Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
As a child, I lived near the county jail. Many times, I peered out our window to watch prisoners in chains led up the street to the courthouse. Dressed in orange jumpsuits, wearing handcuffs and leg irons. The shackles on their feet forced them to take short, baby steps. This method of walking is the convict shuffle.
Now I am an adult and I see prisoners walking in chains on their way to church. Christians who have been set free from the prison bars of sin yet continue to wear the orange suit and the chains. Refusing to cut the iron from their ankles and wrists, they dance the convict shuffle daily.
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he spent little time talking about his past. He shared both impressive credentials and horrid regrets. And then he quickly addressed the importance of not looking back. He declared that he would stay focused on the goal, the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
How do we take the shackles off our feet?
- Cut the chains of Past Mistakes and Failures
In his past life, Paul AKA Saul was a persecutor of Christians. He committed his time, talent, and finances hunting and persecuting believers of Jesus the Christ. Until the day he was knocked off his beast on Damascus road and his passion took a detour. From the persecutor to the pursuer. Saul was transformed into Paul the greatest missionary that ever walked the earth.
Paul traded being an instrument of suffering for being a light leading others to salvation.
I could make a list as long as I am tall of the ways I have brought shame on the name of Christ. I have done things that were against his will and, I have failed to do some things he has commanded me to do.
We all fall down. As long as we wear this carnal body, we will mess up. The problem is not in falling, the problem is in lying there, in the puddle of our wrongdoings.
For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief. Proverbs 24:16
Get up out of the muck and mire of your sins and transgressions. God’s mercy will reach down and lift you up. Do not get stuck on Sin Avenue. Your sins have been forgiven. God doesn’t remember them anymore.
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds[a] I will remember no more. Hebrews 8:12 NKJV
- Break the bondage of Past Hurts
The scripture teaches that we are only here for a few days and trouble comes. (Job 14:1) Trouble often comes in the form of hurt. We have been wounded, mistreated, talked about, injured and abused. Hurt shows its ugly face in every relationship. I’ve been hurt by family. Hurt has been served on a plate in my place of employment. And unbelievable, hurt has met me at the church door.
All roads lead through hurt. There is a Y at the end of the road, one way leads to forgiveness but the other to a toxic lake of bitterness and its offspring. We must choose to forgive. Otherwise, we choose to walk with a limb burdened down with the residual of pain and suffering.
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32
Choosing to hold on to our past mistakes and hurts is debilitating. It hinders our progress. It’s hard to move forward while looking back. You stumble and fall. When you look forward to what can be your path becomes clear, your steps become broader and before you know it, you have reached your destination.
The choice is yours. Slavery or Freedom?
I choose to be free!
In the words of that old negro spiritual, “And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave. And go home to my Lord and be free.
Oh, freedom over me!
And before I’d be a slave
I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free.