... fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith ... (Hebrews 12:2a)
As Christians, we have the awesome privilege of being able to walk with the Creator of the universe and experience His supernatural power in our lives on a daily basis. In his book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The present is the point at which time touches eternity.” It is as we touch eternity that we begin to walk in the fullness of God, and we touch eternity as we fix our eyes on Jesus.
We Have Been Destined for Eternity
We have been created as eternal beings, and although we are currently living in time, the Lord has destined us for eternity. John 3:16 says:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
One common misconception about eternal life is that it begins once our lives on earth have ended. Another misunderstanding is that eternity is merely time with no end. To better understand this, let us briefly distinguish time from eternity. Eternity is a completely different dimension than time. Eternity existed before time began; it will exist even after time has ended, and it exists completely independent of time. God dwells in the dimension of eternity, and although we are currently living in time, He has called us to walk with Him and experience Him now. Ephesians 2:6 says that God has
... raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in heavenly places.
These heavenly places exist in eternity. For us to be able to walk with the Lord and experience the fullness of all that He has for us, we must be able to live beyond time and touch eternity.
In another verse, John 10:10, Jesus says,
The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.
The original Greek word used for “abundantly” in this verse is “perissos,” which means “beyond, exceedingly above, or excessive.” This is the kind of life that Jesus came to give us. In Him we have life which is beyond, above, and in excess of what is natural. This is supernatural life, and we access it when we touch eternity. Eternal life does not start when we die – it starts now.
The thief in this verse is obviously the devil, and he has set out to rob us of our supernatural life. Peter further warned us about this thief:
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. I Peter 5:8
The devil’s primary goal is to cause a separation between the Lord and us. He knows that if he can divert our focus from the Lord, then he can stifle our supernatural life. One of the ways he does this is by trying to distract us with an unhealthy perspective on either the past or the future. The Lord dwells in eternity, and the only time when we can truly walk with Him is the present. If the enemy can distract us from the present, then he can hinder our relationship with the Lord.
Dangers of Living in the Past
One of the devil’s common schemes to distract us from the present is to divert our focus to the past. Let us examine a little more closely some of his means of accomplishing this:
In Revelation 12:10, the devil is called the “accuser of our brethren,” and accusation is one of his primary tools to enslave us to the past. He constantly reminds us of our sins and mistakes. There are many people who can never pray or worship the Lord without being attacked by feelings of guilt or unworthiness. We need to understand that deliberate sin can hinder the Lord from moving in our lives the way He desires, but once we have confessed the sin and turned back to the Lord, He forgives and forgets the sin. I John 1:9 says,
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Once the Lord has forgiven us of our sins, they are gone. He will never bring them up to us again. King David wrote about this in Psalm 103:12:
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
David used a very important analogy in this scripture. There is no way to measure the distance between the east and the west. It does not matter how far a person travels east, unless he turns around, he will never be going west. That is not true of north and south, however. If a person begins to travel south, he will eventually begin to head north without ever turning around. Just as there is no way to measure how far the east is from the west, there is no way to measure how far our confessed sins are from the Lord. The Bible actually tells us that He will forgive our iniquity and our sins He will remember no more. (See Jeremiah 31:34). Since the Lord has forgotten our confessed sins, if we are ever reminded of them, we can be assured that it is an accusation from the devil.
Not only can memories of past sins hinder us in our lives today, but memories of past offenses can as well. These offenses can range from someone simply saying something harsh to us, to somebody cheating us out of a large sum of money, or to something even worse. We might have been completely innocent and still fallen prey to someone else’s cruel and wicked acts. Whatever the case, we have been guaranteed that offenses are going to come. In Luke 17:1, Jesus said,
It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they come!
We know that we are going encounter offenses, and both the Lord and the enemy have plans for them. The Lord’s plan is to use them to mature us and draw us closer to Him, but the enemy’s plan is use them to cause us pain and turmoil for years to come. Many of us spend countless hours reliving situations that happened in the past, and thinking of how we would handle things differently if we could be there again. If we are continually dwelling on past situations, the enemy has us in bondage to the past.
Probably most of us have played the game where a group of people sits in a circle and the first person whispers something in the ear of the person next to him. That person in turn whispers what he believes to be the same thing in the ear of the person next to him. Everyone in the circle takes their turn repeating what was just said to them, and by the time the words have been whispered in the ear of the last person, they rarely even resemble the words originally spoken. This is a good illustration of what happens when we continually dwell on past situations. Little by little the situation changes until we believe things happened differently than they really did. We almost never remember things exactly the way they actually happened, especially if it involves our being offended. If we dwell on past offenses, we are keeping the situation alive and harboring an open wound, but if we release the offense to the Lord, He will take it and turn it into a blessing.
