Michael Youssef - Spiritual Reset
The Roman god Janus, from which we get the Word, "January," first month of the year, and Janus was considered to be the ancient Roman god of new beginnings. Janus is depicted, as you can see on the screen, two faces. One face looks back at the year that passed and that side of that face bears the traces of sorrow, dismay, and perplexity. The other face looks forward to the new year and that forward-looking face is personified with hope and confidence. This is, of course, superstition and worship of false gods. It's no wonder that each year you find in the secular media they are obsessed or even possessed almost with that spirit or the theme of wanting to look back and look forward and wanna look back and look forward.
It's a fact that many people make New Year's resolution. I'm not gonna ask you to raise your hand if you are making one, have made one, but the truth is a lot of people do and the best statistics that I have read is that 90% of people who make resolutions are forgotten in 2 weeks' time. I'm not against New Year's resolutions, and really I'm not, especially if those are made at the guidance and the leadership and of the Holy Spirit of God, if they're made in confidence in the Lord's power and the Lord's strength to do some great and new things for God. I am not against that at all. God has set times and seasons. He set festivals and all for the purpose of renewal, because God is a renewing God.
In the New Testament, however, tells us that we are to renew our minds on a daily basis, not even moment-by-moment basis. It is a continuous renewal. It is not occasions, and it's not certain times, although I thank God for those new beginnings. You say, "How do you do this"? By allowing the Holy Spirit of God to help us to let go of the past, whether it be that past sin and the past guilt, by genuine confession of that sin, by genuine repentance of that sin, by allowing the Holy Spirit of God, which is the wind of God, you know, the word "ruach" in Hebrew actually means, "spirit, wind, and breath," same word. And I do pray daily, I said, "Lord, let the wind of the Holy Spirit today pull the sails of my life. Guide me this day. Let that wind of the Holy Spirit be the power that pulls me through this day or this week or this month or this year".
Here is the problem that most of you will understand, because it happens even among God's people, is that they keep on looking back at the past, not so that they may learn to let go of the past, but in order to dwell in the past. And literally, by doing so, they create fear and anxiety of the present and the future. Others still, they look back, and they get caught to what I call in the paralysis of analysis, and they never move forward. So, what is the answer? Well, the Word of God gives us the answer. Thank God the Word of God gives us the answers. I don't have the answer. I have it in the Word of God.
If you turn with me to Philippians 3, and I want to look at verses 13 and 14, but I'm gonna translate it like a home-spun translation. I always tell you it's a Youssef translation, so I promise you it is accurate. Here is what the Apostle Paul is saying, and I'm gonna put it in context in a minute. "Brethren, I count not myself to have made it". I haven't made it yet. I haven't reached it yet. "But one thing that I do..." It's obviously the one thing that occupies his mind, the one thing that constantly impacting every aspect of his life. "The one thing I do is, I forget those things that are in my past, and I strain forward. I mean, strenuously, hard, I strain forward to the future. I press hard toward the goal or the finishing line, the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus".
Listen carefully. Here is what he's saying. Rather than dwelling in the past, whether it is failure or success, makes no difference, by all means learn from the past and don't live in it. By all means, let the past propel you forward, not pull you back. By all means glean lessons from the past, but don't bask in it. In fact, the Apostle Paul's lesson to all of us, and your pastor is included, forgetting or letting go of the past and striving forward with every energy, with every ounce of energy that I have toward the future should not be one of many things that we do, but should be the one thing that impacts everything that we do.
An old-time preacher used to say, "The Apostle Paul said, 'One thing I do.'" The average Christian today says, "There are 20 things I dabble in". I couldn't agree more. What is that, the one thing, for the Apostle Paul that he focuses on, that he allows it to be the driving force for all his decisions, for all his lifestyle? Why is that the one thing that he pushes for? Now, think with me, okay? I'm gonna explain to you why. The Apostle Paul singlehandedly accomplished more for the work of God, for the gospel of Jesus Christ than anybody else, including the 12 disciples who walked and lived with Jesus for 3 years, right? He did.
Keep thinking with me, okay? I'm getting somewhere. If Paul was like many of us who tends to live in the past, if he allowed his past sins to haunt him, if he allowed his past blaspheming of the name of Jesus to weigh him down, if he constantly lived with the past guilt of persecuting Christians to be heavy on his heart, if he continuously allowed that vision in his mind, which was very visual to him, of standing there holding the clothes of Steven, the very first Christian martyr, and he was there literally participating. He was there watching his last stone that came and hit him and that ended his life.
