Episode 1. Breaking with the Power of the Past
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We can’t change the past. But it’s amazing how many people are gripped by hurts and failures from the past. Jesus came to set us free – maybe it’s time for you to break with the power of the …
We can’t change the past. We may well want to, but we can’t and yet, it’s amazing how many people are gripped by hurts and failures from their past. Jesus came to set us free – maybe it’s time for you to break with the power of the past.
The bad things that happened to us in the past have an incredible ability to destroy our lives. As I just said – it’s a two-part destruction, because those past ruin our today’s and rob us of our tomorrows. So we can’t enjoy today … and we can’t look forward to tomorrow. Do you see the tragedy of that?
And the past is a funny thing, because it’s actually gone. We can never turn back time. We can never change what’s been done. We can never unsay something that we regret having said, or undo something we regret having done … so in one sense we have no control over the past. But here’s the scary thing – the things of the past end up controlling so many people. Stand back from that, think about that for a moment, and it just doesn’t make any sense that something that’s gone, something that can’t be redone or undone, should have such a devastating effect.
But you see it over and over again in peoples’ lives. The mistakes our parents made can end up being imprinted on our characters. The abuse that some people have suffered, the rejection, the hurts, the ridicule … all those things can limit us by stunting our growth. And try we will, too often we just can’t shake them off and so … they end up ruining our today’s and robbing us of our tomorrows.
Fortunately though, God has a plan, God wants us to be the person he meant us to be and HE wants us to live the lives that He always planned for us to live.
We’re talking this week on the program about Discovering Your Destiny. Hmm – it’s easy to react by saying … “Well, yeah but what does that mean? I look at my life and any notion that there might be a God out there who wants to bless me and set me free and give me a great life – no, that’s crazy! That’s just no possible.”
I’ve often shared my own stories on the program because I’m not speaking here out of some dry text book, I’m speaking out of a transformed life. I am being the me I was meant to be. I am living the life I was always meant to be living. But you know, it wasn’t always like that.
Anyway, today I’d like to share someone else’s story, a woman who was caught in adultery with a man, a man who wasn’t her husband – at a time when that sort of thing carried some incredibly severe penalties in 1st century Israel. We fine her story in John’s Gospel, Chapter 8 if you’d like to have a read later. Here’s what it says:
Jesus went up to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts; where all the people gathered around him and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees brought up a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses commands us to stone such a woman to death, now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus; Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away, one at a time, the older ones first until only Jesus was left with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one stayed to condemn you?” “No one sir.” She answered, “Then neither do I condemn you.” Jesus declared, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This is one of the most powerful stories in the New Testament for me because Jesus is literally putting himself between this woman and the angry mob. They were doing this to trap Jesus because Roman law and Jewish law were in conflict. Jewish law said you should stone a woman to death. Roman law said you can only kill someone if the Roman Governor said you could. So whichever way Jesus answered, they thought they had him. If he answered, “Don’t stone her,” he was disobeying Moses’ Law, the Jewish law and if he said, “Do stone her,” then he was disobeying Roman law.
Let’s put ourselves for a moment in the woman’s shoes. Adultery is a bit of an old-fashioned word these days; people seem to do as they please. Affairs are common, almost acceptable, but they still tear marriages apart, they still tear people’s lives apart, they still cause untold pain.
So here’s this woman, caught in the deed, but where’s the man? Who knows? She was just the one who the religious leaders were trying to trap and accuse Jesus. And there must have been incredibly deep shame because this was in the first century, this was in a society where you got stoned to death for doing something like this. She knew she’d done wrong; so here she was in front of an angry mob, with something from her past that was certainly ruining her today and could well have robbed her of all her tomorrows. Stonings have a way of doing that I guess.
But the bit … the bit that I want you to notice here is Jesus’ reaction. He makes the point that we all have things in the past like that – every person in that crowd had them, and each one of us today still have them. That immediately took away their right to accuse her – one by one the angry mob disperses until it’s just the woman … and Jesus. And then he sets about giving her back her life. It’s as though with one fell swoop He saves her, He forgives her and He gives her not only her today back, but her whole future back.
Friend we all … all of us … have things in our past that could take away our happiness for today and our hope for tomorrow, but the past is the past. It’s gone. And whatever hurts you’re carrying around with you – are as painful to you as the stones in the hands of the angry mob would have been to that woman.
It’s time to let them go. It’s time to lay them down. It’s time to live for today and look forward to tomorrow.
This seems like an absolutely impossible situation – this terrible position that this woman found herself in – through her own actions on this occasion. It would have seemed completely impossible to her, but right in the middle of her impossible, is God’s very own “everything is possible” – His name is Jesus. Jesus is setting her free to go and be the person she was meant to be, and live out the life she was meant to live.
In our lives sometimes, the things of the past seem absolutely impossible to resolve. And people will come and condemn us and criticise us and the devil will come sit on our shoulders and condemn us and say, “See, you’re not good enough to be a Christian, you’re not good enough to believe in Jesus, you’re not good enough for this, that and the other.”
We know the failures of our past and somehow they can grip us like an angry mob and we can think of God as a god of judgement and He is. But Jesus ended up going to the cross for her and for you and for me and he stands up and says, “You know something, I want to set you free from your past so that you can go on and be the person I meant you to be.” 2 Cor 5:17 says this:
If anyone is in Christ Jesus they are a new creation. Old things have passed away and behold all things are new.
On the cross of Christ the demands of God’s justice were met and that’s why Jesus Christ can come into your life and into my life and say, “You are set free from the power of the past.” He handcrafted you and me to be a person whom he meant to be, everything we are he planned before time began and so when our past comes along to condemn us, when the chains of our past want to lock up our hearts, Jesus comes and puts himself on that cross to set you and me free from the power of the past. Do you believe in Jesus? Then you are a new creation, the old things have passed away and behold all things are new.