During the summer in college, I put in sprinkler systems with a New Yorker who was also a Doobie Brother (smoker not rock star) with a massive walrus mustache. One of the funniest guys I’ve ever known, loved working with him. And he loved the term “wayback machine” of Professor Peabody fame. He’d say, “Where you gonna go, Professor?” Then answer himself, “I’m gonna go … waaaaayyyyyback!” Then he’d laugh and laugh.
So would I.
But the truth is some people live their lives in the wayback machine. And that’s a horrible way to live. Here’s what I mean (illustration is not original with me):
Have you ever seen a really, really bad movie? I mean one you REALLY hated? Maybe horribly made, or a comedy that wasn’t funny or maybe it was really offensive. Have you ever seen a movie and thought, “That’s two hours of my life wasted!”
And did you watch that movie three times? 20 times? 50 times? 100 times? Ever watch a movie you hated 1,000 times?
Of course not! Because that would be:
“Wow – this was painful the first 300 times – maybe 301st time is the charm!” And then, “I’m SHOOK! I’m WOKE! It was still horrible! Whew. Glad that’s over … wait a minute – maybe one more time – yeah – that’s the ticket!”
But we do just that in our mind.
We’ve all had that bad experience/bad fail/painful event that we rehearse over and over and over and over and over – and in some cases, a one-time event can give pain for years and years and years.
The Apostle Paul was an incorrigible man.
Acts 9:1 says, “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord …”
Have you ever “breathed” threats and murder? I’ve never even met someone like that, and I’ve been in more than a few jails – that really is a deplorable.
And look one chapter back. Paul watches the murder of Stephen and believes it’s a wonderful service to God! Paul is the first-century Taliban – a murderous thug.
But Jesus saves him. He’s radically changed. His sin is forgiven – all of it!
Sadly, for the next 50 years, Paul questions his faith and salvation and never does anything for the Lord, because he keeps taking the wayback machine wayback and reliving his massive moral failure. He’s such a wreck he goes from doctor to doctor and walks around in a pharmaceutically numbed state for the rest of his life.
WRONG! He changes the world! He writes half of the NT. How does he do that? The answer is here:
“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past …” (Philippians 3:13a)
Paul doesn’t have a wayback machine; he doesn’t go see bad movies more than once; and he doesn’t relive his murderous past over and over again! That’s what Satan wants him to do. God wants him to move forward. Smart guy that Paul is – he listens to God.
How many times have you watched a bad movie from your past?
Maybe someone mistreated you – and you’ve relived it 1,000 times. Stop letting that person live rent-free in your head. Learn from it. Forget it. Move forward.
Maybe it’s a major failure. You were a complete and utter train wreck! And you keep rehearsing it over and over until it completely defines you. Learn everything you can from it. Make amends if it’s that kind of fail. Move forward.
As soon as that memory begins to play in your mind, seize it, isolate it, and cast it out. Replace that bad movie with praise to God for the sacrifice of Christ that has completely obliterated it. Because here’s the truth: If you’ve confessed it, made any amends needed and received forgiveness through Jesus, then:
Satan won’t forget it, but God has (Isaiah 43:25, Psalm 103:12, Hebrews 10:17).
So don’t be like Satan; be like God.
CRITICAL ALERT: And don’t be that husband or wife or parent who makes your spouse or kid relive their failures over and over – that’s Satan’s job. Do you really want to do Satan’s job in your marriage or for your kids? “I’d like to apply for the job of Chief Beelzebub in charge of guilt for my wife, please!”
Back to you: Some of you will say, “I know I should forget my past, but I just can’t.” Stop that. Raise your standards and change your mind. Get rid of the “should.” Replace it with a “must.” Get to work forgetting.
Failure in this is not an option. Your future depends on it. Tell yourself, “I must put those events in the past out of my mind because Christ wants to use my future. Paul is a lot worse than I’ve ever been, so like he says, I’ll forget the past and move forward to what lies ahead.”
Jesus is Lord of the future. So look to Jesus and lean in the direction He wants you to go. And get rid of the wayback machine.