A Changed Life

A New Year's Compilation

Clyde White

The World’s Method: Reformation

At the beginning of each New Year, we hear things like, “I’m going to do better this year!” Ah, the first (and often last) stanza of the New Year’s Anthem!

There is nothing wrong with improving oneself. As a matter of fact, most of us could use a little improvement! Self-improvement can help in a lot of areas: work, play, school, human relationships, and others. But self-improvement will not help one bit in the spiritual quality of your life. In fact, it will only hinder you in the quest for spiritual quality.

When trying to make one’s self better we are motivated and driven by the desires of the human heart. As humanly noble as those desires might seem in our human mind, those desires are void of any spiritual quality or drive. Our best humanly attempt is reformation.

Reform
to improve by alteration, correction of error, removal of defect, put into a better form or condition

If you are going to have reformation then you must know what you are going to reform, right? Therefore, we must look at what we have done to see what we needs to be changed. Alas, alas!! With careful examination of our past, we find that the past is in pretty bad shape.

If we are going to build a better structure (our future), on such an out-of-whack foundation (our past), we have a big problem! Therefore, the best of human logic kicks in: “We need a better foundation because the foundation is all important. Therefore, we must clean-up and fix-up the past.”

Such folly! No amount of desire or effort can change one split second of the past! Therefore, all such efforts are vain. They may keep you busy and out of trouble for a moment, but they will not change the past.

Even if your past is relatively good from a human standpoint, there is no way you can build a spiritual life on that relatively good foundation. I know, I know, human philosophy says it’s the logical way and the only way, but then human philosophy never prepared anyone for eternity.

Once, when an umpire called Babe Ruth out on strikes, Ruth made a humanist argument and based his reasoning on a fallacy as humans often do. Ruth concluded that large numbers equate as moral weight, and said, “There’s 40,000 people here who know that last pitch was a ball!”

The umpire replied with measured stateliness, “Maybe so, but mine is the only opinion that counts.”

Even though human logic would indicate we can have God’s promises without something other than God’s instructions, we must remember that only God’s thoughts count.

Let’s look at a few of God’s thoughts.

Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?

Look at how our heart is described. It is the foundation upon which we try to reform ourselves.

Proverbs 17:20 He who has a deceitful heart [that is every human] finds no good, and he who has a perverse tongue [that is every human] falls into evil.
Proverbs 21:2-4 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts. 3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. 4 A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked [that is every human] are sin.

This is the plight of religious people who are trying to become spiritual by their own good deeds. Striving to become more like God using only the internal resources of the human heart simply makes a deceitful heart more deceitful and a perverse heart more perverse. Even though, to another deceitful and perverse heart, such may seem like a spiritual act.

All this self-inspection and examination of the past in order to bring spirituality to the future simply brings greater and greater self-centeredness. Great self-centeredness may bring a more religious look, but it takes a person further and further away from anything that is truly spiritual.

Proverbs 23:7 for as he thinks in his heart, so is he...

When mankind finally realizes that he cannot spiritually improve the future by inspecting the past, humanity often takes one or more of these actions:

  • Bring others down to their low human level, by any means possible, or
  • Elevate themselves, in the opinions of others, by false and phony actions, or
  • Try to destroy the others by any means available.

We see this not only our own homes, but in every aspect of the world: just look at the latest political campaigns.

James 4:1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

That is the human method, whether at home, in the church, in government, or at play.

God’s Method: Transformation

God, however, has a method of making a Believer more and more like Himself, and proper participation in God’s method will make a person spiritual. God’s method requires our involvement. It requires that we do certain things, but those actions alone do not make us spiritual. The human actions, required by God, only make it possible for God to work in our lives to bring about spirituality.

We will base the remainder of our lesson on Philippians 3.12-16. Let’s look at it carefully now. Read it several times and let the meaning sink in.

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

"Part 1: Forgetting the Past"

Let’s look at verse 13 by itself.

Philippians 3:13 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,

Strange that God would tell us here in Philippians to forget, when over and over again in the Bible He has told us not to forget.

