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I have heard it said that you should not let your past control you. How often do we hear of people whose present actions are somehow influenced by their past? When was the last time you did something simply because you have always done it that way? We are all under the influence of our past. Whether we like it or not our present reality is influenced by where we have been, what we have experienced, and the things we have done. The question we are confronted with is to what extent we are to be held prisoner by our past.

There may be no areas in which people struggle with the issue of overcoming the past than in the area of regret or guilt. Most people by the time they’re my age have done something they regret. We have all made ill-informed or foolish decisions. For a lot of us, those regrets are relatively harmless, but for others they are more serious. And to make matters worse, sometimes those decisions involve moral failures on our part. So, now regret turns to guilt. We try to hide it or forget about it, but the reality of our guilt tends to nag at us. Our failures have a way of not letting us forget.

But what if I said that our problem was not our ability to just put the past behind us, but rather an unwillingness to look beyond our own lives to another event in history that should have a radical impact on who we deal with regret and guilt. I am talking about the death of Jesus Christ. It is fitting that I write this with Easter approaching. This is supposed to be the time of year when we as Christians take a hard look at what happened in Jerusalem 2000 years ago and the effect it is supposed to have on our lives today.

The past is important…just read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. In the first fourteen versus, he reminds us over and over again of what God has already done in the past. He “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing” (1:3, cf. 1:6)), “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (1:4), “he predestined us for adoption” (1:5, cf. 1:11), and “he lavished” his grace on us (1:7). All of these blessings are stated in the past tense as a reminder that they have already been done for us.

However, the past is not without its present implications. In the same passage, Paul reminds us of the present benefits believers now enjoy in Christ. He reminds us explicitly that “we have redemption…the forgiveness of our trespasses” (1:6) and that “we have obtained an inheritance” (1:11). Even more, we know that we now enjoy the benefits of having been adopted into God’s family and the privilege of calling him, “Father.” We know that if our sins have been forgiven, then our past regrets and guilt should no longer hold sway over us.

So while our past may be full of regrets, as those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, they no longer need to weigh us down with guilt. Instead, let them remind us of what we have been saved from, and let them fuel our worship of the One who died, so that we might live, and who was condemned, so that we could be set free.