Just think about this. If he allowed that vision to continue in his life, he would be living in nightmares day in and day out. He would have been totally paralyzed from doing anything that is worthwhile. He would have been prevented from doing what he did in the power of God and that has impacted the whole world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only in his day, but even to this day, but he also knew that the forgetfulness of the past, or letting go of the past, or moving forward from the past, he knew that this only can take place because of God's forgiveness. Beloved, please listen to me. Listen to me. When sin or sins are confessed, when sin or sins are repented of, when sins are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, it must be forgotten.
Now, I believe the Apostle Paul has a very clear objective here. Listen carefully, please. How to face an uncertain future. I believe that was all. That's the intention of that verse here, and I think most people in their honest moment, when they really kinda come clean with God, most people are apprehensive about the future. Different things plague different people. In fact, that is why they look back and they stay back, because they are apprehensive about the future. The truth is this. Listen carefully. Most people are anxious about something in the future, whether it will be about their children, their children's future, whether it be about the economy, of how it's gonna fair next year or the jobs, whether they'll still have a job, or health, whether the financial security, and list goes on and on and on.
And I want you to hear me right, because uncertainty about the future plagues a lot of people. It really does, but listen to me. For the child of God who has placed his or her complete trust in Jesus Christ need not be afraid of the future and one of the reasons and one of the keys to do that is to let go of the past. There is nothing that will happen to you which is not already foreseen by your heavenly Father. God sees the future as a present reality, and God said, "I knew you before you were formed in the womb". He knows you when you were a little baby. He knows you, and he knows what happens before it happens.
So, question: how do you face uncertain future? By trusting that the same God, the same heavenly Father who protected you in the past with all of its grief and pain and joy, the one who took care of you in the past, he is gonna take care of the present and the future, amen? And that is why Paul said, "I press forward, I strain. I'm putting every energy in this". And when you keep your eye on this finishing line, when you keep your eye on the prize, you're not gonna waste your time as you're running on the trash that you see along the road, but think, Paul said all of the great honors that he accomplished and achieved, he calls them trash. Actually worse than that, but he's not gonna focus on the trash no matter how valuable in the eyes of the world it may be.
You are not going to stop to entertain the spectators. No, when you are pressing strenuously toward the goal, you are not gonna waste your time on trivia. You're not gonna waste your time on things that are passing. You're not gonna waste your time on losses of things. They're things. You're not gonna waste your time on your critics. They will always be there. You're not gonna waste your time on your detractors. They will always be there, or those who hate you for whatever their reason may be. Paul said, "No, I refuse to do this, but the one thing I do, I keep pressing to the finishing line. I keep pressing to the finishing line".
Someone said if you aim at nothing you'll most surely hit it. I couldn't agree more. Beloved, your finish line, my finish line is that audience of one I'm telling you about on that final day. Therefore, don't look at the past. It's already been forgiven. It's under the blood of Jesus. It's like Corrie ten Boom used to say, "Jesus has thrown your sins into the deepest sea, and you better not go fishing for them". Don't look to the sideline. Put blinders on. Refuse to look back, because if you do you're gonna stumble. Most certainly you're gonna stumble, and you're gonna fall.
In Luke chapter 9, verse 61, the Lord Jesus tells something that is really very similar to what Paul is saying here. And you say, "Well, where did Paul get his idea"? He got it from Jesus. Remember, he spent years trying to learn what did Jesus say. He probably debriefed the writers of the gospels before they wrote the stuff down. He was anxious to know everything that Jesus said or did, and he was listening to James. He was listening to the other apostles, disciples. Paul learned this stuff from Jesus. And so, Luke said that Jesus told three men to follow him. I'm not gonna focus on all of them. Just one. "Follow me".
Well, this man said, "Oh, yeah, I will follow you, but let me go first home and say goodbye to my family". Reasonable request don't you think? You agree? Yeah, it's a reasonable request, but Jesus, who knew all things, Jesus, who knew all hearts, Jesus, who knew all motives, said to him, "No. No one who puts his hand on the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God," is fit for the service of God. Oh, isn't that a bit harsh? Yeah, our political-correct society is, "Jesus is very harsh". Really? No. See, the plow is pulled by a strong and wild ox.
