Every one of us here has a past, but we need to master your past because for many of us it contains elements that deeply affect us. Some of us may have had wonderful upbringings, stellar relationships and a life filled with success, satisfaction and joy, but I suspect most of us look back with mixed feelings of guilt, shame, fear and anger.
Unless you learn to master your past, it’s successes and failures included, then you have no chance of fulfilling your destiny in life. If you do not master your past, it will master you and every move you make, every breath you take will be affected by your past.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong's)
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
God does not want us to be bound to our past. When God saves us, He frees us from the guilt and shame of our former life. He gives us a fresh beginning. He sets us free to receive every good thing He wants to give us.
However, the devil is going to throw your past into your face time and time again. I once heard it said, if the devil wants to keep reminding you of your past, try reminding him of his future!
Today I want to explore how you can master your past before it masters you.
THE PAIN OF THE PAST
For many of us, the past is full of shameful times and painful memories. The enemy likes nothing more than dredging up these painful memories and throwing them in your face, and he will do this unless we can master your past. What kind of pain am I taking about?
Many of us have suffered traumatic pasts. Trauma may have been at the hands of a parent, family member, work colleague, spouse, pastor, teacher or friend. It might involve verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and the thing about trauma is that it can scar you for life. God says,
Psalms 147:3 (ESV Strong's)
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
Experiencing trauma of any kind in your past affects your thoughts, your attitudes and almost everything you do today, and it’s control can be limitless if you let it. If you have experienced this trauma in your past, ignoring it or burying it does not solve the problem, it makes the damage it creates when it does come out far greater! You need to master your past!
All of us have said or done things in our past that we regret. Sometimes it is hard to let these things go, and the guilt of foolish things we have done can affect us later in life.
Many people stop coming to church because they have done foolish things that they feel guilty for, especially around other Christians. I’m not here to make you feel guilty for something you’ve done in the past, I’m here to tell you that you can be set free l whatever it was!
Listen if you have sinned in your past, don’t carry the guilt of it for a moment longer. Confess it, tell God you are sorry and let it go, because He says,
Jeremiah 33:8 (ESV Strong's)
I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.
Many people feel guilt over what they have done in the past, and many times this haunts them, but many just regret being caught rather than the sin they committed. The sorrow you feel for what you’ve done can be worldly or godly…. But when you bring your sorrow and guilt to the Lord, you can be set free without regret…
2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV Strong's)
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
Corrie Ten Boom says, “God takes my sin and throws it in the sea of His forgetfulness, and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING!” As believers, we must become free of guilt. Don’t let your guilt from your past control who you are… experience godly sorrow, not worldly. You need to master your past!
Shame is another thing we must be set free from if we are to master the past. Guilt and shame are closely related, and both of them are destructive to your life. Shame might even be for things you are not guilty of perpetrating, but the shame still remains. Being abused often causes shame, losing money causes shame, being involved or caught up in the wrong thing causes shame, even associating with certain people causes shame.
Bring your shame to Jesus today, and you can be set free from it. Shame will no longer affect your life or your future, because in God you can master your past of shame…
Romans 5:5 (ESV Strong's)
and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Many people look back in anger, and previous experiences cause great anger that affects their current moods and behaviour, and relationships. If we have been hurt, or taken advantage of, or unfairly treated or even caught doing something wrong, we often feel angered by it. Most of the time the other party is not dwelling on it, but in our anger it can almost possess us!
James 1:19-20 (ESV Strong's)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
The anger of man does not produce righteousness. Not forgiving others and holding onto anger about your past is like drinking poison hoping the other guy dies! Your anger mostly hurts you, and those you love, not the one you are angry with! You cannot master your past if you are sitting around being angry about it, even justifiably angry over what you perceive has been done to you.
Forgiving and letting go of your anger does not validate what was done to you. Letting my anger go does not mean that I think the other party was right, it just means I won’t let them make me angry any more, or let my anger affect me any more.
I have been ripped off for tens of thousands of dollars through the years, and some of these have been at the hands of people in my own family. It made me justifiably angry at the time, but if I held onto this anger, I might feel justified, but I could never have a relationship with them. Trust me, You need to master your past!
Past failures give rise to present day fears. If you’ve had a bad marriage, if makes getting married again fearful. If you’ve had poor health, you are fearful about doing certain things. If you’ve had a bad experience in a Church, it makes you fearful to go to a new church.
Fear… False Evidence Appearing Real, means most of what you fear never actually comes true. And the more you love Jesus, the closer you are to Him, the less fear you have and the less it controls your life.
