CHRISTMAS GETS SCANNED OUT – AND THE NEW IS READY FOR YOU
Several years ago I came home from Christmas vacation; it was already two weeks into the new year and my Christmas cards and envelopes were still sitting on my drawing table. It was too late to send them out and I was feeling guilty. The guilt began to gnaw on me, then a scripture came to mind and I latched onto it: “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3:13). Previously, I thought that this verse only meant reaching forth to the future, but no. It’s also reaching forth to the thing that is before us right now. What are we going to do right now, in the next few minutes of our future?
There’s a popular Latin phrase that I’ve seen on cups and t-shirts, “Carpe Diem,” and it means “seize the day.” I really like that. The Lord has enough for us to think about and do in this very day that there’s really not much time to dwell on the past, or procrastinate about the future. We need to put our attention on the Lord and get busy thinking about and doing what is the best thing for the day we have in front of us. As Matthew put it: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now” (Matt. 6:34 MSG).
The same week that I was feeling guilty about the unsent Christmas cards, I happened to go shopping looking for discounted Christmas decorations and wrapping paper. I went up to one of the sales girls, asking: “Where is your after-Christmas sale stuff?” She answered, “Gee, I think Christmas has been scanned out.” I realized that’s what I needed to do with my guilt about those cards.
Fortunately for us, God wants us to scan out our past mistakes. We’re not supposed to carry any guilt around with us. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). We aren’t supposed to be carrying guilt around or be burdened by self-deprecation. Paul writes to the church at Corinth:
“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that is judging me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:2-4).
When I study the Bible, I’m usually looking at the King James Version. But if there’s something a little confusing, I’ll check out other translations. For the preceding scripture in Corinthians, the NIV gave more clarity:
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:2-4 NIV).
That is really a great truth. We do our best to walk by the Spirit and do the right things before God, but that doesn’t mean that we are always innocent. We may be acting in error and not even know it. The important thing to God is that our hearts are right. “The Lord sees not as man sees; for man is looking on the outward appearance, but the Lord is looking on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). That’s a great comfort and gives us reason to get our hearts straight and follow up with our actions as well.
Luke 15 gives us a wonderful analogy of God’s fatherly love and forgiveness to us. [The wayward son speaking]:
“I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father.
“But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry” (Luke 15:18-24).
Notice that the father didn’t pay any attention to the son’s telling him about his guilt. The father was just so elated to start again, that the son was forced to totally scan out the past and get started new. The first thing they did was have a party.
Jesus gave the commandment to love God above all, and to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). Have you ever thought about the fact that if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we have to love ourselves first? If we think about forgiving others, but we haven’t forgiven ourselves, then we’ve got it turned around backwards.
The beginning of a new year seems like a good time to take a quick look at the past year, admit our errors, ask forgiveness of God, forgive ourselves, and move ahead. Hebrews 11 gives us many examples of people from the Bible who were just like us, endeavoring to live a good life for God. They went through hard times, they made mistakes too, but they didn’t get burdened down by guilt. Even murderers like David and Paul were able to drop the guilt. They scanned out the past and moved forward into the grace of God:
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2)
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6.)
I love the way The Message translates what Paul said to the Philippians:
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.
“So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it” (Phil. 3:12-16 MSG).
QUESTIONS FOR PONDERING
- Do you take a few minutes first thing in the morning to give your entire attention to the Lord? How do you do this? What do you say? What does He say back?
- Can you think of a small way you might have a party or celebration over leaving guilt behind?
- What have you done recently to show love to yourself?
This was a revised version of a chapter from my first book, WINGS: A JOURNEY IN FAITH. Available on Amazon as an e-book or in paperback. Also portions available as a free pdf file firstname.lastname@example.org .