Deuteronomy 4:9 "Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,
Deuteronomy 4:23 "Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you.
Deuteronomy 6:12 "then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Psalms 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Psalms 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God.
Psalms 88:12 Shall Your wonders be known in the dark? And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

Why would God tells us not to forget so many things and yet tell us to forget those things in our past? Furthermore, many of these things that we are not to forget are in the past. There seems to be something wrong here! Well, I think if we look at the context, definitions, and compare Scripture with Scripture, things will be a little clearer.

The meanings of the Old Testament Hebrew words for forget are the same, or very similar

Forget (Hebrew)
To mislay; To be oblivious of for lack of attention (to forget God and turn to idols)

However, the Greek words used in James and Philippians are somewhat different. In James, we find this definition.

Forget (Greek)
Caused by negligence or lack of attention; A hearer characterized by neglectfulness or carelessness
James 1:25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

We are not to be oblivious to God, His blessing, covenants, etc. Nor are we to neglect the Word of God or the Perfect Law of Liberty. God, His blessing, His Word, His Covenants are all ever present and eternal.

However, when it comes to the events in our lives that are past, we are to allow them to escape our constant attention. In Philippians the word forget means:

Forgetting (Greek)
To put out of mind by lack of use or by the lack of constant attention (Not as a dog with a bone); To escape notice willfully (active)
Philippians 3:13 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,

All the words both Greek and Hebrew are similar, but the manner, context, and intensity of their usage brings out different shades of meaning in the different passages. The use of the Greek word for forgetting brings out the rich meaning of this portion of Scripture. With the meaning of the base word in mind, we can look at the process of forgetting. This forgetting command in Philippians is to be a willing act, so that the mind can be directed to the main purpose of God for mankind.

The human mind cannot just by strength of will wipe something from its memory, but the human mind may choose not to think upon, or dwell upon, a certain subject.

Only God can truly forget. God forgets sins, not because He is an old man, but because those sins are paid for and washed away in the blood of Christ.

Jeremiah 31:34 ....."For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

God is not asking us to have the past taken from our memory through some method like shock treatment. The past is to be put aside through a willful act so that we do not give constant attention to it. This is for the purpose of freeing our mind and attention so we can focus on and reach forward to the future and the real purpose of life: becoming like Christ.

When our minds are constantly focused on the glory or the pain of the past, we have no motive for the future, only the self-glory of our triumphs or fear of repeating the pain of the past. When we give constant attention to the past, whether good or bad, we bring to the present the burdens of our past.

No human is capable of bearing the sum-total of their past burdens. Each day has enough burden, or evil, of itself. The following verse addresses worrying about the future, but look also at what is says about today.

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

This sum-total of past burdens is heavy enough to crush the strongest human. For the Christian, whose goal it is to be like Christ, living in the past failures only amplifies the fact that we are far from the goal and we are going in the wrong direction to ever reach that goal. We can search our past far and wide, yet find little hope. Nor can our past provide us with the power to change what has already happened.

God’s promises are for the present and the future. He has provided one thing for the past: forgiveness of our past sins.

Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

We must accept God’s forgiveness, then we must forgive ourselves and others because these things are under the Blood of Christ, and can never be relived or corrected.

Forgiveness of sin is not the same as the removal of the consequences of our actions. God forgives our sins, but usually the consequences of our sins will continue. Unfortunately, most of us are more interested in having the physical or earthly consequences of our sins removed than we are in experiencing God’s forgiveness. For the consequences of our actions to be removed would require a miracle from God for each action. There are times when God does perform a miracle, and the consequence is removed or changed.  Usually, however, we will reap the results of what we sow.

Galatians 6:7-10 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

"Part 2: Reaching Forward"

Let’s get a little more information from our passage in Philippians.

Philippines 3:12-16 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.

To make sure we are on the same page, let’s look a few more definitions from this passage.

Attained [obtained] (Greek)
Obtain by reaching; To seize; To lay hold of

This Greek word is translated by some 20 different words in the New Testament. By looking at the context, we see that Paul is using it in the sense of obtaining by reaching for.

