Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Looking Forwards Not Backwards

A spin off meditation from Sunday's sermon:

I know it's stating the obvious, but no one drives anywhere by looking into the rear view mirror, for the simple reason they will soon hurt themselves (and others) or if they're really unlucky, kill themselves (and others).

We learn that lesson quickly in the physical world - not just because of the consequences that happen to us when we don't look where we're going, but because deep down we know that (for 99.9% of the time) we were made to live life facing forwards. A person who is trying to live life by looking behind themselves all the time is not a normally functioning, socially well adjusted person. You don't need a degree to work it out - it's just obvious. :-)

God made us that way for a reason - that reason is destiny. We are all going forward somewhere. Time is marching on to a destiny and we are all caught up in that destiny. This means that the primary focus of our identity is future-centred not past-centred.

Problem is of course that we spend most of our time summing up our identity retrospectively, in terms of past achievements (pride) and failures (self-pity) along with those things over which we have no control. I am Richard Walker because in the past I was born into a family called Walker and my parents named me Richard. I'm a teacher because in the past I got a qualification. I'm a failed triathlete, because I'm stumpy and enjoy pie-eating too much. I'm a seasoned traveller, because of former expeditions to far flung places etc etc etc. You get the picture. Most of our self-understanding and self-justification comes from hindsight. If you don't believe me, look at your CV.

Every so often you and I might be future-centred in our thinking. Usually it's just after clinching a job at interview. "I'm going to be a ..." Or after you've just got down on one knee: "I'm gonna be a husband." Or after you've been to the hospital: "I'm gonna be a Dad." And all of a sudden, life is filled with enormous anticipation as the new future reality begins to shape your present world.

Whether we are Christian or not, life is future-centred. We are all going somewhere. All of us will end up in front of the judgement seat of Christ. We can look backwards and ignore this destiny, or we can look forwards and embrace it with the help of Christ himself. (Lk.12:31-32)

Paul does this well. He is not amnesic about the past, (Gal.1:13) but he does not let it overshadow his heart or negatively shape his identity and his future. Don't know about you, but I want to be more like him:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

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