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“What do I have to say to these dear people? God what can I say to them tonight about how to live free from their past?”
These thoughts were running over and over in my mind, as I was driving to a speaking engagement.
My family and I were living in Portland, Oregon. An addiction recovery center had asked me to come speak to the residents and staff. The residents were men and women forty years old and younger, many of them from the inner-city.
Some were from the upper-middle class. All of them had been addicted to narcotics, prescription drugs or alcohol for a long time.
What did I have to say to them?
I have never used narcotics and only drank alcohol three times in my life. I learned to hate alcohol in junior high and high school by watching what it did to my family.
How to live free from your past
Half way to my destination, a phrase began running through my mind. “Your past or your present circumstances do not have to determine your future or your identity.”
Over and over the words coursed through my mind.
“Your past or your present circumstances do not have to determine your future or your identity.”
As I continued the forty minute drive to the recovery center, with those words percolating in my mind, I knew Heavenly Father had given me words of hope for those dear people. They did not have to live in the prison of addiction one more day.
They could begin living in “newness of life” with a future filled with hope.
A Jesus encounter
One day Jesus took a trip north from Jerusalem and stopped to rest by a well just outside the city of Sychar. The well was known as “Jacob’s Well” because it was located on a plot of ground owned by Jacob and given to his son Joseph.
While His disciples went into the city to buy lunch, Jesus rested beside the well.
While enjoying His rest, Jesus had an amazing encounter with a woman. She had been married and divorced five times and now was living with a man.
Jesus’ words to her, confronting her sin, were full of hope for a new and victorious life. The woman was so transformed she went back into the city and invited everyone to come hear a man who had given her new life.
On another occasion, Jesus took a trip by boat from the north shore of the Galilee to the east bank. As He came ashore, He was met by a man so demonized life was totally out of control.
He lived homeless in a graveyard and was out of his mind most of the time. Jesus cast the demons out. The man was restored to a healthy mind and a healthy life.
With his life so completely turned around, the delivered man told everyone what Jesus had done for him.
A message of hope
The Apostle Paul asked an important question in the Book of Romans chapter six verse one. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”
It is a rhetorical question that may go something like this.
“As a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, should I continue living controlled by fear; should I continue living depressed; should I continue abusing the family with my temper; should I continue secretly viewing pornography; should I continue controlling my mate with jealousy; should I continue over-eating; should I continue over-spending; should I continue living with resentment and bitterness?”
The Apostle’s question is reflective of the secret thoughts for many of the disciple of Jesus Christ. “I have received Jesus into my heart, why do I keep doing the same old thing?”
Many believers fight for victorious living, wrestling with habits and wrong attitudes; fighting with condemnation from previous failures or memories of past abuse.
They believe Jesus Christ is exactly who He says.
They believe He died on the cross and rose from the dead.
Yet, they question if they can live the Christian life; or at the very least, if they can live it victoriously.
The Apostle Paul’s answer his to own question, while astounding and adamant, declares amazing hope for everyone. “God forbid!” One translation says, “May it never be!”
Jesus does not transform someone’s life only to leave them a prisoner to past failure and sinful habits.
Jesus saves a person to set them free. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free: (Galatians 5:1).
You do not have to live your life as a victim.
You can live victorious in “newness of life.”
“Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so you also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
Life’s experiences can leave you in a prison of failure
But, when a person walks through seasons of mistakes or failures, or their life has been shattered by a season of continual abuse, it is easy to begin feeling like a failure.
Their past or present circumstances can begin defining their identity and their future by their own reasoning. Those negative thoughts begin directing their behavior and impeding their spiritual growth.
It is critical for a disciple of Jesus Christ to fully grasp failure is an experience not an identity. You do not have to live in the rubble of past mistakes or failures. You can fully embrace newness of life by the power of Jesus Christ.
Life is difficult at best.Most of us have lived long enough to realize it is never fair.
When people we trust abandon us or become abusive, life can be very disillusioning.
When our peers become mocking, marginalize us, or make fun of us the wounds go very deep.
When physical defects, physical limitations or birth circumstances are not accepted, the individual struggles with their self-image and self-acceptance.
The inner conflict caused by any one of these experiences may last a life time leaving the person void of self-worth and living in a prison of self-rejection, insecurity and brokenness.
You need to clearly and with certainty, God did not do this to you. God does not make one person less than others around them. It is the enemy of mankind that steals, kills and destroys a human life. Sinful human beings filled with lustful passions, greedy desires and selfish motives caused these deep wounds.
Jesus Christ has made every provision for a broken life to be healed and to live as a whole new creation.
There are times when a person builds the walls of their own prison.
When they choose to participate in things they know they should not be doing, the consequences can be devastating. Stubborn and rebellious behavior can break us emotionally and lock us behind prison walls of addictions and even send us to a literal prison.
Many times the blame is laid at the feet of someone else for our condition. The truth is we are prisoners of our own making. Choices we have made. Decisions made out of stubbornness or rebellion.
You don’t have to live in that prison of failure for a lifetime
Even though of their own making, a person does not have to live in those broken emotions or stay in that prison of addiction!
God has made provision for every person to be delivered.
Past or present circumstances do not have to determine their future or identity. There is a way for the old things to be removed and for all things to become new.
There is a way for everything they have done in their past to be buried never to live again and never to be held against them! They do not have to live in their past one more day.
No matter what has happened in their childhood or when they were a teenager. Regardless of the choices made as an adult. That does not have to be their identity.
It is a past experience.
When a person has been born again, Jesus makes them a new creation. They can begin living in “newness of life.” They can live the extraordinary life! They are victorious over the past.
They are “more than a conqueror” in Jesus Christ.
The point is you can choose to live everyday as a victor not as a victim!
The power of that choice is not based upon mere words someone has taught you or that you have memorized out of a self-help book.
It is not based upon some religious form or a formula you learned at a Christian seminar.
The power to live as a victor and not a victim comes from the all sufficient completed work of Jesus Christ and your choice to live out of the life His is giving you by the power of the Holy Spirit, every day.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:31-27 NKJV).