Perfected (Greek)
To bring to an end by completing; Mature; Add what is yet lacking in order to render a thing full; To consummate in character
Press (Greek)
Pursue with all of one’s ability, without hostility, in order to receive the prize; It is used as a metaphor from a foot-race; “Speeding or earnestly”; To run swiftly in order to catch some person or thing
Lay hold [apprehend]
(As a process) To take eagerly; To seize as a personal possession, such as the prize of victory; To seize upon with a beneficial effect
(As a completed act) A detrimental effect such as demon control
Apprehend (Greek)
To take or seize

This is not a passive thing: it is something we must work for.

Reach (Greek)
To stretch oneself forward, as at the finish line of a race

I’m sure we’ve all seen runners stretching or throwing themselves toward the finish line to make sure they are the first to cross. That is the picture being described here.

Read Philippians 3:12-16 again and focus on the meanings of the words we just defined.

So, what are we to forget and what are we to reach for? Paul gives a clue through using his life as an example. Let’s back up a few verses in Philippians to see what Paul has to say.

Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul said all the earthly things that could profit him, he counted as loss (he willingly gave up), that he might have the knowledge of Christ, that he might gain Christ, and that he would really know Christ, and more!

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

We must come to terms with the fact that what is in the past, is not valuable for eternity.

Philippians 3:7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
Philippians 1:20-21 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Paul had the Good, the Bad and the Ugly all wrapped up in his past. He had a good background: A Jew of the Jews, plus all the privileges of a Roman citizen, the best training, political and religious power, the best of all futures as one of the Seventy, a speculator conversion, a special call from God, and special revelation from God. Before his conversation, he persecuted the church and was feared by early Christians. After his conversion, he was brutally treated, rejected in almost every town he visited, falsely treated as a criminal, jailed several times without cause, and the list goes on.

Yet he chose God’s way of forgetting it: he did not live in the past. The past can demonstrate our helplessness, failure, and God’s grace and provision, but the past holds no power to correct those failures, or any strength with which to live life for this moment.

Notice, he says “forgetting” and not “forget.” Forgetting is a process, not a single act. You can forget something today, but you will have to do it again tomorrow, and again the next, and three times the following day. It is a process we must be active in.

Now, we are not to ignore what God has done in our lives, but we must look forward to what He is yet to do and not dwell on what has already been done. Paul didn’t spend his time and energy trying to re-live the past so he could cope with the present.

Notice this is a two-sided coin: forgetting the past, and reaching forward for the goal.

Paul didn’t try to bolster his present by reaching back into his past for a false ego trip. Nor did he live in depression because of past hurts or failures.

Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Paul lived in the present. He allowed the past to be the past. The future was based on God’s promises, not on his failures or successes.

I Timothy 1:15-16 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show [present tense] all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

How thankful I am that Paul did not spend his time trying to find what quirks caused all these things that made him the chiefest of sinners! Instead, Paul allowed God to forgive and cleanse, or wipe away, those things. After that, his past and present could be a pattern to follow. He didn’t say, “Join a support group and feed off each other’s sins and failures.” What he said was, “Look where I was! See what God did! See how God did it! Now, get cracking and follow my example.”

The events of tomorrow did not destroy his effectiveness for today through fear, nor did the past defeat him because of regrets. We each have many fears and regrets in our lives. If we took time to list them all, they would surely outnumber the great things we have done.

Romans 8:36-37 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Conquer
To defeat or subdue by force, especially by force of arms; To gain or secure control of as if by force of arms; To overcome or surmount by physical, mental, or moral force; To be victorious

Where are the spiritual conquerors today?

Most are not conquering in all these things. Instead, most are being conquered by their past. Notice how we are to conquer: through Him. Some won’t use God’s grace to conquer, so they turn to a false teaching that says “we are to just relax and let God do it”. There is a measure of truth in that false teaching, but we must also realize that God commanded that we conquer through Him. We have a job to do! We are to conquer by defeating and subduing by force.

Do not squander the present by living in the past. But some would protest, “You don’t know my circumstances”. No, I don’t. If your circumstances are greater than those of Paul, maybe you have a case. If they aren’t, you clearly have an example from his life.

Philippians 3:15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind;

It is a sign of immaturity or childishness when we waste today fantasying about tomorrow or fretting about yesterday.

