Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean! – Micah 7: 19 (NLT) We raise our hands on Sundays across this country and sing about such Christian concepts as freedom yet so often we miss the mark in our own lives. There is always a big difference between singing about how things are supposed to be and living how things are supposed to be. The abstract is always easier for us. But Jesus said that He came that we might have life more abundantly, now. I am afraid sometimes that Christians think eternal life is something waiting for them after they die. Will heaven be better than this existence? Absolutely, but that does not mean we are relegated to a menial or miserable life until Jesus comes. We are supposed to be more than conquerors. We are supposed to be over-comers. We are supposed to walk above the storms of our life. Yet so often we remained shackled in this life. Iron restraints around our ankles, preventing us from enjoying the freedom Christ died to appropriate for us. One of the shackles the devil likes to convince us to use is our past. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2Corinthians 5: 17 (NIV) We hear this verse all the time but do we truly live it? Are we the new creation God has called us to be? Has the old really gone? Or do we cling to the old? Do we walk up to the altar at every prayer meeting begging for God to take it from us only to clamp the cold iron around our ankle and hobble back to our pew? In the key verses from the Prophet Micah we see a reminder of the limitless grace of the God we serve. A God whose compassion is not fleeting or capricious like ours. A God who not only forgives our sins but tramples them! A God who then takes the sins of our past and throws them into the depths of the ocean! But we have too many fishing Christians. Too many Christians who love to sit by the ocean of their past and cast their rod into the depths. See what is biting today. I guarantee you that if we go fishing for trouble, we will always catch it. If we go fishing in our past, the fish will always be biting. That is because the enemy loves nothing more than to make us ineffectual for the work God has for us to do today and we cannot concentrate on today if we are living in yesterday. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3: 13-14 (NIV) If anyone had some past sins to dwell on, it was the Apostle Paul. He once presided over the deaths of Christians, including Stephen, the first martyr. He persecuted the church. He was a sworn enemy of Jesus until Christ visited him on that Damascus Road. What is he teaching us here though? Our direction should always be towards heaven. Upward – not backwards. There is a prize awaiting us! We have to press on and actually strain towards what lies ahead. Why? I think that our natural inclination is to wallow sometimes. I think our human nature is like Lot’s wife – looking backwards instead of towards what lies ahead. I think the devil is constantly trying to drag our focus backwards. Accusing us with the weapons he finds in our past. In order to not live in the past we must actively strain towards what God has waiting for us. Realized beloved that this is not an exercise in forgetting our past: For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. – 1Corinthians 15: 9-10 (NIV) Paul remembers what his past was. He remembers his former life and the sins it entailed. But he does not use it to shackle himself but rather – to glorify God! This is the true message of grace. The sins of our past should be remembered only to bring glory to God for His great mercy and grace. There would be far less arrogance and pride in modern Christianity if we would simply remember where God found us. But for the grace of God go I. The precious blood of Jesus Christ shed on Calvary’s cross covers and purifies us from the sins in our past. So we need to put down the fishing pole today. God did not cast your sins of yesterday into the ocean so you could go dig them back up again. The Bible says we should not walk under any condemnation. When the devil reminds you about your past – you need to remind him of his future! When the devil tries to throw something in my face from my past – my response is always how great is the God I serve that He was able to cover that sin and no longer hold me guilty of it! But preacher, you don’t know my past…I do not have to! Could it be worse than the Apostle Paul? We look at the characters in the Bible sometimes as abstract veggie-tale figures. These were real people and God used them. God took his number one human enemy in Saul of Tarsus and transformed him into Paul, who would go onto evangelize the entire known world and write three quarters of the New Testament! Saul could not become Paul however if he lived in his sinful guilt ridden past. He could only become Paul by straining towards the future. The same goes for us today as well. Wherever this writing finds you – if you continue to be haunted by your past then you need to embrace these truths today and take those shackles off your feet. Put your fishing pole down. If God is not going to hold it against you – why are you? Forgiveness is quite often the most difficult when dealing with forgiving ourselves. There is absolutely NOTHING we can do about what has past; other than learn from it. God has a future for you to press on to; if you would just come out of your past and strain towards God. No more fishing beloved. Rev. Anthony.