such a view of things.”

It is a strange thing how we forget the things we should remember and remember the things we should forget. God was constantly putting the word “remember” in the Scripture. He gave the people aids to help them remember that which was imperative and important. The Passover was instituted to help the people remember how they were delivered from the land of Egypt. This was carried over to the Lord's Supper which Jesus said we should observe so that we would remember his death for our sins and his coming for us one day in the future.

As difficult as it is to remember, it can be even more difficult to forget some things. Have you ever tried to forget something? Suppose someone has hurt your feelings? Can you forget that easily? No matter how bad your memory is, you find it hard to forget such a thing. It is as if the memory is stuff somewhere in our mind and refuses to be dislodged. It is imperative that we know how to forget. Why? Because the things we remember which were not meant to be remembered become weights in our souls. They drag us down. They deplete our energy. They keep us from moving on in the direction and at the speed which God has planned and desires.

I have known numerous people whose lives were ruined because they could not or would not forget some ugly memory from the past. Sometimes it was a deed done against them, but on other occasions it was some act or word which the troubled person had committed. What a sad thing to see someone forestalled in life because they do not know how, or how important it is, to rid oneself of that which God desires to be forgotten.

Also, we can be ruined by the memory of some previous success. While continuing to remember something wonderful that has long since passed us by, we can bog down in our attempt to discover God's best for us in the days ahead. Yesterday's victories are to be celebrated, but we must see a day in the past as being more important than the day God has given us right now. If you are on the topside of the soil today, you are here because God has something wonderful for you right now.

Usually, however, a person who can't get rid of a memory is someone who has been hurt very badly and can't forgive what was done. If remembering means we have not forgiven, it can mean that we are not in a position for God to forgive us. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." This means that we must know how to get rid of some thoughts and experiences from the past in order to place ourselves in the path of grace from the Lord.

I suppose the week after Christmas must be the garbage man's nightmare. Imagine the refuse and trash that is laid at the curbside the week after Christmas each year. The worn out decorations, browning Christmas trees and millions of wrappings and empty packages surely cause the garbage collectors to toss and turn in their sleep the week after Christmas.

Just as we throw out the unneeded and unwanted thrash of a Christmas past, we must do the same with the unneeded and harmful trash of our soul. Only in this way can we go forward with God as we should. That is what Paul was talking about in this passage we have read. Paul said that he was "forgetting" that which was behind and "pressing on" to that which was before him. No wonder he was such a successful man! He had learned from God a valuable lesson in overcoming life's little trash piles. He learned how to cast off the weight that so easily besets the Believer as he journeys forward with God. He did not live in the past of his former successes, nor did he sit around a moan about the awful things he had done. He did not keep a record of all the terrible things people had done to him, and he had a lot of those memories he could have clung to.

I want to share with you three things that you must do, if you would have a wholesome, holy, happy life with the Lord in this New Year ahead. Three things must be done, if you would accomplish that which God has laid out for you. These three things must not be avoided, if you would run unhindered toward the heavenly finish line which is out before all of us who are saved.

I. WE MUST NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH YESTERDAY'S SUCCESSES

Paul had known many days of victory in his life. He had been a Jew of the highest standards. He describes this in Philippians 3:3-6. But in verse 7 he states something very profound. He counted all that past accomplishment to be "loss". In verse 8 he declares it "rubbish". Why? For the sake of knowing Christ and completing the mission which Christ has given him, he forsook all behind him! In other words, Paul is not resting on yesterday’s attainments.

At the time Paul wrote the Book of Philippians, he had traveled over the world for Christ. He had established churches, ordained ministers to the gospel ministry, witnessed to thousands of people, and done so much more. But Paul was not going to rest on the laurels of yesterday. This was something he was going to lay aside.

Now I am sure Paul had some successes from the past which he remembered. These served as an encouragement to him in his present work. He often mentions these in his letters to others. Their prayers, love and financial gifts had made it possible for him to keep going for Jesus. All of us need such remembrances. But we must be careful not to allow past success to cause us to ease up in the pursuit of God's tomorrows! We must not become weary in well doing!

