Pleasing God, Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

The devil and Our Past

PHILIPPIANS 3:12-14 – Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

THEME OF THE DAY. THE DEVIL AND OUR PAST. There are so many tactics and methods the devil uses to attack Christians. The Apostle Paul tells us his ways are many and masterful. He writes to the Corinthian believers, “we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11). He would also remind us our spiritual enemy is organized and crafty – Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:10-12). It would serve us well to heed the advice of the 18th century Puritan pastor Thomas Brooks. He said, “Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched.”

In the daily battles against the devil, one of his most effective tactics, and perhaps the one doing the most damage in sensitive Christians, is getting us to dwell on our past. Who has not found themselves “beat up” over the accusations to conscience of the many times we have failed the Lord Jesus? Who has not felt the pressure from the evil one whispering, “What a failure you have been. Look at your past. Look at those times of willful sinning. Look at how you brought shame to Jesus by your attitude, action, and speech. God cannot use you. In fact, how could He even forgive you?”

The devil wants the Christian to live in the past; past failings, past sins, past reproaches, past events or situations when we failed the Lord. If he can get the Christian to dwell on themselves in the past, and not the God of all mercy who forgives the past, there will be no joy-filled living in the present which means no fruit-bearing life in the present.

So, what do we do when in the heat of the battle and the devil accuses us of a failed past? Two things. First, don’t argue with him. Why? Though he is the father of lies, when he accuses us of failing the Lord, he speaks truth. We did. We do. Simply agree with him. Martin Luther once said to the devil and his accusations, “What is it you? After all, I did not sin against you, but against my God. I am not your sinner, so what right do you have over me? Therefore if I have sinned, and what you are accusing me of is truly sin, then I have sinned against the God who is merciful and patient. I have not sinned against you, but against God alone. But God is not a devil. He is not a devourer or a carnivore, as you are. He is merciful to sinners, perfect and incorruptible, faithful and righteous. Against such a God have I sinned. I have not sinned against a tyrant or a murderer. Therefore as a tyrant and a murderer you have no right over me. God has the right, who is kind and merciful and who therefore forgives the sin of those who confess.”

That leads to the second thing to do when the devil wants to rake us across the coals of a failed past. Praise and thank God for the blood of Christ and forgiveness in Him. Every time our failed past is brought up, stop and pray – “Father, thank you for loving me, providing for my forgiveness in your Son, and cleansing me from all my sins – past, present and future.” The devil cannot stay in the presence of a worshipping, forgiven child of God. Use the power of praise to defeat this slanderer of our souls.

PRAYER: “Father, help me to see all of my life – past, present, and future – through the lens of sovereign grace and love”

QUOTE: “Let the past only be viewed as forgiven and not remembered by the Lord of glory.”