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Leaving the Past Behind

From the series: Basic Christian Discipleship

When you start your new life in Christ, the last thing you want to do is relive painful memories and feel stuck in the past. You are called to leave the past behind you—once and for all—and move forward with confidence. The past can hold treasured memories, but for many, thinking about the past isn’t always positive or helpful. We are called as believers to to leave our life before Christ behind.

Isaiah 43:18-19 │ Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

John Owen, once a slave ship captain, and a murderer, said when he came to know Christ:

I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, I am not what I hope to be. But I thank God I am not what I once was, and I can say, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”

Because you are one with Jesus, when he died, you died. When he rose again, you rose again with him. Are will never be the person you were when you were lost. That person is forever dead. You are called to leave your past behind.

Rehearsing past hurts and reliving painful memories is harmful. Some people wear their yesterdays like a garment—allowing them to define who they are today. Towing around old shame, guilt and hurt only hinders the blessings of God and gives the devil a place in your life where he doesn’t belong.

Put Away the Voice of the Enemy

Remember, the devil wants you to relive your past. He’s the accuser of God’s people. He wants you to think you are forever scarred by your past. But it’s not true. Listen to the voice from heaven that tells us the truth.

Revelation 12:10-11 │ I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb.”

We have conquered Satan at the cross. We must remember that because of Christ, Satan is a defeated foe. He has no power over us unless we give it to him.

Colossians 2:15 │ He disarmed the [demonic] rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Since Satan is defeated, he has no power over you unless you give it to him.

Right now, determine to put away the toxic emotions Satan uses to control you and bring your thoughts under control.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 │ For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Instead of allowing your mind and Satan to dictate your thoughts, you can tell your mind what to think.

Philippians 4:8 │ Finally, brothers, whatever is true… think about these things.

James 4:7 │ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

It’s time to take back the peace and joy the devil has stolen and embrace your future. It’s time to stop listening to the voice of the enemy and walk into a place of blessing.

Put Away Toxic Emotions

Many people carry the pain of the past with them and relive the horrors and fears and anger of the old life even after they are born again. Those who have viewed pornography or who have lived in impurity in the world can be tormented by images and sites and experiences bring temptation and sadness and confusion. Many have suffered abuse in the old life, and there is bitterness, unforgiveness and anger to work through. Others have experienced abandonment and neglect as children or even as an adult. It is common to relive the past. Some experience panic attacks, and paralyzing emotions. There are emotional bumps and bruises and even scars. Inner aches and pains just don’t seem to go away. Most all of us know what it’s like to suffer from them, but too few of us know just what to do about them. We limp along, hoping somehow those hidden wounds will stop hurting, thinking that maybe (with a little extra sleep, an extra helping of dessert, or a tall glass of wine) that nagging sense of depression will finally disappear. We know that we need God himself to help us break free from these toxic emotions. How do we break free from the past?

Remember Your Identity

Remember who you are in Christ. No matter how complicated or painful, nothing less than complete healing is promised to you in Jesus. The best place to start is with the promise of your new life.

2 Corinthians 5:17 │ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Every thought, memory and emotion can come to a place of peace and healing in the name of Jesus. As Isaiah 53:4 says, he bore our griefs and sorrows on the cross, so we don’t have to bear them anymore. They are all under the blood, and we are redeemed. Hallelujah!

Remember To Renew Your Mind

Real transformation begins with mind renewal. We put away fear by putting on trust in God. We put away anger by putting on a submitted spirit before God. We put away depression and despair by recounting the promises of God and reigniting hope. We put away worldly pleasure by finding delight in the Lord, his word, and his people. Look at the chart below to see how to defeat sinful emotions.

Ephesians 4:22-24 │ Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and… be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and… put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Commit to daily Bible reading. Inner healing is often a process rather than an event. As you daily spend time with God and in his word, you will find that he brings healing to those inner hurts and memories of the past.

Walk in the word. Do the daily work of mind renewal by walking in the word. It’s not enough to just learn the Bible or read it. You have to walk in it and practice it. One way to do this is the heart of change journal. Here is an exercise to do when you feel any of the toxic emotions.

  • Identify the idol indicator: anger, fear, despair, worldly pleasure, or escape.
  • What am I wanting so much that it is making me angry, etc.?
  • What does the word of God say about my situation, my response, and my source of joy in light of the gospel?
  • What should I want?
  • How ought you to repent? Instead of __________ I need to put on __________.

Leave the Past Behind Through Forgiveness

There’s nothing like unforgiveness in your heart to keep you chained to the past. Unforgiveness has been linked to depression, illness and disease. It’s toxic! So, get with the Lord and determine, with His help, to forgive every wrong ever committed against you. Then, take a deep breath, and enjoy your newfound freedom!

The Warning of Unforgiveness

One mark of the true Christian is that he or she is willing to forgive anything and everything against them, no matter how bad.

Matthew 6:12, 14-15 │ And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors… 14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

It is not only provision for daily living that we need, of course. We are not only creatures, we are sinful creatures. Hence, we also need forgiveness for our many sins, which God provides on the basis of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. It is why Jesus came. This petition of the Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6:12).