Some years ago a man was flying in a large plane, like a Boeing 747. He and the gentleman next to him began to converse with each other. He learned that his companion on this flight was none other than the famed Mr. Wrigley or Wrigley chewing gum fame. At some point in the conversation the man asked Mr. Wrigley a question. He said, "Mr. Wrigley, I have often wondered why you continue to spend some much money on advertisements. You have the best selling chewing gum in the world. I see your ads on television, hear them on the radio and see them in newspapers and even on billboards. Why do you do that?"

Mr. Wrigley replied, "We are flying in a great airplane. It has climbed to 30,000 feet. It is traveling at 600 miles per hour. It has done wonderful things. Why don't we just tell the pilot that he can shut down the engines of this great plane? If we did," he continued, "we would plunge to the earth in a fiery crash. No sir, we want this plane to keep moving and that requires that continue energy be expended. That it is the way it is with everything, even selling chewing gum. If I quit advertising just because we are doing well, I will stop doing one of the things that has caused us to do so well.”

One example from the Bible serves as a severe warning concerning this sin. In the Old Testament we find the story of David's sin with Bathsheba. This brought misery to his house for the remainder of his life. Through this sin David had a son to die, one of his daughter's was raped, another of his son's was killed for raping this sister and his son Absalom rose up against his father David and was killed as well. How did this tragic story begin?

David was on his rooftop one night when he saw Bathsheba bathing. The rest is history. But here is the sad line. The Bible says that in the time when kings go to war David walked on his rooftop. Other kings were out with their soldiers doing that which was expected and necessary; however, David had reached the point in his life that he did not think he needed to be with his men. He became comfortable with yesterday's victories and was plunged into the one of the saddest stories found in the Scriptures.

We must never let yesterday’s attainments keep us from tomorrow’s aspirations! Never rest in yesterday’s successes, for if you do it will be the last success you will experience!

Growing satisfied with who and where we are in our walk with God, ends our growth and our productiveness in the work of God. I read somewhere about a little girl who prayed every night  the childhood prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” One night she announced to her father that she no longer needed to pray. When her father asked why she had come to that conclusion, she answered, “I already know my prayers and don’t need to practice anymore.”

My friends, we never graduate from the school of prayer or from being disciples, learners, in the school of Christ. Going on with God means keeping on for God! In fact, truly living for God as we should will lead us to understand each day how much more we need to learn, how much more we need to do and how much more we need to grow.

II. WE MUST NEVER BE SIDETRACKED BY YESTERDAY'S SUFFERINGS

The sidetracks of Christianity are littered with the people who somehow got hurt in the work of God and thus gave up trying. Paul had suffered untold misery by the time he wrote the letter we are reading today. He was in a prison in Rome even as he penned the words we read in today's text. But his spirit was not dismayed or discouraged. Nothing would stop him from his appointed task!

A few years ago a man came to see me who had been hurt. He was upset with God that He had allowed a certain thing to happen in his life. He said that he would never go to church again. He declared that he was finished with trying to serve God. I tried to talk to him, but at that moment it was to no avail. I prayed with him and he left. That was in 1979. I just talked with someone the other day who told me that this man was finally back on the front line for Jesus. He rededicated his life. He is serving, witnessing, giving, and going for God! But think of all those wasted years. Those years were wasted because this man allowed suffering to sidetrack him. He allowed something someone had said or done to keep him out of God's work for years. How foolish! How wasteful!

Be careful, dear friend, for one of Satan's most subtle tools for defeat in the Christian life is to get us sidetracked due to some hurt that we experience. It can happen to the best of people. Jeremiah was so hurt by the hardhearted people of his day that he declared that he would not preach God's word anymore! Ah, but it was like a fire shut up in his bones, he could not keep silent. I pray that we will be like the great prophet and keep a fire burning in our hearts for God’s word and God’s work!

Jonah was angry at God because the Lord wanted him to preach a message or repentance in Nineveh, the wicked Assyrian city. He ran from God, only to repent and go there to preach. Jonah found it is better to do God’s will that end up in the stinking belly of a fish!

Elijah sat down under a juniper tree, in a state of depression because one woman had sworn to kill him. God had to slowly restore this defeated saint who was discouraged. Thank God that Elijah was open to the still, small voice of God. Are you open to God’s voice? Will you listen to Him calling you to deeper and greater commitment to His will? I pray that all of us are so keen to the Lord’s voice that He can call us and we will obey!

