January is the time most people choose to make New Year’s resolutions. It is a time to start new things and give up old things.
It isn’t necessary to wait until New Years to start over. Each day presents an opportunity to begin again. The key is being able to let go of the past and look to what the future can hold.
Paul said, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. 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” (Philippians 3:13-14 ESV).
Paul was a Pharisee, a Jew of high-ranking authority. He was a Roman citizen, and he had persecuted Christians. Paul could have spent his time feeling guilty for the things he had done. Instead, he wrote in this letter to the Christians at Philippi that he must put those things behind him. He even told them he must forget those things.
Guilt is a terrible feeling. When we examine our lives, we all find things that we would like to change or forget. Being human, it is often hard to do that. We seem to want to hang on to the past, revisiting every mistake, hurtful feeling, and indulge ourselves in self-pity.
Jesus once said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). If we want to be considered fit for God’s kingdom, we cannot look back.
Luke gives us a reminder of someone who serves as an example of looking back when he said, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). There is a serious lesson to be learned from Lot’s wife. She and her family had lived their lives in a city of corruption, one filled with all kinds of immorality. God gave her and her family a chance to escape, but the angels sent to help them had to physically remove them from the city. Their instruction was to not look back. Lot’s wife couldn’t resist the temptation to look back on her past life, and we know the results. She was turned to a pillar of salt.
The Hebrew writer says, “…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Letting go of things that weigh on our minds—our sins, our mistakes, our indiscretions, our guilt—will allow us to run the Christian race. Letting go will allow us to serve God in the most effective ways.
In addition to putting aside guilt, we must put aside our problems. Once again think about the apostle Paul. He enumerates to the Corinthians some of the problems he faced.
Paul said, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (II Corinthians 11:24-28).
I think we can all agree that our problems have not equaled those of Paul. He considered all of these things a joy to endure for the cause of Christ. Can we do any less?
We must also let go of people. I’m not talking about loved ones, but I am referring to those who want to change who we are.
Sometimes, when we are trying to follow Christ, there are those who put pressure on us to become like them, like the world. They may even be fellow Christians who want to live a double life—church on Sunday and in the world the rest of the week.
Paul told the Corinthians, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (Second Corinthians 5:17).
In Christ, we have a responsibility to Him. We belong to Him. We owe Him our allegiance. We should let go of the old man of sin and become a new creature, one who obeys His commandments.
Now that we have talked about letting go of the past, let’s look to the future. Remember that we, as Christians, can start new anytime. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:22-25).