Oscar Wilde wrote, “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Thanks be to God every sinner, saved by grace, is a saint whose sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb of God and that Lamb, Jesus, “at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
All have a past and a future. The past is important. We learn great lessons and values from past experiences. The Lord made this point with his disciples. It happened shortly after witnessing Jesus feed a hungry multitude of 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. They were in a boat with Jesus and had forgotten to bring enough food. They had only one loaf of bread. Jesus was trying to teach them, but they were not hearing. They were worried about the future. They had no bread. What would they do?
Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?”
He reminded them of the time he fed 5,000 with five loaves and had 12 baskets left over. He had just fed 4,000 with seven loaves and had seven baskets left over. Jesus asked them, “Do you still not understand?”
Remembering helps us to understand. We remember that wretched and lost condition sin had made of us. We recall the gospel story and its powerful influence over us. We remember the impact God’s love and forgiveness first had upon us. We recall Paul’s words, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” and “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
When we remember our sins, we’re less likely to condemn others and more likely to pray for them. When we remember our great debt of sin, we’re more likely to forgive our debtors. When we remember God’s great love for us, we’re more likely to love others.
The Lord asked, “Don’t you remember?” and “Do you still not understand?”
Paul remembered and regretted his past sins, especially as they related to his persecution of the church. But, he became an Apostle of Christ by the grace of God. He then determined to learn from the past, but to press on towards the future, trusting the future to the one who had saved him from his past.
Anyone can turn to Jesus and have a bright future. Will you?
Ken Haskins is pastor of First Christian Church in Carson City.