Why is it good to look back to such things?
A. It speeds (and actually is part of) sanctification and the progress Paul pursues in seeking full conformity to Christ – ingratitude and impenitence will actually slow our walk and hinder us in this race.
B. It cheers us up and spurs us on when we think of what God has done already, and knowing He is faithful, and will surely go again – He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
C. It glorifies God and is commanded in Scripture – as A and B it will all work for good.
Forgetting what is behind: It is bad to look back in the following circumstances:
- When it fills us with improper grief, bitter resentment or gloomy discouragement – there are some things that need decisively ‘put to bed’ if we are to run well.
- When we turn in on ourselves in unhealthy introspection about former sins, we cannot undo problems that cannot be resolved and which we did not cause.
- When we are filled with vain regrets about decisions we made which were foolish or injudicious and which leave us in pain, hesitant or confused – Christ shed His blood and offered Himself for (and to) us to remove these shackles from our feet and nooses from our necks (instead we must trust God, as we look forward optimistically, to see how our numerous, tragic, mistakes will be sovereignly overruled, in love, for good).
- When we start to boast before the Lord in our pedigree, heritage, religion, rituals, service, efforts as works of righteousness by which we justify ourselves.
- When we start to boast before God in any of the above and thereby turn our gaze onto self (and away from Christ who is freely offered to us in the means of grace).
Forgetting what is behind: How and when should we look back?
So look back to the God who has done great things for us, and look back to confess your sin in order to move forward, but don’t look back to amass credit for yourself – instead look forward to Christ, who is both goal and call – the Risen, Exalted, Savior has grace in the present, more grace for the future, and glory in the end, when the upward call is complete when you see His smiling face.
Remember, always, to look up to Christ!
And if you are plagued by the tendency to look back in wrong ways, or be always glancing over your shoulder at sin, smarten up the pace, look up to Christ – His gaze was always right! He fixed both eyes on the Cross! He did that to win (then grant to those who ask) superabundant grace to keep eyes fixed on Him. It’s time to start forgetting what is behind.
This article originally appeared here.