When I look back, when any of us look back on our lives, we see things that we aren’t proud of. Depending on what kind of life you’ve had, depends to what extent this shame extends and is also dependant on where you are today.
When we come to know Jesus our sins are forgiven, our past is forgiven, we become a new creation no longer subject to sin. Those sins are not just forgiven but forgotten, which means we don’t have to look back, we live in each day knowing that the Lord resides within our heart. The slate is wiped clean.
There are theological arguments, complicated law filled discussion on what happens next. Can we sin again and again the same sins but ask for forgiveness and it is all forgotten again? If we are not sinning as before why do we call ourselves unworthy and sinners? At that moment of being saved is our place marked in heaven regardless of what we then do i.e. sin more with or without forgiveness? Are the places in heaven preordained so it doesn’t matter if we sin or don’t because we might or might not have a ticket for the bus?
I have read all these arguments and lived as a new creation for a while and without asking for spiritual guidance from earth people this is what I think. We can’t earn our way to heaven,
not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:9
so the reasons for doing “good works” as opposed to not good works is to glorify God’s name, to proclaim the good news not just by words but by our actions. People, non believers and lapsed believers have to see in us a difference, a difference that is palpable, a difference that they want to have themselves, so we need to lose the legalise that stifle our churches. I went to a bible study a few years back in my local church one morning and rather than being welcomed I was made feel like I had stepped into an elite club. I was reminded of this last week.
When I asked for my sins, named one by one to be forgiven, I left those sins behind, I would never again visit with them, or invite them into my home. I quickly discovered that the devil found new ones for me to try, I resisted most of them but gave in to a couple which I then stopped and asked forgiveness for. The devil keeps coming up with new ones and bringing the old ones to my front door and each day it is a struggle to keep right, a joyful struggle, but a struggle to keep from them, to stay in relationship with my God.
My place in heaven, well to begin with, I thought that I was happy (joyful) living each day and then when the Day of Judgement arrives I will see if I get through the narrow gate. I have since understood that because I am God’s new creation I am assured of eternal life.
With the assurance though, can’t I do the sin thing. No, not because of a whole pile of legalese but because I don’t want to. Your house would you vandalise it? Would you vandalise the house of your favourite relative. The answer is no, likewise, with the Lord resident in our hearts we won’t vandalise that heart by sinning, by hardening that heart, our heart, my heart.
So I live each day by trying to not sin, failing but I learn from each failure. Today I had a moment of shame from my past, a particularly odd sin for someone like me but one that burns deep with shame. I would truly like to “sterilise” that part of my life, pretend like it never was part of my life.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5
What I have discovered is that I can’t airbrush the past, but it doesn’t matter, in fact the opposite, the past I had made the new creation even more spectacularly amazing and life changing and I discovered that the fruits of the Spirit are given freely so that it is not a struggle to have these attributes, it is easy to be gentle, faithful, be full of joy, peace and love, to show forbearance, kindness and goodness. So those “good works” they aren’t a chore they are just something further that can praise God, worship God and glorify his name, he whose name is love, grace and mercy.