If you are not holding that thing with every ounce of your attention and energy, yeah, you're gonna really be dead meat. You take your eye off that ox, and he could literally crush you. Controlling and managing of that ox that is pulling the plow should be a total forward-looking and complete concentration. Please, whatever you do, don't look back. Don't go back. Don't waste your time on the past. Whatever, if it's in regard to past failures, or past successes, or past wrong judgments, or past wrong decisions that you have made, or past wrong choices, or past wrong action, strain forward.
Strive forward, and the Bible gives us many examples of those who have looked back and stayed back. Demas was the companion of the Apostle Paul, but he went back, and Paul said he loved the present age. John Mark, though later on accomplished great things, but in the early days of his ministry he went with Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, but he got cold feet. He got homesick, and he said, "I wanna go home". And Paul said, "You go home. You're not going to be with me again".
Beloved, on this end of the year I wonder how many of us today... and it's between you and God. Are you caught in what I call the retrospective glance? Only you know. Now, again, when I reflected on this profound piece of trivia, I really decided that there is a spiritual lesson here. There are some who cannot focus on the future. There really are. There are some who are not able to strain forward toward the goal. Why? Because they are committed to looking backward. They really are. The two are connected. Examine what I'm saying and reflect on it today.
When the great Apostle Paul said, "Forgetting what lays behind," it means forgetting everything, everything in the past that is evil, everything that is questionable, everything that is improper, everything that is sinful, everything that is hurtful, everything that he's ever done in his whole life that is displeasing to the Lord, everything. But not only that. He also talks about every achievements in the past. Are you with me? Say, "Amen". 'Cause there are some people who say, "Oh, look what I did back then," and they stay there. They stay there and don't strain forward. Sometimes, my beloved friends, past successes can hamper us just as much as past failures.
Please, I want you to hear me out in this one. Whatever your past, you must deliberately and definitively bring it and throw it in the deepest sea, for that's exactly what God did with them. But there is more. There is more. In fact, there is a whole lot more I want to say on this subject, but I've got a limited time. You need to be willing to burn past bridges, these bridges that constantly beckoning you to come back to the old territories that you have walked away from a long time ago, or maybe just a short time ago. "Burn the bridges". Say it with me. Do you want to do great things for the Lord in the coming year? Do you want to be used of God mightily in a mighty way somehow in the coming year? Do you wanna live in victory? Do you wanna be set free from whatever the past may be?
Begin by burning your past bridges. All the bridges that keep taking you back to the old territories that are unpleasing to the Lord, burn them today literally. If it is gold that is keeping you from straining forward toward God's goal for your life, cut the golden chain. If it's a sense of reputation that is holding you back, become a nobody for Christ's sake. If it is pride of your own wisdom, you must be willing to become a fool for Jesus. If it is a devotion to pleasure, then you must be willing to sacrifice it and keep on sacrificing it to Christ. If it is an unwholesome relationship that does not belong in your life, then you must firmly, decisively walk away from that relationship.
Whatever bridges that are holding you back and constantly beckoning you to come back, burn them today, amen? If you'd write down all the items that have held you back: defeat, failure, even success, it doesn't matter. And after you write these down, I'm gonna be writing mine as you write yours, so we're gonna be writing together at the same time. Whatever past sorrow may be, whatever past sins may be, whatever past guilt may be, whatever past defeat may be, you write them down.
Whatever chains have held you in the past, I want you to watch with joy offering this to the Lord in order that he might replace them with his strength, with his power, with the promises of God, with the grace of God, and the mercy of God. But one last thing I want to say before I start writing, this is symbolic. That means this afternoon, tomorrow morning, that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, every single day you renew this. It's not just one act, and it's over. No, it is the first step to a life of constant renewal, amen?
Our Loving Father, we're so grateful to you that even in the symbolism, you, Lord Jesus, have established your table as a symbol, as a reminder of the incredible sacrifice you made on the cross of Calvary. Lord, these things are just pieces of paper. They're just symbols of the fact that we are renewing our covenant with you, that we are placing all of the past sins and failure and successes, anything that is holding us from going forward and being in service of you and putting our hand on the plow so we look forward rather than backward. Father, accept this symbolism as a heart that is offered to you, a heart that is burning for you, a heart that is longing for you, because, Lord Jesus, we know that without you we can do nothing, but we can do all things through the Christ who strengthens us. Amen.