Sunday, 17 June 2007

Forgetting Those Things That Are Behind

by Kenneth Copeland

I certainly wish I were better at forgetting things!

That’s one statement most of us have never made. It’s our ability to remember, not our ability to forget, that we usually want to develop. Yet, according to the Bible, forgetting can change our lives. It can change our environment. It can help take us from failure to success, from sickness to health, and from poverty to abundance.

In fact, as born-again children of God, we can’t fully enjoy the victory that belongs to us in Jesus until we learn how to supernaturally forget.

If you don’t believe it, look at the life of the Apostle Paul. He was one of the most powerful believers this earth has ever seen. He faced more challenges, persecutions and hardships than most of us can even imagine. Yet he boldly declared, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ…. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Philippians 4:13, New King James Version).

Get a Grip

Sometimes we’re tempted to think Paul was able to live in such triumph because he was some kind of super saint. We don’t even aspire to walk in his footsteps because we figure we’re just ordinary believers and he was something special. But Paul told us clearly that wasn’t the case. He said, “[I] am less than the least of all saints…” (Ephesians 3:8).

What, then, was the key to Paul’s amazing spiritual success? How did he live such a victorious life?

He answered those questions in his letter to the Philippians when he wrote these powerful words: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

To get the full impact of those verses, remove the italicized words (which weren’t in the original manuscripts but were added later by the translators) and read them again: “I count not myself to have apprehended but one thing—forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press….”

Can you see what Paul was saying there? He was telling us that there was one thing in life he knew he had a good grip on, one thing he’d apprehended and developed the ability to do. He’d learned to supernaturally forget his past and press forward into his God-ordained future. He’d discovered the secret of leaving old things behind and moving ahead.

For Paul, that was a particularly remarkable accomplishment because his past was packed with atrocities that, naturally speaking, would be impossible to forget. He had spent the years just before he was saved persecuting Christians. He’d caught them in church and ordered them thrown into dungeons where many eventually died. He had actually supervised the murder of Stephen, holding the coats of those who hurled stones at him. Paul had watched approvingly as the heavy, jagged rocks crushed the body of one of the most beloved leaders of the early Church. He had personally heard Stephen cry out with his last breath, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!”

Can you imagine how those memories must have tried to haunt Paul after he was saved? Can you imagine how feverishly the devil must have worked to remind him of what he had done—to make him feel unworthy to be a minister of the gospel?

Yet somehow Paul defeated those memories. Somehow he found a way to supernaturally forget his past. Clearly, if he could do it, you and I can too. We just need to know how.

To find out, all we have to do is return once again to his writings. In 2 Corinthians 10, he explained the process: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience…” (verses 3-6).

Don’t Let Your Past Dictate Your Future

According to those verses, we can’t live in victory by just waiting for supernatural forgetfulness to overtake us. We can’t just sit around hoping that someday God will reach down and wash away our memory of the past. We must get aggressive about it. That’s what Paul did. He declared war on every thought that tried to drag him back to his old life. He took revenge on every memory, mental image, concept or imagination that contradicted what the Word of God said about him as a reborn, righteous, new creation in Christ.

If we want to enjoy the kind of victory Paul did, we have to do the same thing. Otherwise, our mind will keep dragging us back into old cycles of sin and defeat because, unlike our spirit, our mind was not made new when we were born again. It stayed the same. If we don’t renew it with the Word, it will continually feed us with thoughts and fears from the past. And since our lives are shaped by what we think (which becomes what we say…which dictates what we decide and what we do), those thoughts and fears from the past will end up dictating our future.

If we don’t use the power of the Word to supernaturally forget those things which are behind—despite all the promises God has made to us as believers, despite the fact that our lives are truly hidden with Christ in God—we’ll be doomed to repeat the mistakes and failures of the past again…and again…and again.

When I say you must supernaturally forget the past, I’m not talking about just keeping it off your mind for a couple of days. I mean you must forget it the way God forgets something. Put it as far from you as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Root it out of your memory by the blood of the Lamb and cleanse your consciousness of it permanently by faith.

You must begin to believe that what the Bible says about your past is true. Every negative part of it is gone! Everything the devil did to you and through you has been wiped out forever! “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

It’s All in Your Mind

When I think about how completely God demolishes the devil’s work in our past, I’m often reminded of a little house in Steamboat Springs, Colo., that Gloria and I bought back in 1986. It wasn’t anything fancy but we really enjoyed it. Just thinking about it right now, I can see every detail of it in my mind’s eye.

I can take you through the front door into the little mudroom in the front where we hung our winter jackets and parked our boots and gloves. I can walk you through the living room where the fireplace crackled and glowed on snowy, winter days.

I can take you back to the kitchen and the little dining room where our kids and grandkids used to gather. I can describe every piece of wallpaper, every rug and every picture hanging on the walls. I can see myself right now walking up the stairs with suitcases in my hands. I can see myself going back downstairs to the lockers where we kept our skis, and getting ready to hit the slopes.

Just thinking about it is like being in that cabin right now. It’s absolutely real to me.

But you know what? We sold that cabin in 1999, and the guy who bought it took a bulldozer and knocked the whole thing down. There’s nothing left of it. That house does not exist anywhere on this earth. The only place it exists is in my mind.

Praise God, the same thing happened to our sinful, defeat-ridden, old past! The blood of Jesus Christ of Nazareth has demolished it even more completely than that bulldozer demolished our Colorado cabin! In the mind of God, it is gone.