There is vast difference between making plans for the future by properly evaluating the past, and constantly living in, and being controlled by the past.

Let the past make us thankful for the joys we’ve had, and let the past teach us from our mistakes. Trying to live again the joys of the past will only be fantasies, because they can never be realized again.

Joys of the present and the future can be a reality, plus they become a motivation to reach forward. Only the joys of the present or the future can be ours to possess. The hurts of the past should make us wise and cautious in our actions for the present and the future. Listen my Christian friend! God has said that our past and our suffering – will bring good, glory, and reward. That is a promise!

By wallowing in our past, our fear focuses us on the wrong object. There is, however, something in the past that does have a great deal to do with our present. We should carefully heed this warning.

Hebrews 4:1-2 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

The Israelites in the wilderness had “not mixed the promises with faith” because they were looking back to Egypt. I challenge you to look on all the things God wanted to do for Israel as a nation. Unfortunately, they received very few of these blessings because they did not mix God's word with faith.

God says the past can be forgiven and put aside. We can only build the future on God’s present promises, not on our past. Memories are only that: memories. Don’t let them possess you! If you do, you will have no present; you will have no future. Both your future and present will be lost in the things that have already happened.

Hebrews 4:11-12 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

God’s word reveals who we are. His word shows us Who He is and the promises He has made. God says that the past can be forgiven and put aside. We have new life in Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

Should we make changes for the New Year? Certainly! And we should grow and change every day after that. Just make sure you put the past aside, and reach forward!

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

More Points to Ponder

Single-Minded Noah

Long ago, there was a New Year’s Day like no other! On that New Year’s Day there were no crowds in Time Square. There were only eight people and a bunch of animals in boat on top of a mountain, but they had much to celebrate and a wide open future!

Genesis 8:13 And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry. 14 And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dried. 15 Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 16 "Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you.

The people of Noah’s time had forgotten God and had become totally consumed with the joys and cares of just living. These people were not preoccupied with their past or worried about the future; they were only living for the present. Just living our lives for the present is not the goal. The goal is yet in the future and is the prize and high calling of God.

That crowd of long ago had no time for God, they were too busy with things. The people of Noah's time, had no thought of reaching forward to the prize of the high calling of God. They had become preoccupied with marrying, having kids and trying to find a comfortable life. They had become overly-busy with little league, the orthodontists, work, social gatherings… or at least the ancient version of those things.

These things had so possessed their lives that God was pushed to second place or maybe even to last place. Eventually, God was pushed clear out of their lives because of these other important things that just had to be done.

Matthew 24:37 "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

As God was replaced by these important things of kids and eating and drinking, the things of God soon became profane.

Profane (Greek)
Permitted to be trodden on + accessible = A Threshold. That which lacks all relationship or affinity to God.

They allowed divine things to slip from the place of importance to the status of a threshold to be stepped over in accessing that which was on the opposite side of a door. God was not hallowed in their lives.

Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Maybe the folks in Noah’s day didn’t start off to make the things of God profane. They may have intended to put their creator first. But that eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage took so much time and was so important! Therefore, God simply became the threshold for Noah’s society to move from point A to point B.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? How important is God in your life? How important is the church in your life?

Matthew 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Galatians 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

God asked for Noah’s undivided devotion, and his unwavering attention to the His Word.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 7 By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

God did not ask Noah to be like the world, only better. Instead God said, “Let me give you a real challenge. Live like no other has ever lived; do something that no other has ever done. In so doing, you will save yourself, your family and you will be a witness to the world around you.” Or something like that.

Noah took a stand and committed himself to the work, whatever that work might be, and he followed through. I am sure there were times he thought, “Why Me? Those other people are eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. They don’t have to put up with this headache of an Ark. I have all this stuff to do; wood to gather, wood to cut, timbers to put in place, all this tar to make. On top of that, at night I have to study those blue prints! Why can’t I be like the other people, and just have a little fun? I don’t like being different, those people think I am strange. Why can’t I just relax and let God do it? He’s big enough.”

But God said, “I’ll give you the needed grace. Just hang in there.”

And Noah never stopped!

He was not persuaded by what others thought he should be doing. “Just think of how much good you could build in the community, if you weren’t spending so much time building for God.” Or something like that.

