Don’t Look Back

The disciples literally and figuratively ran for cover Thursday night after Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane. But by Sunday they were back together, perhaps in the same room where they had eaten the Passover meal with Jesus less than seventy-two hours earlier.

When Jesus came to them He did not speak even one word of condemnation or blame. He returned to them, not in a spirit of disappointment or criticism, but in a spirit of love. He did not remind them of the past with words of “Why didn’t you…?” Instead, He directed them toward the future with thoughts of “From now on you must…”

Jesus knew only a little time would pass between the resurrection and the ascension. There was too much teaching that needed to be done for him to spend time rehashing their mistakes. He wanted to concentrate his time on preparations for spreading the gospel.

Gethsemane was a defeat in the past. They had to move beyond it.

The resurrection was a victory in the present. They could celebrate it, but not linger there.

Pentecost was a gift in the future. They needed to be prepared for it.

We are Christ’s disciples, and the Holy Spirit comes to us with much the same message. Our mistakes and sins of the past have been forgiven and forgotten by a merciful God. Yes, Satan defeated us in some of the old spiritual battles, but we must forget them.

God has accepted us into his family and established a permanent, personal love relationship with each of us. That is a glorious victory. We can celebrate it every morning and remember it every evening with amazement and gratitude. But we must not remain immobile and inactive in the warm comfort zone of his love.

We are called to leave the victory celebration and tell people  in the alleys and streets that God loves them. Each of us is to have our own personal Pentecost where the Holy Spirit fills us and activates us to tell the Good News.

When Jesus returned to heaven the angel said to the disciples “Why are you men from Galilee standing here and looking up into the sky?” (Acts 1:11 CEV) They were being told to move on in their walk of loyalty and devotion to Jesus.

We are called to do the same. We cannot look back in guilt and doubt to the mistakes of the past. Nor must we spend too much time looking in joy and gratitude to the mountain-top experiences of days gone by.

We are to look forward to the Holy Spirit’s leadership as we “go, and teach all nations.” (Matthew 18:19)

The guilt of our sins is in the past. It is forgiven.

Our salvation is in the present. We can celebrate it.

Our service is in the future. What will we do for Jesus?

The Part Of Me I Withhold From God

As God’s children we give Him many things. We give him our intellect as we study his Word and memorize passages of it. We read theological literature and get exposed to the thoughts of religious leaders of the past. We allow Him to shape our minds.

We give Him our money. We tithe, donate to mission offerings, support building programs and contribute to programs that support the homeless and unfortunate of our society. He has access to our money.

We gladly allow Him a reasonable amount of our time. We attend Sunday School and worship services each Sunday. We go to choir practice and prayer breakfasts and home Bible-study groups. God is allowed to guide us during large chunks of our time.

We make our physical strength and abilities available to Him. We spend two Saturdays a year helping out at “Repair and cleanup” day at our church. We help neighbors with yard work and other chores when necessary. We help rebuild homes and churches in hard-hit areas after weather disasters. God can use our hands and feet.

But a part of us that we tend to withhold from Him is our attitude. We balk at allowing Him to control, and maybe change, our feelings and reactions toward church staff, family members, people of other races, those in certain economic levels and members of various political parties or religious groups.

In Mark 2:22 Jesus taught the futility of putting new wine in old wineskins. It may be that our attitudes are the old skins of our day and the new wine is further revelations of Himself that the Holy Spirit cannot show us because of our mental rigidity.

Inflexible attitudes cause us to whine when God expects us to shine. Which of our attitudes are we refusing to yield to Him?

Specific Repentance

Many people believe (and I agree) that when we pray for God to bless others, our requests are more likely to be granted if we pray for specific blessings. Rather than “Father, bless Johnny today” we should pray “Father, help Johnny pass his math test and behave in the lunch room and remember to bring home his dirty sweat socks and feed the cat after school.”

The same principle holds true when we pray for forgiveness for ourselves. Instead of “Dear Father, forgive me for all of my sins today” we should pray “Dear Father, forgive me for snapping at my kids and for the name I called the driver of that black pick up and for criticizing my boss and for laughing at that crude joke I heard during the coffee break at work.”

Specific sins call for specific confession and repentance.

But what if no specific sins come to mind while we are praying? Then our prayers should be “Dear Father, show me the exact ways I disappointed you today. Make me aware of them so I can confess and repent. Give me the wisdom and strength to resist them tomorrow.”

Such prayers will no doubt prolong our prayer times. When we linger and allow the Holy Spirit to be bring specific sins to mind we are more likely to achieve intimacy with our God, which is the main purpose of prayer.