1 John 4:18 (ESV Strong's)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Events in our past make us fearful of failure, fearful of commitment, fearful of life! Fear and phobias master so many, and your fears are based on your past. Master your past, and you can master fear today!
MASTER YOUR PAST- IT ONLY HAS POWER ONLY IF YOU LET IT
For so many, their current behaviour and beliefs are governed by their past experiences. You can’t drive a car looking in the rear vision mirror, and you can’t live life to the full while you are focussed on the past. Why does the past have such power over us, and why is it so difficult to break away from our pasts?
1. THE PAST IS FAMILIAR
Proverbs 26:11 (ESV Strong's)
Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.
Your past might be bad, it might be painful, it might even be shameful, but it is at least familiar. Our fear of stepping out and trying something new can be greater than the mistakes we know so well. In a sense, it’s the devil we know, and many choose their painful past rather than taking a chance on possible failure!
This is why abused women often find new partners who are equally as abusive as the last guy! This is why people get ripped off in the same type of scam time and again. This is why people stay with abusive partners, in jobs they hate and in churches they are bored with and spiritually dying at. This is why many repeat the sins of their parents, even though they hate themselves for it. Why the child of a drug addict often turns to drugs. Why a teenage mum begets a teenage mum.
“My past might be miserable, but at least it’s a misery I know and am familiar with!”
Don’t put up with the devil you know, turn to the God who knows you! You need to master your past!
2. THE PAST HAS CONSEQUENCES
Every action has consequences. When you come to Jesus, when you confess your sin, it is totally forgiven, but this does not mean that the consequences are magically removed. King David repented of his sexual sin with Bathsheba, but Nathan the prophet confronted him and laid out consequences…
2 Samuel 12:13-14 (ESV Strong's)
David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”
Your repentance of past actions removes to sin, the guilt and the shame, but it does not remove the consequences. God can help you face them and walk through them, but He rarely removes all consequences of past sins. Friends I know have been charged with crimes and repented, but still had to go to jail. Girls have fallen pregnant and repented of sexual sin, but they still have a baby to care for and a radically different life.
So don’t get bitter about the consequences of your past decisions, get godly about them! Man up, embrace them as deserved, and ask God to make lemonade out of life’s lemons!
3. THE PAST PROMOTES FEARS
Your past is primarily what your fears are based on. A child who loves and trust their dad seems to have no fear and will jump into his arms. But if he drops the child a time or two, fear enters in.
Ask any psychotherapist and they will tell you that millions of people are controlled by fear. Fear saps you of power to live a godly life, and it affects your mind. That’s why Paul writes,
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV Strong's)
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
You cannot master your past if you live in fear of it, because that fear controls your mind and stops you living a life of power right now. And perfect love casts out fear!
4. THE PAST ONLY HAS THE POWER YOU GIVE IT
The power of the past is ultimately down to you. You get to choose how much the past affects your life. When you come to Christ, you are born again, and your past is broken off you because you are a new creation…
2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV Strong's)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
The old has passed away, the new has come. Both words in the Greek are in a perfect tense, meaning the action has occurred once and it yields lasting results.
Now the old self had passed away. What do you do with someone who has passed away? You bury them, you don’t prop them up in the corner and invite them to stay for tea. When you master your past, you don’t prop it up and revisit it, you bury it, along with the guilt, the shame, the fear and everything else your past mistakes come with. It's gone... You need to master your past!
5. THE PAST SHOULD BE LEARNED FROM
History repeats itself… it has to, no one ever listens! Coming to Christ sets you free from the negative power of your past, but it doesn’t mean you should ignore the wisdom it creates. While you need to make the past past at last, you will be wise to learn the lessons and not repeat the same foolish mistakes, right?
Don’t ignore your past, don’t shove it under the carpet. Be smart enough to learn from it. I’ve made mistakes as a pastor, but one of my strengths is that I hate making the same mistakes twice.
Psalms 145:14 (ESV Strong's)
The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
So be humble, be bowed down and learn from your past mistakes. Mastering your past includes learning from past mistakes and if you’re smart, not repeating them! Take the lesson, but not the burden!
MASTER THE PAST
So what steps can you follow to master the past? In an age when the past controls so many people’s presents and futures, it is imperative that we master our past to be set free to move towards the future.
Isaiah 43:18 (MSG)
"Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history.
We do that, don’t we… we dwell on it, we go over things from our pasts again and again, like a broken record, replaying things, thinking about what we should have said or done. We have to commit to mastering our past, or else our past master us! What steps can we follow to set our lives free from the negative influence of our past decisions, mistakes, sins and abuses?
