Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The Bible pictures life as a race course, but you can't run well weighed down by the sins of your past.
Everyone has a dark corner in their closet, secrets no one can know. Too many are living lives of quiet desperation. Today's program will help you put your past behind you and once again run free. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, the flow of time only moves forward. None of us can turn the clock back or hit a magic undo key to change what we've done, but you're coming with a word of hope.
Yes, Dave, you're absolutely right. We cannot pray as the teenager did. Oh, Lord, I pray that this accident may not have happened. The past is past, but to everyone who is listening today, let me share my heart with you. I believe that God is able to put your past behind you.
It doesn't mean that the past no longer existed, but it need not control you. Would you get on the phone and tell your friends about this series of messages? I believe it can be a means of deliverance, a means of hope, a means of forgiveness. It will enable people to see that no matter how deep they have fallen, God is deeper still. The series of messages is entitled Putting Your Past Behind You.
Let your friends know about it. Let us grow together as we realize the grace of God even in the darkest places. Let's listen. It has been said that the saddest words of tongue or pen are simply these, it might have been. And I suppose that all of us have had those might have beens and those might have beens have a way of catching up on us, don't they? And sometimes because of some decisions and activities in the past, we find that our lives are poisoned in the future. Don't you wish that you could start over again? Wouldn't it be wonderful if there would be a place that would enable you to get a brand new start? Louisa Tarkington wrote these words, I wish there were some wonderful place called the land of beginning again, where all of our mistakes and heartaches and all of our poor selfish grief could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door and never put on again. Wouldn't that be wonderful? Do you believe that there is a place of beginning again?
I do. It's not that we can go back in time because it's clear that hours become days and days become weeks and weeks become years and you can't turn the clock back. There's no use praying like the teenager did. Oh Lord, I pray that this accident might not have happened.
It's too late. And when we talk about a new beginning, we don't mean that all of the scars of the past are taken away. But what we do mean is that those open wounds are healed so that you do have scars because scars are a sign that healing has taken place. Emotionally and spiritually, God wants us to have a brand new beginning. But in order for us to have that, what I'd like to suggest today is that we need some assurance, don't we? Because there may be those of you who are here who say, yes, but you do not know my background, you don't understand what I've been through, you don't know what my parents have done to me.
Yes, that's true, I don't know that. And that's why I want to take you today by the hand and give you some assurance of hope. Take your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10 13. 1 Corinthians 10 13, where the Apostle Paul makes an amazing statement about our ability to endure trials. 1 Corinthians 10 13, it's a passage that he addresses to the people at Corinth encouraging them to stand firm. It says in verse 12, therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. And then he says, no temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it. You say, well, Pastor Lutzer, why are you using this passage of Scripture? It was written by the Apostle Paul to encourage people to stand against trials and temptations, but you may be here as someone who has fallen down. But I want you to know that the same admonitions that people need to stand are the very same ones that people need to stand up. And here are the assurances I would like to give you. First of all, you are not alone. You're not alone.
There is no trial. There is no test that has overtaken you except such and one as is common to the human race. Oh, I know nobody has had the identical experience that you have. And it may well be that many people in the world haven't had your background and your experience, but someone somewhere has. And not only is it true that someone somewhere has had your experience, but they have faced their past successfully.
They have begun again. Your experience is common to fallen mankind. As I've been thinking about this, it dawned on me that there are three different kinds of pasts that people have to put behind them. One is the past that has to do with addictions. I read two books recently, one just this last week on sexual addiction. People who are involved in sexual addictions such as pornography or adultery or other kinds of sexuality oftentimes finding that they are driven by their sexual drive to do things they really don't want to do, but they do them anyway.
Alcoholism, drugs, overeating, you can name the addiction. And I want you to know today that no experience of addiction that you may be involved in is one that is unique to you. The book on sexual addiction that I read said that many people who read it, who have sexual addictions say, I didn't know that there was anybody who was experiencing what I'm experiencing. I thought I was alone.
Friend today, nobody is alone. So there are addictions. You say, well, that isn't my past. I have been abused by my parents. One third of all the baby girls born this year, if the present statistics continue, and they probably will, will be sexually abused by some member of their family or some relative or some neighbor that people trust.
