Does the Past Control the Future?
The new year is underway, did you set a goal or goals for a new lifestyle? Will you have a new life in the new year? Are you viewing life this year from a new and different perspective or are you allowing your past perspective to control your future?
Studies show that people often allow their past and its experiences to set their future life. So, if a person lives daily in the darkness of a painful past they essentially set their future to be no different. Negative thoughts that ruminate most often project out into the future. As we expect them to be true tomorrow, the next day, and so on. This sets the stage to create the same experiences over and over proving to ourselves that we areÂ this past person.
As dismal as all that sounds, the studies also point out that when we stop expecting to find ourselves in that same place over and over we will stop having those experiences. We must leave the old painful experiences and decisions in the past and stop bringing them to the future. It is recognizing that we must move forward from our darkness. This sounds a lot easier than it is and in that respect, we need some help.
God Help the Fish
It is said that Sam Houston, the first president of the Republic of Texas was a rather unsavory character with a past reputation to match it. Late in his life, throughÂ a commitment he made to Christ heÂ was baptized in a river. As the preacher said to him, ”Sam your sins are washed away.”Â Houston replied, ”God help the fish.”Â There are many of us who may feel the same way.Â But it is only through the grace and help of God that we may wash away our past and move forward to a future filled with light.
Sunday celebrates, in many denominations the Epiphany or the Three Kings Sunday. This Christian observance, celebrated since the end of the second century, recognizes the great revelation of God incarnate as Jesus Christ. The revelation came about through the visit of the Magi. And in many churches, an emphasis on baptism and communion is the focus. The Epiphany season, which begins Sunday, is a season of new beginnings.
Today’s world defines epiphany through a range of meanings. From a sudden realistic grasp of reality to illuminating discovery or insight. One revealing definitionÂ read was ”a moment of sudden or great revelation that usually changes you in some way.” And it is this definition that best fits not only the Wise Men who diligently searched for the Christ Child but our focus verse for this week.
For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun. Isaiah 43:19a, b (NLT)
The Epiphany of a New Life
God promises a new life for all believers who trust in Him. He is consistently working and planning new things for your life to reach His goals for all humanity.Â It is from these personal epiphany beliefs that believers know that deserts will become an oasis.
It is only through Christ that these words of comfort reveal themselves. For itÂ is through Him that the past is laid to rest and new people develop. Make no mistake though, God is not in the remodeling or rehabilitation business. Through Him, a new life is created, this is not a ”turned over leaf” or ”cleaned up act.” This individual plan fully implements with your commitment to Him. Your new life gives you a new perspective in which to see the world through.
The new life, however, is not the promise of a rose garden future on earth. But it is the ability to see clearly how the past promises of God came true. This gives strength to your faith that His promises of the future will not only come to fruition but will continue to grow and become bigger. It is in this new life that even in the periods of residing in the wasteland you can focus on the promises of the things to come. A new life comes through your commitment to Christ. Baptism, communion, or rededication are not only a personal means but the outward display of this commitment.
A New Way of Living
Presbyterian minister, Sarah Jo Sarchet tells the story of this experience when pastoring a church in Chicago many years ago. Cameron, a 10-year-old boy in her congregation, walked into her office one day announcing that they needed to talk. As he arrived fresh from soccer practice wearing his Cincinnati Reds baseball cap, he said, ”We are learning about Jesus’ baptism in Sunday School. Last Sunday, the teacher asked the class who was baptized, and all the other kids raised their hands. So, I have decided I’d like to be baptized too.
The pastor thought for only a moment before saying, ”Cameron, do you want to be baptized because everyone else is?” The freckled face looked up at her before replying, ”No, I want to be baptized because it means I belong to God.” Touched by his understanding she said, ”Well, then, how about this Sunday?” His smile suddenly became concerned as he asked, ”Do I have to be baptized in front of all those people in the church? Can’t I just have a friend baptize me in the river?” She asked where he came up with that idea? ”Well, Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in a river, wasn’t he?”
Suddenly caught off guard, she had to agree, ”You have a point. But, if a friend baptized you in the river, how would the church recognize it?” She began to reach up for her Presbyterian Book of Order as she realized a teachable moment when Cameron answered her question.
”I guess they will see my new way of living.”
The pastor nearly dropped the Book of Order and quickly placed it back. The child’s understanding was profound. Baptism, along with other covenants calls us to a new way of living experienced personally but seen externally by all.
A New and Wonderful Life
New life seen through the commitment of baptism, re-commitment, or communion all recognizes that God began His magnificent creation of the world with us in mind. It also recognizes that He will end it with His magnificent creation of a new heaven and earth. Both give both profound hope and encouragement to your life, no matter the wasteland it may reside in. Trusting fully in the unseen promises of God helps you recognize the steps along the way of every day where His promises constantly reveal themselves in both small and large ways.
Expect the new, confidently each day preparing your life for all that God reveals as you move closer to Him. It is with this confidence that you can see that not only is He about to do something new, He is already doing it. Whether you set new goals for your life for the New Year or not Christ stands always ready and waiting for you to have a new life through Him.
So, as the New Year or day dawns, challenge yourself to recognize that a life with Christ is a new one. One that is consistently full of promises and hope for an unbelievable future. Allow your convictions to see you through the desert and wastelands of life knowing the promises already fulfilled and those yet to come. Find your motivation and comfort in recognizing that your past and its situations, mistakes, and perspectives have no place in your new life found in Christ.
Love in Christ,
Epiphany probably has a million definitions. But it’s the occurrence when the mind, the body, the heart, and the soul focus together and see an old thing in a new way.
What are your thoughts?
Do you allow your past to control your future? Have you begun a new life with Christ? Share your thoughts on beginning a new life in the New Year or even every day.
Credits Ballard, E. (2011, January 25). How Do You, We, I Define Epiphany, Exactly? Retrieved 2018, from Psychology Today Blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/epiphany/201101/how-do-you-we-i-define-epiphany-exactly Markman, A. (2011, August 12). The future has ways of surprising us. Retrieved January 5, 2018, from Psychology Today Ulterior Motives: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ulterior-motives/201108/your-view-the-future-is-shaped-the-past United Methodist Church. (2018). Worship Planning. Retrieved from United Methodist Church Discipleship Ministries: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/lectionary-calendar