Choosing Joy When You Have a Past


From the Series: Choosing Joy

I’ve got a past. You’ve got a past. Everybody’s got a past!

The Apostle Paul told us all about his past in his letter to the Philippians…

Philippians 3:1-7 NRSV

[1] Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard. [2] Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh! [3] For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh- [4] even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: [5] circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; [6] as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. [7] Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.

From Paul’s words, we draw out two huge truths about choosing joy even in spite of our past…

TRUTH #1: It’s not about who you were, or what you’ve accomplished, or how you’ve failed, or what others think about you.

All of us are sinners, all of us have problems, hurts, habits, and hang-ups. But that’s who we were. Let’s break it down.

Apart from God, life is all about…

  • What others think of us – how they define us, criticize or praise us, etc.
  • What I’ve accomplished in my own power and my own goodness, which is not the goodness of God.
  • How I’ve failed, sinned, fallen short, let people down.

But life was never meant to be about your past. Instead…\

TRUTH #2: It’s about who you know (Jesus), who you are (what He is making you into), and where you’re headed (for the prize).

Paul continues…

Philippians 3:8-14 NRSV

[8] More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ [9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. [10] I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, [11] if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. [12] Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

When you have a past (and all of us can identify with having a past), you need to think forward about who you are now and what God’s promise of the future holds for you.

  • Nothing compares with knowing (really knowing, by experience) Jesus Christ.
  • We are re-defined by the righteousness we find in Him.
  • We get to live in the power of His resurrection.
  • We get to share in the pain of His suffering, and it means something. It makes sense.
  • We get to enjoy resurrection.
  • There is a prize waiting ahead!

So how do you move past your past?

  1. Receive the righteousness Christ freely offers.
  2. Let Him alone define You by His truth.
  3. Focus your life on the prize ahead – go “all in” for it, forsaking everything else!


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