It is easy to become discouraged. Should we allow the suffering we are experiencing or have experienced to keep us from God’s will? Our Lord suffered more than we can imagine, yet He said, “Not my will but thy be done!”

Some of us may be prone to feel that suffering is a sure sign that we are not one of God's choice servants. It is likely that the opposite is true! All of God's best servants ended up being hurt in God's work at one time or another. Job was righteous in every way, yet his wife and every friend he had in this world let him down and failed to comfort him. God, however, did not fail him and he will not fail you.

So, we must throw on the garbage heap the successes of yesterday. We must also toss on that garbage heap the hurts that have been inflicted upon is our lives and in our service for God.

Now, look at the last item from yesterday that must be discarded.

III. WE MUST NOT BE SADDLED WITH YESTERDAY'S SINS

Sin builds up like a great weight upon the soul of the believer. A Christian must not allow sin to keep him from his destiny. I mean this in two ways.

First, we must ask God to bring to our minds those things which have displeased Him in this past year. We must then be done with them forever. You have failed in areas of your life, have you not? You have wronged God and man. Then confess it and cast it off! If there is a habit or manner in your life that displeases God, be rid of it today. There is a sin which does so easily beset us. It may be your temper, selfishness, laziness, lust, greed, gossip or a thousand other besetting sins. Come bow down at his feet and be rid of it!

In 1 John 1:19 we read, "If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness". He is faithful to forgive, if we are faithful to confess. He will put that sin from you as far as the east is from the west. He will cast it into the sea of forgetfulness and put up a "No Fishing" sign in the process.

We can learn from our past mistakes and trespasses. We must not forget them by making light of them. Forgetting does not mean failing to remember the traps of Satan that we have fallen into. We must remember enough so as not to fall prey to him again. A little boy's mother took him to see “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.” They got to the movie late. They came in at the scene where the witch was giving Snow White the poisoned apple to eat. They stayed for the next showing in order to see the entire movie. When the movie came back around to the point again where the witch was offering the poisoned apple to Snow White, the mother took the boy by the hand and started to leave the theater. The boy looked back to see the witch holding out the apple for Snow White to take it. He said out loud, so that everyone in the theater could hear it, "If Snow White eats that apple again, she is crazy.” (told by Roy L. Laurin, Where Life Advances, p. 134) We must be careful not to repeat in this New Year the same mistakes made in the years gone by.

Secondly, we must not let some previous sin keep us from serving God. It is easy to feel unworthy of serving Jesus because of our sin. In fact, we are all unworthy. But Jesus makes us worthy! He is worthy, and he shares that worthiness with us.

A sin from a day gone by can cause a Christian to feel that he or she has forfeited the right to serve God. When I hear that my mind goes back to that night when Peter denied the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not deny Him once, but three times. Surely his days of service to Christ were over after that horrible sin! No wonder he went back and picked up his nets and started fishing again. O, what an incredible day when Jesus restored him. All He asked of Peter was a renewed statement of love! Jesus commissioned Peter to “feed my sheep.” Amazingly, Jesus chose this fallen disciple to preach at Pentecost when 3,000 precious souls were saved and the Church was inaugurated! Thank you Jesus, that you do not discard us for our sins!

Conclusion

A little girl was praying the Lord's Prayer. She had not heard the words of the prayer correctly. When she came to say, "Forgive us our trespasses", she mistakenly said, "Forgive us our trash baskets." Too often, our trash baskets are empty. We have failed to toss into them the successes of yesterday, the sufferings of yesterday and the sins of yesterday. We must turn from yesterday unhindered by the weight of these things to reach for the prize of our high calling in Jesus Christ! As we enter into a New Year, let's cast some things into God's trash basket. Then, as the memories that hinder us come back to our minds, we can simply say, "I threw that away in the trash bin last year and I will not take it up again!"

Someone here today is not a Christian. You have never trusted Christ as Savior and Lord. You can enter the New Year with a New Life. Admit that you are a sinner. Believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the grave. Confess Him as Savior and Lord today. If  you do that, your New Year will be lived in a New You!

Come now! Jesus is waiting for you and He holds in His hand a wonderful New Year filled with blessings and opportunities!