I would not disagree with the statement that we are all shaped by our past. The specific experiences each one of us have lived through definitely affect us, forming our viewpoints and our beliefs. However, I disagree with the old expression that experience is the best teacher: that isn’t really accurate. Experience is the best database, and it only serves to offer us the opportunity to learn. We must force ourselves to learn from our experience in order for it to be useful.
I was blessed to meet a young man the other day who has recently converted to Judaism and is a Believer. He is covered with tattoos, many of which imply that he has lived a rough life. His girlfriend is a Christian, and it was she who introduced us. This occurred at a New Jersey hotel where Donna and I were staying over the weekend while attending a family wedding in Philadelphia.
He is a neophyte regarding the Bible and salvation and I sense he is also a fine young man. I was impressed and happy to see that he is open to hearing about Judaism, God and Messiah. His past has shaped him and left it’s scars (visually, as well as emotionally) yet he has learned from his experience and is now on the right path. Hopefully, he will see this post and know that I am talking about him, and how I am proud of him for his courage and devotion to not allowing his past to shape his future.
This is just one of the multitude of wondrous things about God: He is willing to forget the past. In fact, God is very Existential. To be existential means to be living in the moment, in the “existence” of things. No past, no future, just now. When he grants forgiveness he forgets the past and only sees the heart as it is at this moment. Of course, God is beyond time so he knows all that has happened and all that will happen, but he chooses to forget the sins in an individual’s past when that person repentantly asks to be forgiven of them.
This holds true also for the good we have done- no “sitting on one’s laurels” with God! If you did wrong, your wrong will be forgiven when you do right. And if you have always done right, but now do wrong, you are guilty! Your past good deeds are forgotten when you sin just as thoroughly as one’s past bad deeds are forgotten when they repent.
He tells us this! In Ezekiel 18:21-24 God says:
But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? “But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.
The past will not be remembered, whether that past was a righteous one or a sinful one. God sees our heart at the moment we are committing our sins just as much as when we are asking for forgiveness. Each moment is a new one, each event is individual and unique, and each time we ask for forgiveness we are given a clean past.
So do not dwell on your past sins, and do not count on your good deeds to help you. If you have accepted Yeshua as your Messiah and asked forgiveness with a repentant heart in his name, as far as God is concerned you have no past. Likewise, if you have been doing good but have sinned, you still need to ask forgiveness because what you did that was right is no longer of any value to you.
Each and every time you look to God for forgiveness, your past is gone and you are given a future that you can shape any way you want to.
And if I may suggest?….asking God to show you how he wants it shaped is the best way to start your new life.