“With the quality of a person you are and with your talents, you could have some real influence over a lot of people, if only you would join in this community project, instead of wasting all that time just simply doing what God said.” Or something like that.

Have you ever thought what would have happened if Noah had stopped the work on the Ark for just a little while – maybe just a few months while he tried to better his community? He and his family would have been lost.... and you and I would not be around.

God probably doesn’t have an ark in your future, but whatever your task may be, God promises His grace for the task. God’s work is important, in spite of the satanic suggestions that other things are more important. Noah and his family were committed to the task at hand.

If this is a year in which we make an impact on the world around us and on the world to come, we will need some Noahs and some Noah’s wives and some Noah’s kids who will say, “This work is important! It is important enough that I will put God first and will be available for service no matter what that service might be!”

There were only eight people doing the work of the Ark. Have you ever noticed that God usually does His greatest work through the few, not the masses? There weren’t too many on this Ark project who had that high and holy position of The Teller of What to Do. No! If there was a job to do, they all had to do it whether it was cutting the wood, shaping the wood, spreading the pitch, or cleaning up the mess afterwards.

The position they held was not important. What was important was that the job got done on time, and done well. These were important or all else would have been lost. All the ark builders had to be servants. Not for man’s glory, but for God and God alone, because only God and the animals would be around to give compliments later.

What are you doing that is God’s work right now? Does God have your undivided attention? Are you giving your attention to the Word of God?

1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Redeeming the Time

We are at a time when promises or resolutions are made. Too often, these are made without considering the consequences involved in keeping those promises. On December 31st, we look back over the past 12 months and often say, “I’ll make this year better than the last and here’s how I’m going to make it better.”

Do we need to address the issues where we fall short of what we know is right? Yes, I’d say that we Christians need to make some real changes to bring our lives in line with God’s word. Each year, many believers make a determination or resolution to do better. However, most who make such determinations have no real idea what is involved in bringing such resolutions to reality, or the consequences of not keeping such a commitment to God.

Ephesians 5:14 Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

The Holy Spirit uses a couple of metaphors in this passage to help us understand the importance of what He is saying. In the first metaphor, the Holy Spirit pointed out that most of us see the value of time just about as much as someone who is sleeping. That is not a good reflection on us! In the next metaphor, He pointed out that most of us cannot even understand the value of time, because we are in the same relationship to time as a dead person. This is really looking bad!

All of this is in the context of the shameful practices of the world. For our study, let’s see the implication to our time as Believers. We are to redeem the time, because the days are evil.

Redeem (Greek)
Denotes “to buy out”, especially of purchasing a slave with a view of giving him freedom

Unless we redeem time, the time we have and use will be evil! Not because we are committing evil acts within the scope of that time, but because the day itself is evil. The Christian can buy back time from these evil days and set that time free to accomplish righteousness. This is the purpose of the Christian life and living, not finding some personal emotional satisfaction.

Redeeming time is far better than making a New Year’s Resolution. Besides, that resolution will more than likely be broken before New Year’s Day is over!

Let’s study some things that characterize our time in general, some dangers of making resolutions and some things involved in setting time free from the evil days to be used for righteousness.

To do all of that in any depth would take several lessons, so we will just hit the high points. If we are to redeem time and use it properly we must understand something about the brevity of our time.

Psalms 39:4 "LORD, make me to know my end, And what is the measure of my days, That I may know how frail I am. 5 Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah 6 Surely every man walks about like a shadow; Surely they busy themselves in vain; He heaps up riches, And does not know who will gather them. 7 "And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.
2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Psalms 90:4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night… …9 For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. 10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I have spent over 70 years on this ball called earth. I have lived over 25,550 days. The days ahead are fewer than the days that have passed. How do I live those few days that are left?

The importance is not on what I can do with my days, but what I can become. My purpose should be to gain a heart of wisdom. That’s who I am, not what I do. Also note, we must gain this heart of wisdom because we are not born with it, nor do we receive it at the point of the new birth. This is a process that is to be accomplished after Salvation.

The Bible refers to wisdom 215 times. We do not have time to look at all of those references, even though that would be profitable. We will, however, examine a few of those precious passages of Scripture.

