Reflections of times past
The other day my sister and I were having a discussion about a family trip taken several years ago. She remembered the trip as one of the best trips ever, but I did not remember it quite so fondly. As we were going back and forth about what she thought was right about the trip and what I thought was wrong with it, she exclaimed, "Well, according to you, our whole childhood was miserable." That's not a direct quote, but she said something along those lines.
Her comment got me to reflecting on why is it that my memories of the past are so different than those of my siblings? No, I've never said that my entire childhood was miserable, but I definitely can say that many things about the first 25 or so years of my life are things I would rather not dwell on. Those definitely were not "the good old days" to me.
As I was thinking about my views of my life, the answer became crystal clear. My life is divided into two eras: There is the time before Jesus (1965 to about 1991) and the time after Jesus (1991 to the present). There was my natural birth and then my rebirth. When I repented of my sins and Jesus came into my heart as my Lord and Savior, I was changed. And as I read God's Word and grew/grow in the knowledge of Him, I was changed even more. It's kind of like the verse from the song "Amazing Grace." Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.
I 100% understand what the songwriter of Amazing Grace is saying. Now I see! When I reminisce of those years before I knew Jesus, it is with a heavy heart. Now I see just how abominable and sinful many aspects of my life were. My elementary years were spent surrounded by idols and heathenish customs at a catholic school. My teen/early adult years were spent in rebelliousness and the breaking of God's commandments. Where is the joy and happy memory in that? I repeat, when you really finally know the Lord and see Him in all His glory (not just hearsay), it changes you. You see things differently. Your heart is different. Your perceptions are different. You see what a wretch you were. You begin to appreciate who God is and all that He has done, and you recognize the ugliness of your past sinful ways and abhor those things.
And I am not the first person who has felt this way. Here are some verses that show you other people in the bible that also experienced this same transformation:
Job 42:5-6, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
Jeremiah 31:19, "Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth."
Ezekiel 20:43, "And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed."
Luke 18:13, "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."
All of these men are describing "now I see" experiences. The Lord took the scales off of their eyes, gave them new hearts, and made them to understand the ugliness of sin. I would imagine that their memories of past experiences were forever altered too. I'm sure if you spoke with them, some of those once thought of good old days did not seem so good after all.
Is this to say that a person will or should have zero happy memories of the time before they became a born-again Christian? Of course not. I have some pleasant memories, for example, childhood trips to the beach, and Thanksgiving dinner made by my mom, and I especially loved it when the Helm's doughnut truck was outside our front door. But the overall total picture of my life before Jesus is marred because I now clearly see that I was a hellbound sinner who was walking according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the air. I was part of the family of children of disobedience. I was a child of wrath.
But praise God that I was convicted at heart, repented, and brought from the dead unto the living by the Lord Himself. I have been set free! And the life that I have now makes those "before Jesus" years seem like so much dung and nothingness. My unsaved past with all of its shame, regrets, and confusion does not hold a candle to my Jesus-filled present or heaven-bound future. Hallelujah! So, yeah, is there any wonder that I don't speak fondly of those bygone days?
What's interesting is that God has placed upon every man's heart the knowledge of Him. Every man, woman, boy and girl has the opportunity to hear His voice, turn from sin, and be born again. But many people will close their ears to God's calling. Many people would rather remain blind and wretched. As a matter of fact, many people see themselves as someone who is not that bad, someone who does not need to change and definitely does not deserve punishment. And the world that we live in reinforces these beliefs. We live in an era of euphemisms, cliches, and lack of responsibility. People will not even "claim" anything deemed as negative or unflattering about their lifestyle or personality (as though not claiming it makes it invisible to God and man).
Well, don't believe Satan's lies to this generation regarding positive affirmations, laws of attraction, or not claiming anything perceived as negative in your life. You cannot be brought forth to the light if you never acknowledge (and learn to despise) the darkness that you are living in. God's Word tells us that to be saved and fixed, we must first be humbled and our defiant rebellious spirit broken.
Psalm 32:5, "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah."
Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit."
Psalm 51:3, "For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me."
Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
Jeremiah 3:13, "Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord."
Reader, are you sorry for your past sins? Are you ashamed to remember some of the things you have done? If so, that is the Lord convicting your heart. Do not shut out His calling. The Lord uses conviction to bring us to repentance to then bring us to salvation. Acknowledge your transgressions, be sorry, and truly turn from your sins.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10, "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
Micah 7:9, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness."
I hope that all of you reading this will reflect on your lives. If the Lord has already brought you from the darkness into His glorious light and you have been born again, praise God. Live each day as a sweet fragrance unto the Lord. Make your heavenly Father proud.
If you are someone who has been convicted at heart and know that you need to change, yet still have not given your life over to Jesus, I would urge you to answer the Lord's call before it is too late. No man is promised tomorrow.
And, finally, if you are among those who have no shame, no regret, no remorse, and believe that you are just fine the way you are, I have for you these final verses:
Jeremiah 8:12, "Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the Lord."
John 3:3, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
1 John 1:8, 10, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
Revelation 20:15, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."