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Don’t Look Back

• Dan Kent

The Apostle Paul wrote that he does one thing: forget what is behind and press ahead to the goal to win the prize of God. In this sermon, Dan Kent explains what it means to forget the past and press on toward God. When we do this we find freedom and joy to move into God’s continuing new work.

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Dan Kent focuses his sermon on the statement the Apostle Paul made about the focus of his life. Paul stated in Philippians 3:13 that there is one thing he does, which he then explains as having two actions. The Greek word here identifies one action that has two parts. It’s a sailing term that describes the action of turning away from the wind so that one might head toward an intended destination.

The first part of this “one thing” is about forgetting the past. Dan explains that this means we are not to exalt the past, even though the world loves it. It’s easy to get stuck in nostalgia of the “good ol’ days,” where we live in the fond memories of the way things used to be.

But neither does it mean that we are to neglect the past. Paul is not saying that we don’t need to deal with what has occurred in our lives. For instance, there are things that have caused pain and we need to learn to grieve them so that we can let them go. We need to grieve in a healthy way and not hold on to that grief. This means that some situations call for specialized care, like therapy.

The point of dealing with our past is to move on so that we are not stuck. This is challenging because we have a love for what we know, the things that we have invested our lives in. This is illustrated by Lot’s wife, who upon leaving Sodom and Gomorra as it was being destroyed, looked back at the city and turned to salt. Her fondness for the things of her known life kept her from a future that God was offering. We need to remember that God is the living God who is not in the business of constructing museums.

In Philippians 3:8, Paul writes that he considers everything else as garbage, not of any worth, compared to what is to come. God wants us to have a ready heart that is always open for what he is bringing into our lives next. This requires two things.

First, we have to believe the story of Jesus. We can only let go of the past to the extent that we trust in God. If you don’t believe that Jesus will rescue you, then your memory of the past is all you have. If you don’t believe God will work your suffering into something incomparably good, then past joys will have to do. If you don’t believe God is doing something big in the world, you’ll be stuck contemplating what’s already been done.

Secondly, we must embrace the whole story of where it’s all going. God is redeeming all things and we have to fall in love with this God who has such an agenda. We must see him for who he is and how we are involved in it. We are citizens of heaven, not citizens of the ways of this world. This means we must set our eyes on such a dream that all can be changed because of the great God that we follow.

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Topics: Discipleship, Pain & Suffering

Downloads & Resources

Audio File
Study guide
Group Study Guide
The MuseCast: August 1

Focus Scripture:

  • Philippians 3:10-14

    I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

For Further Reading:

Don't Look Back by Christine Caine

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