Most of us are pretty skilled at sweeping our pasts under the carpet. We don’t deal with the hurt we feel, we’d rather wallow in the anger, sorrow, pain or resentment, and we figure that if we ignore them they will eventually go away. They say time heals all wounds.. but they’re wrong!
God says, “Don’t cover up your sins, own up, and let me cover the, over!”
1 John 1:9 (ESV Strong's)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Don’t duck and weave, don’t blame your parents, your ex or your friends, just confess any sin and clear it out. When you confess your sin and failures from the past, you clear the way to a brighter future! You need to master your past!
Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV Strong's)
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Forgiveness is key to mastering your past. When someone has wronged you, you face a choice… forgive or hold onto the hurt and become bitter.
Forgiving someone who hurt you does not condone what they did. Instead it breaks the power that that person has over you and your future. Failing to forgive usually does not affect the other person at all, but it starts to destroy you and builds into bitterness.
Hebrews 12:15 (ESV Strong's)
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
So forgiving anyone who has hurt you in the past, even yourself, is an important step in mastering the past.
3. GIVE JESUS YOUR BURDEN
The past has happened, the future is yet to happen, but God’s gift to you is today, that’s why it’s called the present… it is God’s gift to you to shape and use. While ever you carry the burdens and pain of the past you cannot live life to the full in the present.
Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV Strong's)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
You still have burdens as a Christian, but they are burdens you can carry easily. The past is not such a burden, and you were never designed to carry it alone. So cast your past on the Master. You need to master your past!
4. LET IT GO
It’s one thing to give your burden to the Lord, but it’s another to let it go. If Elsa can do it, so can you!
1 Peter 5:7 (ESV Strong's)
casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Casting in Greek is epiripto, which means to throw. If you throw something, you have to let it go, so when you give up your past with it’s hurts and sins and regrets, throw it onto the Lord and let it go!
- BE ON GUARD
We read 1 Peter 5:7 previously about casting your anxieties onto the Lord. The next verse is this…
1 Peter 5:8 (ESV Strong's)
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
The devil loves to throw your past up at you! You may have done things, sought forgiveness and thought them all said and done, but then the devil throws them back up into your face! You need to guard your heart! You need to master your past!
I met a lovely lady not too long ago who informed me that she had been my girlfriend when I was 17! If those indiscretions of the past come flooding back, and I had to deal with them head on. The devil loves to throw things long past and even long forgotten at us, and we must be on our guard!
6. PHONE A FRIEND
It has been said that confession is good for the soul, and sharing your past hurts, pain and even sins can help you master your past. Many times we are ashamed and try to do things alone, but there is great value in sharing honestly with a trusted friend or counsellor, or one of our pastoral care team.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (ESV Strong's)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Don’t be frightened to phone a friend. Don’t be fearful about sharing even the failures and hurts of your past, but choose your friend wisely. Make sure they are godly, mature and a person of integrity, who can keep their mouth shut. Sharing with a friend like that helps you master your past!
7. FOCUS ON JESUS AND HIS DESTINY FOR YOU
Matthew 14:28-30 (ESV Strong's)
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
Peter stepped out of the boat in faith, and kept his eyes on Jesus. But when he saw the wind and the waves, he started to sink. When you take you eyes off the Lord, when you focus on your troubles, your circumstances and yes, even your past, you start to sink!
So this final step involves you focusing on Jesus. And how do you do that? Reading His Word every day, coming to church, going to Connect group, praying, seeking Him. Anything like this helps you to focus on the Lord, and when you focus on Him you can start to master your past! Paul writes,
Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV Strong's)
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Don’t let the past control you. Forget what is behind, remember the lessons, but forget the past and focus on the Lord and His will for your life, press on toward life and life to the fullest. Don’t just wander after it, Paul says strain towards it, like an athlete striving for the finish line and the prize.
IT IS NOT TOO LATE
Some of you here are thinking, “This message is too late for me.” Whatever age you are, whatever past you’ve had, today is the day you master your past and step into your destiny! It is never too late to give it all to Jesus, and He has a a promise for you…
Joel 2:25 (ESV Strong's)
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
When you restore something, it is as good as new. When Rod restores a car, it’s as if the years of neglect never happened. Many of you have let the locusts of your past control you, and eat away everything things of value in and around your life. Today is the day that stops!
When we give the Lord our past, our hurts and pain, our sin and shame, our lost dreams and lost relationships, He promises that He will restore the years the locusts have eaten.
I’m going to pray and if you have failed to master your past, then pray with me and let’s give it all to the Master who can make your past past at last!