” ‘Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.’ ” ~ Acts 23:1b
These words were spoken by Paul, as he began his testimony before the chief priests and Jewish council. Paul, formerly known as Saul, who consented to Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1) and “made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” ~ Acts 8:3, made the above statement. He could say that he had “lived in all good conscience before God until this day”? But how?
Look at what Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” ~ Galatians 2:20
It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. Once Paul confessed and surrendered his life to God (Acts 9), he died to himself and lived wholly for Christ. He immediately turned from his past ways and lived the life of an itinerate tentmaker and preacher, traveling from city to city, town to town, all over Asia – Galatia and Greece, Syria and Macedonia – with one purpose: to teach people about Jesus.
Here is more of Paul’s wisdom, this time to the church in Corinth:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new…Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17, 20-21
Paul not only penned these words (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit), he believed and lived them. Do we believe and live that way? Or are we ruled by our past, as it comes back to remind us time and again of our woundedness, sin, and/or worthlessness?
Don’t listen to Satan! He is the one who readily dredges up our past mistakes and hurts, so that we might be distracted from what lies ahead. Do you belong to Jesus? Then God has forgiven and forgotten your past! You are now wrapped in the righteousness of Jesus, a new creation! Press on ahead, and look behind no longer.
In a letter to the church in Philippi, Paul wrote:
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 3:13-14
Paul not only taught the Gospel to the world around him, but he also discipled and encouraged the new believers. He lived a life of example for others, not to draw people to himself, but to point them to Jesus.
Even as he sensed his impending arrest, his desire was to encourage and exhort the elders of the church at Ephesus:
” ‘And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood…So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified…’ And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.” ~ Acts 20:22-28, 32, 36
Like Paul, let’s throw off our past, that old nature which is so quick to judge and demoralize, and press on toward the work God has called us to today. Eyes on Jesus!
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~ Hebrews 12:1-2