What Grievous acts are in your past? What has convinced you that you must be defined by your past forever?
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past."
When facing the reality of a turbulent and not-so-pretty-looking past it's easy as Christians to do one of two things. First, push our past into the deepest and smallest crevice of our lives as possible and “forget” about it or second, we convince ourselves that this past defines who we will forever be and remain trapped by the sin that Jesus has already set us free from.
Neither of these tactics is beneficial and both leave us far from the amazing blessings God has in store. This week we will be delving into the latter of those two approaches. You see, it's time that Christian women start to understand and proclaim that Their Past Has Developed Them, but It Will Not Define Them!
I have found over the years that Paul is an excellent example of how to live that statement. Paul was a man who defied and condemned Christianity. He was a man who persecuted Christ, but went on to develop a testimony that is a large part of why you and I can know Jesus now.
Today we will be looking at Paul’s past, we will be delving into his sin-filled life style, and we will be comparing his past to our own. Let’s start with today's verses: Read Acts 8:1-3 and 9:3-6.
Our first set of verses tells us how Paul approved of the stoning of Stephen. Stephen was a man of the Lord who provided his accusers with a beautiful account of God’s plan. He was a man who was already seeing the gates of Heaven opened for him before he ever took his last breath. The horror doesn’t stop there though. As we read on, we get the sense that Stephen was not Paul’s first victim of persecution and he wouldn’t be the last. He committed men and women to prison often and with the example of Stephen’s persecution I’m sure we can draw some conclusions as to what that meant for each of them.
Our second set of verses allows us to hear the words of Jesus to Paul. He plainly asks Paul (then known as Saul), “Why are you persecuting me?” I don’t know about you, but I have not personally been the cause of death for people who believed in Christ. I also have never been so horribly buried in my sin that Jesus, Himself, would need to appear to me in a blinding light and ask me why I am persecuting Him. Sure I have made some hefty mistakes. My life’s history does not look like a pretty Christian package, tied up with ribbon, but it also doesn’t seem anywhere near as grim as the past that Paul created for himself.
My question for you today is, what grievous things are in your past? What are you holding onto that has convinced you that you must forever be defined as who you were in your past? If Paul could go on to grasp the "developed by" vs "defined by" concept while toting the past that he had then so too should we be able to change the perspective we hold of our own stories.
Dear Jesus, open our hearts to his beautiful and God-given concept that we are not defined by our past. Help us to see that our past is no longer our identity as that can all come from you now. Guide us in discerning the difference between using our past to tell your story and allowing our past to control us. We ask all of this in your precious name Jesus, Amen.
Time to dig in! Below you will find the scripture overview, Study Guide and memory verse cards for this week.
This devotional written by Lindsey.
Focus on this today: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past."