Memories are great. They can bring us such joy, as we leaf through the pages of an old photo album, remembering happy times when we were kids, our first car, our wedding day, when our children were babies, our first house. God gave us memories as a special gift, to help us count our blessings and recall His faithfulness to us throughout the years.
We also remember the hard times, and this too is a gift, as we (hopefully) learn from our mistakes and endeavor to teach our children to avoid the mistakes we made.
Yes, memories are wonderful, and a great blessing from God, but as with all God’s gifts, we must use our memories wisely, and with hearts of thankfulness, or they can become a curse.
When a person becomes a Christian and lives under the will of the Holy Spirit, Scripture tells us we’ll experience wonderful fruit in our lives, including: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
But at the same time, Satan, our adversary, is relentless in his efforts to pull us back into our old ways, to strip us, not only of our blessings, but of our very faith. One way he does this is through our memories, once again corrupting what God made for good into a vile tool of the devil.
What do I mean? As an example, consider the new Christian, the baby Christian just recently saved…let’s call him Mike. Mike is 40 years old and recently came to Christ after years of “fun and games” in his life. His motto had been “live life to the fullest,’’ “you only go around once,” and “if it feels good, go for it.”
He lived hard and fast, did a lot of drinking, played around with drugs, had a lot of “girlfriends” both before and duringhis marriage, and hadn’t given two seconds of time to consider God since he graduated High School, moved out of his parents’ home and left what little faith he had in God behind; a waste of time, he thought, after years of shallow “churchianity.”
Mike became successful in his career, had lots of “friends,” and thoroughly enjoyed the benefits of a good income. He often joked about death, saying things like, “the one with the most toys wins,” implying that life was all about accumulating fun THINGS, like boats, cars, motorcycles, and the like.
One day, while out fishing, the cooler stocked with beer, he suddenly realized something: he had everything he ever wanted! He had a good job that was secure and provided an excellent income. He had a loving (and forgiving) wife, who worked through his infidelity and stayed with him. He had his kids, a big house, and plenty of toys. He took his family on lavish vacations each year, and his job allowed for plenty of free time to enjoy himself in whatever indulgence he chose. Moreover, if something came along that struck his fancy, he had enough money in the bank to buy it on the spot, whatever it might be. Yes, he decided, he had it made…there was nothing more he wanted…except…
Except there WAS something more, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Try as he might, he just couldn’t figure it out.
Then one day at the gas station, he ran into an old friend that he hadn’t seen since high school. He and Craig grew up together, attended the same high school — and the same “underage’ parties — and it was great to see him again. The two set up a time to get together and take a canoe trip one weekend.
Craig’s life was going well too, and the two enjoyed sharing old times and catching up on people and places they knew before. Craig wasn’t nearly as “successful” in the world’s eyes as Mike, and yet there was a PEACE about him that Mike had never seen nor experienced. He seemed truly HAPPY. He almost had a glow about him.
When he turned down the offer of a cold beer, Mike wondered if his old friend might be battling alcohol abuse. But no, Craig explained, he had just given it up for “something better.”
Mike was intrigued. He also noticed something else about his old friend — Craig didn’t swear the way all his other buddies did. In fact, when the girl at the drive-through forgot half of his lunch order, he was actually patient, as they drove back to the restaurant, and he was actually nice to her when they got there. Not only that, but when Mike told him the latest dirty joke, Craig not only didn’tlaugh, but he immediately changed the subject to their wives and families.
This wasn’t the guy he used to know back in high school. In those days, Craig was wild and crazy, living on the edge, always out for the next big adventure, the next big “high.” And yet, Mike acknowledged to himself, his old friend looked better and felt better than he’d ever seen him. Even though he reminded himself how he “had it made,” and how his life was so much more full than his old friend’s, he was still somewhat jealous of him! Because Craig had a way — an attitude — about him that attracted others to him. Wherever he went, he made friends, and seemed to have a real, genuine joy for life! In contrast, Mike’s life was all about fun, swearing, internet porn and “getting wasted” every weekend. That was HIS “fun.”
That day, canoeing down the river, Craig had a captive audience in Mike as he related how he had come to know Jesus Christ as Savior nearly twenty years ago. Now for Mike, this subject was “taboo.” In his circle of friends it was understood you just don’t talk about “God.” It’s just not “cool.” “Religion is for sissys,”he believed. Nothing a REAL man would waste his time with.
