The Prison of Memory
Robert Wurtz II
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12–14 NKJV)
Paul was determined to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of him in the beginning. The Lord met him on the Damascus road and apprehended him for a purpose. He was given a commission. We know from reading the latter portion of 2 Timothy that he will, in fact, finish his course. How did he do it? One of the keys is found in our passage; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.
It is proper that Christians be careful to reflect on God’s goodness in the past. These things we ought always to remember. There is even a sense in which Paul remembered that he was once “chief of sinners.” Nevertheless, Paul knew that he must not dwell upon the past in such a way that it hindered him, rather than helped him, in his “pressing towards the goal for the prize.” Our failures and sins have been forgiven, so we must not dwell upon them to our hurt. Moreover, the achievements made in the service of Christ, by His grace, must not occupy our mind in such a way as to prevent us from fully apprehending what God has designed for us.
The Prison of Memory
Many people are imprisoned by their past; some literally, and others figuratively. I am inclined to speak to those who are in bondage to memories of past sins. Consider for a moment what it would have been like to be Paul. He had committed horrific sins against people who he thought were enemies. He compelled them to blaspheme Christ, and in some cases, was responsible for killing them. Once his eyes came open, he must have been mortified and vexed. I doubt he slept well for some time. Can you imagine the nightmarish things that would have plagued his mind? Seeing women and children crying and begging you to stop and yet you keep on mercilessly? The memories alone could have locked Paul into a prison of regret for life and thrown away the key. How could he ever get past what he had done? Was there any way to forget?
Walking Out of the Prison
Some people are put-off from reading the Bible because of fear of what it says. They fear passages that describe sin, so they figure, what I don’t know can’t hurt me. Yet, the Bible is full of grace and truth. God stands willing to forgive and give us the grace to walk out in victory. The Blood of Christ will cleanse our conscience from dead works so that we can come face to face with God again, and serve Him confidently. (Hebrews 9:14) If we will acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) Nevertheless, we cannot walk out alone. We must allow others, even our supposed enemies, to walk out with us. We can’t expect to have our sins forgiven and forgotten, and others retained and remembered. Who is it, if anyone, do you refuse to let them forget their past? Who is it, if anyone, do you insist on remembering their sins? We can’t leave them in bondage and go out scot-free. We go out together or not at all. This is the pattern of it.