Every old, ungodly thing in your life (including the bad things other people did to you, the sorrows and pains the devil inflicted on you) has passed away. Those things don’t exist anywhere on this planet…except in your mind. The only power or reality they have is what you give them.

Three Keys to Forgetting the Past

“I understand that, Brother Copeland,” you might say, “but exactly how do I get rid of the memories that plague me? How do I stop thinking about them?”

Over the years, I’ve discovered three vital keys that help me supernaturally turn off thoughts of the past. If you’ll keep these keys in mind and act on them, you’ll be able to take every thought captive and cast down every ungodly memory that rises up against you.

First and foremost, always remember that your sin is none of the devil’s business. If he tries to remind you of things you’ve done wrong, take authority over him and command him to leave you alone. At times the devil will try to trick you into believing that God is the One reminding you of those sins but don’t you believe it! Jesus never reminds you of your sin. He wiped it out. He has forgotten it and He wants you to do the same. So when the devil tries to convince you to mentally rehearse your past, refuse and resist him and he will flee from you.

Don’t even let the devil talk to you about current sins. It’s not his place to deal with you about them. Your sin is between you and Jesus. He’s the One who bought you. He’s the One who paid the price for your forgiveness. So when you miss it—in little ways or big—Jesus is the One you need to talk to about it. Run to Him (not from Him) and repent. Confess your sin and refuse to allow the devil or anyone else to put you under condemnation for it.

Second, always remember that when we confess our sins to Jesus, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Sometimes believers doubt that forgiveness. If they still feel guilty after they confess their sin to the Lord, they think God hasn’t done His part. They believe He is still holding their sin against them.

Don’t ever make that mistake. Always remember that Jesus keeps His Word. Every time we confess our sin, He is 100 percent faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us. So if our feelings say otherwise, then our feelings must be lying because Jesus will never lie. He will always do what He says He will do.

Never base your faith on your feelings. Base it on God’s Word. The moment you confess your sin, believe Jesus has forgiven and cleansed you regardless of how you feel. Then speak by faith, call things that be not as though they were and say, “I receive my forgiveness. I receive my cleansing. That sin is washed completely away by the blood of Jesus. I am free of it now, in Jesus’ Name!”

Turn the Tables on the Devil

Once you’ve received your forgiveness by faith, begin to purge the memory of that sin by speaking the Word. When the devil starts tempting you to think about it again, open your mouth and give him the same answer Jesus gave when the devil tempted Him. Say, “It is written….” Shut the devil up by telling him what God says about the situation. Go after him with a vengeance. Get revenge on that disobedient thought by assaulting it with the Word.

Don’t just do it silently either. Don’t just try to counter disobedient thoughts with scriptural thoughts. That won’t work. If you want to win the battle in your mind you have to use a mightier weapon. You have to fight thoughts with words.

Words always overcome thoughts because the moment you open your mouth, your mind must stop thinking and listen to what your mouth has to say. That’s the way human beings are created, and there’s nothing the devil can do about it. Try as he may to pressure you with negative thoughts, if you’ll speak the Word, you’ll defeat him every time.

Most believers don’t realize that so they let the devil get the upper hand. When he starts putting pressure on their minds, hammering away at them with thoughts of fear or guilt based on their past, they just let those thoughts dominate them. But that’s not what the Apostle Paul taught us to do.

He taught us to turn the tables on the devil and put the pressure on him instead. That’s right! He said, “I forget those things which are behind and I press forward….” Paul pressed in to His God-ordained future by believing and confessing the Word. He put the devil in such a pressure cooker of the Word that he and his demonic cohorts were forced to flee.

I’m telling you, when you start pressuring the devil instead of letting him pressure you, life gets exciting. But you can’t do that by sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. You have to choose consciously, on purpose, to have faith in the Word and to use that Word to attack the negative thought patterns in your life. You have to be determined to say what the Word says, and to keep saying it…and saying it…and saying it…until that Word becomes so imbedded in your thought life that it comes out of your mouth without you having to think about it.

You can do it! You can purge your thought life of all those old hurts and fusses you’ve had with people. You can uproot and remove from your consciousness all the old sins of the past. You can take every blue thought, every sick thought, and every tired, old, worn-out, unforgiving thought and replace them all with thoughts of love and faith.

Just roll every rotten thing from your past over on God, set your faith toward heaven and begin to press. Supernaturally forget those things that are behind and head full throttle toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

It will take some work, but you can do it, and when you do, you’ll discover what Paul discovered—it is truly a glorious, victorious way to live!


Anonymous said...

HI i love your web it encourages me in so many different ways. So thanks for your encouraging words.

Anonymous said...

This has been a great encouragement to me.I have been bothered about a sexual sin in my recent past, and I am totally sorry for what I have done. But like the psalmist said in Psalm 51 "my sin is ever before me". I will use the Word of God to combat the devil and put paid to his plans to destroy my life.

The verse quoted in this passage has kept cropping up in my daily readings and in church, and i will now take it to heart. I will forget what has happened, because i have confessed it before the Father and he has taken care of it through Christ. There is nothing more to be done.

I bet you didn;t know when you wrote this article a year and a half ago that it would speak to a heart on the internet!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this article. It has blessed me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. This is just what I needed. Today I choose to live a life full of God and not of memories of the past. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this powerful article it has really blessed me. I have been troubled for many years with childhood sins, sins of my youth and sexual past but now I have applied this word to my life and I now that I have been redeemed and will strive to stand upon Gods word and not allow the enemy to overcome me x

Anonymous said...

Thank you..Brother Copeland😂