What Jesus is saying is simply this – your ability to forgive is a mark of your kingdom citizenship. If you do not forgive others, it shows that you have not experienced God’s forgiveness. This is not something to be taken lightly, for we cannot help but notice that this is the only one of the six petitions in this prayer that is picked up again and amplified by Jesus with the strongest of warnings: if you do not forgive, then you show yourself not actually to be a child of the heavenly Father.

The truth is, when we realize that we are forgiven of everything in our past, we can freely grant forgiveness to others who wrong us.

The Ruin of Unforgiveness

Someone said that bitterness is like drinking poison hoping the other person will die. Unforgiveness keeps you paralyzed spiritually. It keeps you in a cycle that will keep you being harassed by the devil. Often Satan will keep us in bondage to anger or bitterness through unforgiveness.

Ephesians 4:26-27 │ Be angry and do not sin… and give no opportunity to the devil.

When you sin in any way, especially with unforgiveness, you give control of your life back over to the devil. He now has authority to harass you.

Once you are committed to unforgiveness, it brings bitterness, and blows up into an argument ending with a settled hostility against one another. In Ephesians 4, Paul mentions six toxic attitudes of unforgiveness that need be repented of in all our relationships.

These six toxic attitudes are bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. The following illustration may hit pretty close to home.

A perceived insult or disrespect occurs. Then comes…

Bitterness (playing the hurt over and over)

Wrath (rage)

Anger (clamming up, grudge holding)

Clamor (shouting, blowing up)

Slander (insults)

Malice (a settled hostility)

Ephesians 4:31-32 │ Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Unforgiveness is fueled by selfishness. With a selfish attitude, the goal is always to “protect or nurse my hurt” and to get my way no matter what. James says this way of thinking brings “disorder and every vile practice” (Jas 3:16).

The Remedy for Unforgiveness

What’s the remedy for unforgiveness? Simple. Surrender to God. Die to self. Stop prosecuting your case. Swallow your hurts and feel for the other person (tenderness). Serve the other person and make life easier for them (kindness) and ask for forgiveness while refusing to insult the other person with their wrongs. Never say “Please forgive me, but…” Ask for forgiveness for your sins to God and to the person you offended. We can choose the “Ephesians 4:32 solution”— put off bitterness and… feel the pain of the other person (tenderness), make life easier for the other person (kindness), and take responsibility for my wrongs while forgiving the other person (forgiveness).

Part of leaving the past behind is learning to release guilt and shame from your life. When you confess your sins, repent and receive forgiveness. You are forgiven—end of story. God doesn’t hold sin against you. He has already forgotten it, so you must forget it, too.

Leave the Past Behind By Focusing Forward

Philippians 3:13-14 │ But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Once you’ve stopped living in the rearview mirror, where should you put your focus? Forward! That’s where the prize is and that’s where true peace and victory are found.

Paul says, “I press on…” He will not stay in the past. Like an athlete wanting to win a championship, Paul is never satisfied with where he is. “I press on!” He’s hungry! I press on to “make it my own” or “to seize the perfection of knowing Christ”. I want to seize the one who seized me. I reach after Christ who has reached me!

Paul refuses to dwell on the past but says, “I press on to make it my own…” Make what his own? The perfection of knowing Christ. Paul wants to seize the knowledge and relationship he will have with Christ in the resurrection right now. On the day of Christ’s second coming, we will know Christ perfectly. We should reach after Christ now in that way! He doesn’t have time to look back on his past. He knows he’s predestined to be conformed to Christ (Rom 8:29). Holiness is what Paul is concerned with. Stop focusing on the mistakes of the past. Replace thoughts of yesterday’s mistakes with scriptural promises about your future. As you do that, hope will start taking the place of depression. The spiritual aches and pains that have crippled you for so long will quickly disappear. The “prize of the high calling of God” is to know Christ. Paul’s message is simple: focus on your growth, not on your past.

A life free from the bondage of the past is within your grasp, so begin implementing these three steps and look to a blessed and bright future. Put the past behind you and start your new life today!


Please complete the homework for the week and be ready to hand it in next week. Be sure to memorize at least one of the verses as well.


  1. What are some areas of your past that you struggle with leaving behind?



  1. Look at the “heart chart” of emotions. Which category of emotions do you struggle with most? (anger, despair, foolishness, or fear)



  1. Use the heart journal to address an incident of sin or sinful emotion.
  • Identify the idol indicator: anger, fear, despair, worldly pleasure, or escape. _________________
  • What am I wanting so much that it is making me angry, etc.?  _____________________
  • What does the word of God say about my situation, my response, and my source of joy in light of the gospel? _____________________
  • What should I want? _____________________
  • How ought you to repent? Instead of __________ I need to put on _______________.


  1. Below are some verses to memorize. Write them out (or cut them out) and put them in a prominent place where all can see it, like on a mirror or on your refrigerator.

Ephesians 4:31-32 │ Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Bonus verse:

2 Corinthians 10:5 │ We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.


  1. Continue reading each day in the Scriptures. Read at least one chapter from the Bible each day. If you don’t know where to start, begin in the Gospel of John. Write down 1 verse each day that is meaningful to you. Keep a record of 5 out of 7 days.


Day 1: ___________________________


Day 2: ___________________________


Day 3: ___________________________


Day 4: ___________________________


Day 5: ___________________________



Day 6: ___________________________

Day 7: ___________________________