CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Spiritual Maturity and Past Shames
By Lesley Mitchell
When we first come to Christ, God forgives all of our sins — past, present, and future — in an instant. Accepting God's grace can bring overwhelming feelings of joy and thankfulness. And often, when we look back in time, our minds selectively recall the good parts and conveniently overlook the painful or difficult parts. As we grow up and distance ourselves from the past, and come to terms with our present reality, we mature and our thinking changes in the light of our responsibilities. Sometimes the Holy Spirit teaches us the depth of our past sins and the harm they caused others. Sometimes the enemy brings up old sins and hurts to shame us. Part of spiritual growth is knowing how to respond to these feelings.
First Corinthians 13:11 explains that when we are children we speak and understand as children do, but then we become adults and change. Paul is talking about spiritual matters, but the comparison is a good one. In our spiritual life, we start out as babies and grow to maturity as we feed on the word of God. During this process we forget the way we used to be (worldly, perhaps even without God) and instead of clinging onto the past, we strive (with God's grace) to reach forward to the prize ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). We undergo a process of transformation by the renewing of our mind where the old, sinful self is "put to death" and we are renewed in Christ. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
This process is not without trials, setbacks and difficulties. The adversary will do everything in his power to prevent us from maturing as Christians and will throw obstacles in our way. He will spot a chink in our spiritual armour and get to work on whatever weakness we have. But God has provided us with everything we need to prevail:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5Isn't that wonderful? We can take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. In other words, we hand it over and confess our need for God's help to overcome. What's more, God will never allow us to be tempted to sin beyond what we can bear. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Do you believe that promise? Whenever we are being troubled by memories from our past, it is likely there are unresolved issues — perhaps pain and regret — that need to be taken to the foot of the cross. Jesus knows all about broken hearts. Yet, in spite of our faults and failings, we are loved with an everlasting love.
Unburden yourself before him and allow him to take care of whatever memories are troubling you. Trust him to make you whole again. If we truly repent, he will enable us to overcome. We cannot do this in our own strength — we need divine help and guidance. Here is some sound advice we can all benefit from: "All a man's ways [or a woman's ways] seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed" (Proverbs 16:2-3). I heartily recommend you read Psalm chapter 119 which is uplifting and encouraging, especially verse 11 where the Psalmist says "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." Continue to feed on the word of God as you grow in spiritual maturity.
P.S. After I became a Christian, I needed help to overcome depression and things from my past that were holding me back. I received professional counselling from a Christian who was also an Elder in my church. She helped me to see that the pain of my divorce was not one-sided, and when I realised the enormity of the pain I had caused my former husband I broke down and wept. I felt genuine remorse and the need for repentance. It was a real breakthrough because the Lord dealt with my pain and healed me.
Another practical way to overcome is to ask mature Christians to pray for you — the more the better! You don't even need to be specific, you just need to ask for prayer support and it will be forthcoming. Don't allow feelings of guilt to drag you down — get this into the open and share the burden with those who love you. You know who they are — your spouse, your Christian brothers and sisters and, above all else, God. My prayer for you is from Philippians 4:8-9:
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Finally, may I suggest you read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 to encourage you.
Image credit: "Guilt" by Hartwig HKD; Creative Commons
Tags: Christian-Life | Depression | Hardships | Personal-Life | Sin-Evil
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Published on 6-25-14