The Past Can Never Be Changed
The past is completely frozen in time. Nothing in the past can be changed. Not even the Lord can change the past, but if we respond to it correctly, He will use it for our good. Romans 8:28 says,
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Jeremiah 29:11 says,
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
Good Memories of the Past
Not only can the devil rob of us of our life in the present by reminding us of how bad our past has been, but he can also accomplish this by reminding us of how great our past has been. This is probably one of our adversary’s most subtle schemes. On their journey to the Promised Land, the children of Israel were required to gather the manna every day. Any manna that was saved from one day to the next would spoil. The very thing the Lord provided to nourish them on Monday was harmful to them on Tuesday. This was because He desired to provide them with a fresh impartation of Himself everyday. The enemy’s intention is for us to be spiritually malnourished today because our focus is on how the Lord fed us so well yesterday. How strong would a marriage be if the couple did not continually communicate with each other, but only relished in the fact that they had a nice wedding? The Lord wants the couple to grow in their love for each other and in their ability to communicate with each other every day, and this can only happen as they focus on where they are presently. In the same way, the Lord wants to constantly move in our lives in fresh, new ways, but the devil wants us to settle for the great things that have already happened so that we miss the great things that the Lord is doing now.
There is certainly nothing wrong with being mindful of the great things the Lord has done for us, but if that memory is not strengthening our faith today, then it is not accomplishing the Lord’s will for us. In Psalm 103:2-5, David said,
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities; Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit; Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
We should rejoice that the Lord has done those things for us in the past, but this passage tells us that the Lord has not stopped. Let us determine to never settle for just the great things we have seen in the past, but let us expect them everyday and experience God in new ways in the present. In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul talks about this. He begins in verse 4 talking about his past accomplishments, but goes on to say that he counts all those as loss. In verses 13-14 he says,
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The apostle Paul could have easily rested in the things that he had already seen in God and stopped moving forward. However, he chose to forget what was behind him and to reach forward. He chose to forget the fact that he had been a murderer, the fact that he had been stoned, and the fact that he had raised the dead. He was determined not to let anything from the past hinder him in his pursuit of the Lord. Let us have this same resolve to press on to the fullness of all that God has for us.
A Healthy Perspective of the Future
Not only does the enemy use the past to attempt to distract us from our life in the Lord, but he also uses the future. Let us look at some of the ways he does this. We must start by understanding that a healthy perspective of the future is important, and it is something that we should cultivate. For example, it is wisdom to plan financially for the future, and it is crucial to set clear, specific goals for the future. However, we must understand that the first step to accomplishing those goals is made in the present. In the same chapter of The Screwtape Letters from which I quoted earlier, Lewis explains that the devil wants “a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered to them in the present.” If our perspective of the future is not having a positive effect on our lives in the present, it can rob us of what the Lord has for us.
Lies About the Future
Another of the enemy’s schemes is to lie to us about the future. His lies may be intended to inflict fear or even a deceptive discontentment .The devil knows that he can indefinitely paralyze us if he can convince us to sit back and wait for more desirable circumstances before we draw closer to the Lord or embrace His calling on our lives. He will use such lies as, “just as soon as I am married, then I will be happy,” “just as soon as I have a certain amount of money in the bank, then I will fully press in to the Lord, ” or “once I am in full time ministry, then I will be able to function in my calling.” Jesus offers us life in abundance right now, and He has given us all that we need to live that life. II Peter 1:3-4 says,
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
For by these He has granted to us precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (emphasis mine).
Fear of the Future
Another of the enemy’s common tactics is to keep us in fear of things that have not yet happened. This also produces an unhealthy perspective of the future. The fear of the future is one of the enemy’s most common tactics, and it has enslaved many people. Although we will never fully know the future, we can be confident in the love of God that will keep us through whatever we face. Not only will the Lord preserve us, but He has also called us to overcome and have victory through all that we face. Billy Graham once said, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.” The Lord is not the least bit concerned about what the future holds, and we should not be either. In John 16:33 Jesus said,
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.
As long as we are dwelling in time, we will only be able to walk with the Lord from our position in the present. We should be thankful for all that the Lord has done in the past, and we can certainly look forward to the great things that He will do in the future, but those things must only be used to build our faith and strengthen our relationship with the Lord. Let us determine not to be bound anymore by the past or by the future. Rather, let us commit them fully to the Lord and press on toward the high calling of God for our lives. Romans 8:37-39 says:
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.