Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Don't Look Back

Sunday's message at C4 Charlotte was definitely something I needed. Too often I get wrapped up in a moment and drag it with me all over the place. I think most of us have a tendency to do this...to take time out of our lives and look back on our past...relive the good moments and painfully remember the rough times. Tyson's message was such an encouragement to me not to look back anymore. 
Genesis 19:15-17, 23-29 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.
Sodom and Gomorrah were 2 cities that were extremely distorted and perverted. Sin was so bold in these cities that God searched for faithfulness and it was only because of Abraham's prayer that Lot and his family were saved. These cities were so corrupted that when God sent angels to rescue Lot, the men of the cities wanted to do terrible, sinful things to the angels. Lot had to take his family and get out...but even when the Lord came to rescue them, they still hesitated.
Lot and his family hesitated because they were looking at what was familiar and comfortable to them. They were about to leave what they knew and walk into unknown territory. They had to trust that God would take care of them. The very moment that they began to leave, sulfur and fire began to rain down on the town. As they were leaving, Lot's wife was tempted to look back into her old life on her way to the new life...and she ended up getting caught in the same destiny as her past.
All of us are called and designed to move forward...we are not to stay in the same place...our lives don't end at salvation. How many times have you ever used the phrase: "I'm looking forward to it."?? I know I use it all the time...what it means when you say that is that you are excited and anxiously anticipating what is to come. When you are looking at your past, you can't look forward to the future. We tend to judge our future off of the reality of our past. Your future is greater than your past and you can't allow a negative past or negative thoughts to haunt your future. Stop looking back and believe!
If you are satisfied looking at your past, your future will look the same as your past. Some of you might be thinking that your past isn't bad so looking back isn't a bad thing then. If you do that, you are throwing away God's promises for your life. Lot's wife, even with all the promise of her new future, she couldn't help but look back and because she did that, her future was taken from her. Your future will look like your past if you continue to live there. Have faith that your future will be greater than your past...God responds to your faith!
Too often we complain about our past but we keep living the same way. How can you expect to get anything different if you keep doing the same things? Change things in your life and don't look back anymore! "Well, last time I tried living for God or changing things...it didn't work out...so why should I even try again." Well...quit looking at your past...your attitude is affected by what you are looking at. If you are looking at a failure of your past, then your mindset will be failure for your future too. Your attitude is more powerful than anything...it has everything to do with where you will go from here.
The God we love doesn't judge our future by our past...he makes ALL things new. Not some things new, ALL things. The only one who can stop you from moving forward is you! Don't look at the future through the lenses of your past...God has something much greater for you.
"God can't use me, look at my past." No...Stop. If you come to him, confess your sin, repent and turn from your ways...God will make you new. He knows everything but when you come to him, he chooses to separate our sin as far as the east is from the west. He chooses to wipe your slate and your life clean with the blood of his son. Start living and believing again. Resurrect the dreams you let die because of your past. Stop looking back and allow God to work in you and through you. Remember that faith is the substance of thins hoped for and evidence of things not seen...have faith and God will move.
If you've ever been through driver's ed...I'm sure you've heard the instructor say "Where you are looking is exactly where you are going to go." This is so profound even as simple as it seems. If we focus on God and look at him...we will grow towards him in character and in our lives. Likewise, if we look at our past or other things, we will live our lives for those things and stay in the same place. Stop taking your eyes off of God. If you think about past failures and give up on the dreams that God gave you...you will keep failing and you'll never receive all he has for you. Turn your eyes back on Jesus...
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."

I can't tell you what this hymn means to me...every time I hear it, it just reminds me how easy it is to take my focus off of Him. It's so true though, when I turn my eyes on Jesus...my past doesn't matter, this blog doesn't matter, nothing matters but him. Every time I truly turn my eyes toward him, everything else just falls away from my mind. In Him is life, truth and power. Our God lives and reigns...this world will pass away but his Word remains forever! Apply it to your life and God will do things he has never done before!