He began to wonder what his other friends would think — here he is listening to a guy tell him about JESUS. He decided it was a good thing the other guys weren’t around, or they’d eagerly ridicule and humiliate Craig, and he’d feel “obligated” to join them in their derision. Right then and there, he determined that this conversation would go no further than the shores of that river.
Well, God had other plans, and the seeds that were sown on that canoe trip took root in Mike’s life. He and Craig started getting together more and more often; and within a couple of weeks, Craig was able to share his whole testimony. The more Mike listened to Craig’s recounting of what Jesus had done in his life, the more his OWN life seemed to be lacking… wasted. He came to understand that although he THOUGHT he had everything the world had to offer, he was missing the most important thing of all: a relationship with JESUS CHRIST, the only ONE Who could save his soul — and he came to understand that if anyone ever NEEDED the Savior, it was HIM. It was then that Mike gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ.
Since then, he and his family have been attending home Bible studies and searching for a good church. They’re “baby” Christians, just learning the “ropes,” but day by day, the longer they walk with the Lord, the stronger their faith is becoming. His wife has a new love and respect for him; his children have a new role model of what a Godly Dad really looks like. The entire atmosphere in his family and in his home has changed dramatically. And for Mike, the more he learns about God, the more he WANTS to learn.
Now, one question: what will happen, when Mike’s having a bad day, he’s just had a big argument with his wife, and his old drinking buddies come around and invite him to the strip bar after work? MEMORIES. Memories of being carefree, no responsibilities — to God or anyone else, the way things USED to be. Memories of how “good” it felt to get drunk and “party.” Memories about laughing it up with his pals at the bar. Memories of the comforts of the “good old days,” before his rebirth in Christ.
This is how Satan uses our gift of memories, corrupting the gift, drawing us back into a life of lies and sin.
In Genesis we read about Lot’s wife. Even though the Lord saved Lot and his family and brought them out of a city of wickedness, hopelessness and sin, memories brought about disaster. The Lot family was specifically instructed to “Don’t Look Back!” But, as my study Bible notes, “Clinging to the comforts of the past, Lot’s wife was unwilling to turn completely from sin.”
And do you remember the story of the Israelites when they were freed from Egypt? When they “looked back,” when they longed for the comforts of the past (even though those “comforts” included cruel slavery), and they ended up wandering in the desert for forty years because of their infidelity and lack of trust toward God, their Savior and Provider.
When you walk with God, you can’t make progress as long as you’re holding on to fragments of your past life. When you become saved, through repentance and faith in Christ, you become a new person, you become “born again.” The “old” you should become dead to sin, as the “new” you yearns to learn His ways and walk more closely to the Father day by day.
Why doesn’t God just kill off those memories that lead us back to sin? Well, if He did that, what need would there be for faith, personal responsibility, or free will? And what about learning to follow where He leads? It’s a learning process. He doesn’t force or coerce anyone. Instead, He gently invites and then leads and teaches through the Holy Spirit, but with our freewill completely intact.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Many, today, preach a false gospel, twisting these Scriptures, telling people that one need only walk an aisle or recite a prayer and the God becomes your “errand boy,” giving you everything you ask for, like a spoiled kid. But what ACTUALLY happens is that as you grow in your relationship and make Jesus the LORD of your life, you are TRANSFORMED, by the renewing of your mind… and so the desires of your heart fall in line with God’s desires. HIS will becomes YOUR will… So as you DELIGHT yourself in the Lord, He DOES give you the desires of your heart. It’s just that NOW, those desires are ALSO His.
These truths remain constant throughout all of life. Whatever positive change you would desire for your life, it can only come about when you refuse to look back longingly at a sinful, self-serving life outside of God’s will.
Practical examples? Do you desire to lose weight? Great. Start exercising. Go on a diet. Look at the progress you’re making! Look to the future as you achieve those weight loss goals. But as soon as you look BACK and begin longing for the Big Macs of the past, you fail.
Do you desire to overcome some addiction? Change a bad habit? Expand your personal ministry for the Lord? Great! Look to the future and focus on the WORK the Lord has laid out for you. And remember that HE CHOSE YOU for that specific work — YES, YOU! For such a time as this. But DON’T LOOK BACK — unless it’s to count your many blessings and to praise the Lord for bringing you to this point, taking stock of all the times He’s cared for you, protected you and kept you from harm; all the gifts He’s given you, all the loving lessons He’s taught you along the way…and turn your heart toward a glorious future serving Him!
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!”
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