Psalms 51:6-7 Behold, You (God) desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

God needs to purge us and wash us. This is often not a pleasant thing. We are living in a day and age where we want all the difficulties of life removed. Are we up for God’s cleansing so that we can know wisdom?

Trouble Forgetting?

Calluses

All year long our thinking should be through the upward perspective of the Mind of Christ. When we view our lives and living through the Mind of Christ, we can clearly see the total failure within, but we also see the absolute provision for that failure and the cure for such actions and attitudes.

When we view our lives and living only through the human viewpoint, we will most often excuse the total internal failure, or attempt to provide for and cure such actions and attitudes by re-living or camouflaging them. Think of Adam and Eve’s fig leaf solution in the Garden of Eden.

Both of these methods attempt to accomplish the same thing from a different perspectives. Both attempt to cover the sin through one means or another, so the guilt will not haunt our lives.

If we review the circumstances that caused the guilt often enough, objectively enough, and progressively from a more abstract view, the mind, emotions and total soul become insensitive to the reality of the sin that caused the guilt, and either lessens the feelings of guilt through insensitivity, or transfers that guilt by means of blaming. Reliving those events may bring some relief from their guilt by becoming callused to the reality and the responsibility of guilt.

Callus (Webster)
A thickening of the horny layer of the epidermis as a result of friction or pressure.

A callous, whether physical, spiritual, or moral is an unnaturally hard covering caused by constant irritation and forms over a sore or injury in an effort to protect it from any further irritation. The purpose of a callous is so the sore or injury can heal properly.

Sad to say, this is the way the world deals with guilt. This method has some human advantages. As a matter of fact, it is about all that humanism can offer. Humans have become very sophisticated in this science of guilt management. You can go to school and get a degree in guilt management and charge a handsome fee for sharing your knowledge with others. Please, don’t run out and grab a college catalogue so you can look in the index for Guilt Management. As a general rule, we don’t like to call sin like it is. Instead, we give it many diverse and nice sounding names. After all, very few people want to first admit that they have great guilt.

In order to find relief from our guilt, however, we must admit that we are guilty. We will see this fact later as we look at God’s guilt relief method that not only removes the guilt but replaces it with joy unspeakable!

The callusing process, covering over until we can no longer feel the pain, can bring some immediate relief from the guilt. The problem with the callous solution is that it does not cure or remove the cause of the guilt.

There is, however, relative comfort until that callous is removed and the guilt, once again, brought to the surface. Let me assure you that that emotional and spiritual calluses that has been meticulously developed will be removed by one means or another. They may be removed in this life by various means, or they will be removed by God Himself at His appointed time.

Daniel 2:28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:
Psalms 44:21 Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.
Romans 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law... ...16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Forgiveness

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

As we said before, the only method of true guilt removal is God’s method: forgiveness. He alone is righteous and He alone can deal with our unrighteousness. We need first admit (or confess) our sin, then accept God’s forgiveness and cleansing of that sin.

This personal examination must be done through the eyes and mind of God thought Christ, not through our self-centered evaluation.

Job 31:4 Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps? 5 If I have walked with falsehood, or if my foot has hastened to deceit, 6 Let me be weighed in a just balance, that God may know my integrity. 7 If my step has turned from the way, or my heart walked after my eyes, or if any spot adheres to my hands,
Proverbs 17:3 The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the hearts.
Psalms 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties [thoughts]; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
Lamentations 3:40 Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD; 41 let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.

We need to search our lives, confess our sins, and appropriate God’s forgiveness. What a blessing to be forgiven and cleansed!

God does not want Believers just forgiven and cleansed, He wants the forgiven and cleansed Believer, to move ahead towards maturity. Yes, God wants us to know life, but He wants us to know that life more abundantly!

God Heals Quickly

Let’s look again at Philippians 3.

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 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, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the

Paul realized that he had not completed the task for which God had commissioned him. He also realized that he was not fully matured in the faith.

Because he had not attained nor was perfected, he was continually reaching for the prize. He was first forgetting those things in the past. Whether good or bad we, also, are to willingly and deliberately lose the past from of our conscious minds because of neglect. This forgetfulness comes because we have more important things to occupy our time of living than the things we can’t change and God has forgiven.