If you keep complaining and living in the past...yeah, your life could very well suck...but if you refocus, you'll be able to believe that God can and will use you no matter what your situation is. Jesus didn't conform to circumstances...and because he didn't, lives were changed. Jesus didn't have to speak to change lives...when he was around, the dead were raised, the blind saw, the deaf heard, cripples walked, and the convicted found hope. Why? Because he looked to the Father. He affected the world and didn't allow it to consume him. Today is a new day...don't bring it with you...his mercies are new every morning. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you.

Lets re-visit Genesis 19 verses 17 and 26...
And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”...But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
She became a pillar of salt...the Hebrew for salt describes a stationary power...something that is easily dissolved and pulverized. If you look back and judge your future with negative thoughts, you will be stagnate and your faith will dissolve. You have the power of life and death in your words...speak life over yourself. When you speak negativity over your future, you will have a future that looks like your past.

You might wonder why you are in the same place now as a few years ago...you're standing in the very place you started looking back. In order to look back you have to stop moving forward. I was reading in Francis Chan's book "Crazy Love" the other day and this passage totally fits in with what Tyson was talking about:
"Imagine going for a run while eating a box of Twinkies. Besides being self-defeating and sideache-inducing, it would also be near impossible - you would have to stop running in order to eat the Twinkies. In the same way, you have to stop loving and pursuing Christ in order to sin. When you are pursing love, running toward Christ, you do not have the opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week? When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear. As long as you are running, you are safe. But running is exhausting - if, that is, we are running from sin or guilt out of fear. (Or if we haven't run in a while.) However, if we train ourselves to run toward our Refuge, toward Love, we are free - just as we are called to be. As we begin to focus more on Christ, loving Him and others becomes more natural. As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him. It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment."
When you stop to look back, your life will accumulate garbage. Faith comes from Jesus and knowing him...to know him you must read the Word of God. The moment you stop reading, you lose passion and zeal. When you look back, you complain and dread and stop believing that God has greater things for you. When you look back, you allow the devil to steal your faith. He wants you to destroy your own life by tempting you to look back. He wants to remind you of your failure and discourage you from moving forward.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
When the devil tries to tempt you, remember this promise! God makes a way even in the wilderness...even in what seems like a hopeless situation. So often we give up when we don't see life getting better...but when we give up, we are forgetting the promise in Isaiah...God does make a way...even though you may not see it now, trust that he makes a way and makes all things new. He directs the paths of our lives, he holds our past, present, and future in his hands. Believe again because God can do anything! Sometimes we have to go through seasons of wilderness in order to find our destiny...look forward because God will do new things...God's plan is much higher than ours.

Tyson told us about the reason he moved here...he came to plant a new ministry (not a college ministry) but his plan was much smaller than God's. Things didn't go as Tyson planned and after 35 days of God doing things that seemed to fit in Tyson's plan, everything came to a halt. It's extremely painful to see your vision come to life and then have to watch it die. It's so easy to give up. 1 year later, Tyson was still looking back on what seemed like failure...then he was given an opportunity to start a college small group. It was the last thing he wanted to do...in that moment, it would have been easier to play the victim and look back. But Tyson had a decision...either look back or believe that God can do anything. 2 years later, Tyson was speaking to 270 college students in a ministry called C4. God's plans for Tyson's life were greater than the plans Tyson had in mind.

Sometimes doors close...only for others to open. When doors fling open for us we have to make a choice. We can either say "it didn't work the last time" or we can look to God and walk through. God is faithful to do what he said he would do.
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Your pain and your past are weights that you are carrying around with you. Cast them away and look forward. Stop trying to live in Sodom...Sodom is doomed and can never prosper. Begin a new era...let go of your weights and let them die...walk into your future. Look to Jesus - he will give you joy that will help you endure trials and hardship. Not everything will go perfectly but God will do great things if you keep looking at him. Stop looking back, come into a new place...he will wipe your past away and make you new. Lets all together keep our focus on the one who can make us new and say we will not look back. Praise God that he has given us a hope and a future that is greater than our past! Take a step of faith and turn your eyes to him...he will move in your live.

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