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Hi, my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast, I want to discuss how to avoid becoming your mistake.
I was working for an organization several years back and one of my responsibilities was publishing a newspaper.
We had just sent our latest edition to the printer and I remember the moment that someone dropped off samples of the freshly printed edition and the first thing I noticed was a small typo on the very front page.
I don’t know how many times we had proofed those pages, but one mistake had slipped through. The last place you want a typo is on the cover page.
I don’t know how long I stared at the typo before returning to my other responsibilities. That mistake would have to be dealt with later.
As my work day came to an end, I gathered up my things and trudged out to my car for the drive home.
The real war was about to begin.
I opened the car door, sat down and I just stared out the front window into the near-empty parking lot.
When I made these mistakes, I could not just walk away from them. I needed to be punished.
I needed to tell myself how stupid I was for letting that typo slip through. I needed to tell myself I was an idiot.
And it wasn’t enough to just think these thoughts, I actually said them out loud. Sometimes I screamed at myself.
I would say out loud how stupid I was. I would call myself an idiot. I would call myself a loser.
But just before I could start this barrage of self-hatred, something else happened.
The Holy Spirit showed up and began urging me not to do it.
God wanted to break this pattern that had followed me for decades where I hated myself, beating myself up because of the mistakes I made, sometime over the misspelling of a single word.
As I desperately wanted to call myself stupid, the Holy Spirit was inside telling me it was a lie.
I have no idea how long I sat in the car struggling to scream at myself and the Holy Spirit saying don’t do it. I probably sat there for an hour.
What was really strange was how scared I got, when the Holy Spirit was gaining the upper hand as I struggle not to condemn myself.
In some twisted, sick way, these expressions of self-hatred actually comforted me, because I deserved it and not doing it was so foreign to me, it was scary.
But it was all a lie. Because though I had made a mistake I was now trying to become the mistake. I was trying to turn myself into the mistake.
The Holy Spirit won that day, and that hour I sat in the car, became a watershed moment for me.
Now some of you may not have been extreme as me. Maybe you only think these thoughts that I verbally hurled at myself.
Or maybe, you are even more extreme, I remember many years back, I was praying for a teenage boy after a service. Maybe I saw something in him, that reminded me of him, but I felt God revealed to me that this boy was actually hating himself so much, he was actually hitting himself with his fists.
But many of us suffer to varying degrees with this. You see we all make mistakes, but it doesn’t mean you are a mistake. But by doing what I did, I was internalizing my mistakes. I became the mistake.
That day, there was a battle taking place in my mind as the Holy Spirit was trying to change my thinking patterns.
And this is the battle the Apostle Paul was referring to in Romans 12:2 when he wrote:
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The Greek word, metamorphoō, translated transformed in this verse, is where we get the Greek word metamorphosis which describes the process when a caterpillar builds a cocoon, dissolves, and then reforms into a completely new creature, a butterfly that is so different it can no longer eat the same thing when it was a caterpillar to survive.
As believers, God wants to transform us into a new creation. In fact, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, that we are a new creation, so in a sense God wants us to become what we already are.
This is how God sees you and the Lord wants you to become what you already are.
But most of us make a mistake and believe that this transformation takes place when we are born again by the Spirit of God, but that is not what this verse says. It reads that we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, literally changing the way we think. The way we think about ourselves and the way we think about God.
This remarkable transformation is actually a two-stage process.
Forgetting what is behind
First, we must forget those things that are behind us. That behind can refer to a mistake you made an hour ago, to the one you made ten years ago, but you are still hounded by the memory of it.
13 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, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV)
I don’t know if you are like me, but throughout the day I often have thoughts dropping into my mind of things that I did in the past. Some were sins. Some were stupid. Many were mistakes.
The Greek word for forgetting, and I won’t bother trying to say it, means to neglect or disregard. It talks of purposefully forgetting those things we did in the past.
But in this verse, Paul states, that it is not that he had apprehended, which I think means, that he had not perfected this act of forgetting, but he was in the process of doing it.
One of the things that Paul needed to forget is that he actually participated in the stoning of Stephen, the church’s first martyr.
Paul, who at this point is called Saul, didn’t actually throw any stones, but we are told the ones who did, actually left their robes with Paul to take care of, before they executed Stephen (Acts 7:58) and we are told in Acts 8:1, Paul approved of Stephen’s execution.
Paul had chosen to purposefully forget his involvement in Stephen’s execution.
We need to start controlling our thought life. When these memories of past shameful things we did pop into our minds, we can’t dwell on them. We can’t let them beat you down, you must deliberately put them out of your mind.
We need to realize that failure and mistakes are a part of life. Everyone makes mistakes, the key difference is in how we handle them.
Look thoughts can pop into our minds of things we did in the past.
They can bring feelings of shame, guilt, condemnation and regret for things we did or didn’t do.
But for many of these thoughts, there is nothing that can be done to undo them. We can’t go back in time and change the past. Since there is nothing we can do, those memories have only one purpose they are there to beat us up and to condemn us and we must respond by choosing to block those memories.
An important part of this is accepting ourselves as flawed human beings who have and will continue to make mistakes. It’s part of life and we just have to accept it.
Embracing your identity in Christ
But then there is a second stage, that we need to do.
And that is found buried in the middle of one of the worst chapter breaks in the Bible. Just for the record, the Bible’s chapter breaks and verses are not inspirited and they were added centuries later.
But in Matthew 4 we read that Jesus had just come off a 40-day fast and was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan and the first temptation that Satan threw at Jesus was in verse 4 which reads:
“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Satan was in Christ’s face, challenging Him, saying if you are the Son of God, prove it, show me your power, turn this stone into bread.
So how did Jesus respond?
His answer was actually quite bizarre because the Lord said:
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
What words was Jesus referring to?
Well most of us miss it because of the chapter break which leaves the impression that what happened in the previous chapter is unconnected.
Because in the very last verse of Matthew chapter 3, essentially four verses earlier, we have the story of Jesus’ baptism and in the very final verse of chapter 3, we read how the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ and God spoke from heaven saying:
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
What Jesus was actually saying to Satan is that His identity as the Son of God was not based on what He did or didn’t accomplish, Christ’s identity was based on whom God said Jesus was.
Because if Jesus’ sonship was based on what He did then Jesus was the son of God when He raised Lazarus from the dead but the Lord wasn’t the son of God when we read that he couldn’t perform many miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief (Matthew 13:58).
At the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus had determined that His identity was based on whom God said He was, not on what Jesus did or didn’t do.
And this is a critical part of the mind-renewing process. We must not only forget and continue to forget what we have done in the past, we must choose to believe and embrace our new identity in Christ.
We are a child of God because of what Christ did on the cross. We are co-heirs with Christ. We are a new creation.
One way to stop those negative memories from the past that drop into your mind is at the time they happen you need to declare your true identity in Christ.
- I am a new creation.
- I am a child of God.
- I am a coheir with Christ.
But reading Bible verses and knowing in your mind that you are a child of God, and believing in your heart that you actually are, are two completely different realities.
Look it is going to be a struggle, much in the same way the butterfly has to fight to break out of its cocoon, this struggle is vital, because the butterfly’s struggle to break free is what pushes fluid into the veins of its wings strengthening and preparing them for flight.
Without that struggle, the butterfly would be unable to fly. So in a similar way, your struggle to forget your past and embrace your identity in Christ is an important part of the process of change.
Thanks for joining me on this podcast, and I will catch you again.