Some are still wallowing in the things of the past, not willing to accept God’s forgiveness and put past situations under the Blood. I hear so often, far too often, “I just need time to heal from those things.”

You don’t need time to heal from what God has forgiven. Now you may need time to mature and grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, but healing comes from God and it is complete.

Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

You need to see yourself in light of God’s truth: You are not a broken sinner trying to heal from your sins, you are a new creation in Christ! All things have become new!

Look at Paul’s life for our example of the power of God and the length of time we need to heal after God’s forgiveness and cleansing. As we read about his conversion, keep in mind that Saul (later changed to Paul) was putting men, women, and children in prison and some to death. This was his commission and life. It was while Saul was engaged in these activities that God stopped him, forgave him, and healed him.

Acts 9:11-22 So the Lord said to him (Ananias), Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight. 13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name. 15 But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake.
17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. 18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. 19 And when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. 20 Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. 21 Then all who heard were amazed, and said, Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests? 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

Paul, certainly remembered who he was and what he had done, but Paul never wallowed in what he was, what he did, or what was done to him. He forgot the past, and immediately preached Christ in the synagogues.

Some have spent a lifetime trying to heal from past experiences, so they can start again to live the life of Christ in power and strength. How about forgetting the past, and let’s get busy living for Christ in the present!

Is there an immediately in your relationship with Christ, or are you still groveling in the past and continuing your willful sin by allowing the events of the past to control your present and your future service for and life with Christ. When you allow the events of the past to control you and your relationships with others, instead of the Word of God through the Holy Spirit, then the events of the past have become your god. Not only have those events become you god, you are saying that events of the past are more powerful than the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Word of God.

Paul not only immediately forgot the past, he immediately began to press toward the goal. You can’t press forward, if you still lying in the sewer pit of past events and sins. Paul not only preached these things, the action of his life shows that he lived what he preached even before he preached them, as we see from Philippians 3 compared with Acts 9.

Believers can come up with the craziest excuses for not doing what the Word of God says. If you are not presently living and walking in the Spirit it is because of some personal phony excuse, because God’s power is immediate.

Your growth in grace and knowledge will take time, but not your spiritual healing. If you did not receive immediately spiritual healing when you asked for forgiveness, don’t blame God! Look in the mirror.

God’s healing does not take time, it only takes grace.

Now What?

This portion in Proverbs 2 demonstrates this step after forgiveness and cleansing.

Proverbs 2:1-8 My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, 2 so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; 7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; 8 He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.

Let’s take a moment to look at some facts listed here.

Proverbs 2:1-8 is a conditional passage. We cannot experience the promises of the last four verses without diligently practicing the things listed in the first four.

Do you want wisdom? You must:

  • receive God’s words
  • treasure God’s commands
  • incline your ear to wisdom
  • apply your heart to understanding
  • cry out for discernment
  • lift up your voice (shout) for understanding
  • seek for understanding as you would silver
  • search for understanding as for hidden treasures

Are you treasuring God’s commands? Are you inclining your ear to wisdom? Are you crying out? Are you lifting up your voice? Are you seeking as you would for treasure? Notice the intensity with which we are to seek wisdom. This is not a casual endeavor; nor is it a periodic exercise. This is a daily mindset.

If we do the things above, then God tells us:

  • We will understand the fear of God and find knowledge and understanding
  • It is God that gives wisdom, knowledge and understanding from His mouth
  • God has a stockpile of wisdom for the upright
  • God is a shield for those walking upright
  • God guards the paths of justice and preserves the way of the saints

What a great treasure!

Unfortunately, most of will never get the knowledge and understanding God wants to give us because we are not willing to diligently seek and search. We are left with only human wisdom – and we’ve seen how limited that is!

Proverbs 8:10-13 Receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; 11 for wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. 12 "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.

Do you believe these things to be true? Is wisdom, godly wisdom, better than riches? Are these truths evident in your life. Think about how wisdom and prudence go together.  Here is a bonus example below.

Ephesians 1:7-9 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

It is needful to carefully number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom!

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