Can you imagine the shame and the hurt and the problems that those young women are going to face? And then we have all of the abuse also among boys. And you're here today and you've had an experience like that in your past, physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse. And if I could listen to your story, you would tell me awful things, hurtful things. And yet I could look at you with absolute assurance and say to you, you are not alone.
Your experience is common to mankind. The pagans experienced child abuse as well, way in biblical times. There is nothing that has happened to you but that someone else has had the same experience and some among that number have faced that experience successfully and they've overcome it and they've had a new beginning.
That's the good news. And then there are those who need to have a different kind of a past put behind them. Those are the ones who are enslaved to another person. I remember counseling a young woman who is not here at the Moody Church. The age of 16 was sexually seduced by an older married man. When it was all over and eventually word leaked out of this experience, he blamed the whole thing on her. Here's this young woman who scarcely knew what she was doing, being blamed for a relationship that had been promoted and had been set up by the older man. Can you imagine the hurt and the revulsion that was in her soul? And yet she made this amazing statement.
She said, but if he were to meet me today and ask me to marry him, she said, I'd do it. What an amazing statement. Do you know that it is possible for girls to be abused by boyfriends and ending up marrying those guys? Now there's a reason for that that we will discuss when we talk about abuse in a subsequent message.
But there's another reason for it too. And that is that there are some people in this world who take absolute total control over other people's lives and they dominate those people and the victims find it hard to be free. Some of you are slaves to your parents. Overbearing parents, overprotective, domineering parents, and you may be 40 years old, you may be 50 years old, you may be 60 years old, and your parents may even be dead, but they rule you from their grave. To this day you are who you are with your insecurities and your inabilities because of parents who may be even dead. What a past that needs to be put behind you. But I want to tell you something today.
You can tell me your story and I've heard a number of them in my lifetime and undoubtedly if I live I'm going to hear a whole lot more. But I can say to you today with assurance you are not alone. There is no trial that you are experiencing except that it is one that is common to fallen humanity. That doesn't mean it's not important, that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt, but others have experienced it.
Why do I want to begin this first series of messages stressing that? Because there is one link in a chain that Satan wants to lay around your neck and that is secrecy, secrecy. You see there are many people who think I'm enduring this alone, I'm a slave to name it, pornography or whatever, and they think that they are enduring this all alone. Nobody has ever experienced what I have experienced and secrecy becomes a chain that binds them as they learn to tell lies to cover their sins and go from one thing to another so that they are not detected, always living with a fear that someone somewhere will see them do something.
Oh what a hell they live in. And I say to you today what you're experiencing is common to man. Secondly, there's another assurance from this verse, God is faithful. God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able. God is faithful.
You say wait a minute now, that can't be. I have never yet met someone who is addicted to anything but that he does not have in his heart hostility toward God. In fact I don't know of anybody whose past still controls them who does not have in their hearts hostility toward God. The alcoholic says of course I have this alcoholism in my past but look at what God has done to me.
If I only had more money, if only I had a better job, if only I had a better family, if only whatever. And he's angry with God. You've talked to children who have been abused. One of the most difficult things for them to get over is their anger toward God. Because they say where was God when I was that little girl who was being violated? Where was God when I was that little boy?
Where was God when I was hurt? And they don't believe that God is faithful. They say a faithful God would have never allowed all this to happen.
And you take the people who are subject to the authority of others who are in emotional and spiritual slavery to some other dominant person and they say where was God when all this was put together? Now I want to speak to you very frankly and say that God is faithful. Roger Montgomery who had 1,500 homosexual experiences and was a homosexual prostitute said that in all the relationships I ever had, he said I never met a homosexual who in his heart was not angry toward God. Angry because he said that's the card that he believes he's been given by the Almighty, a denial of the faithfulness of God. Now I want to say this to you that if the first link of the chain by which Satan keeps people bound to their past is secrecy, the second is hostility toward God, the belief that he's not faithful. What do you do with that hostility toward the Lord? You know sometimes I meet people who forget that the Bible says that all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Did you know that? There is nothing that is hid from his sight. You are as clear to God in the inside as you could ever be to anyone else on the outside. God sees every motive, every aspiration, every thought, every action, and he sees it with incredible clarity. So I'll say to someone are you angry with God? And they say yeah, I'm angry. I say have you ever told him? No, I'd never tell him that I was angry. Have you ever thought it?
Yes, I've thought it obviously. Don't you realize that if you've thought it, he knows about it? Why are you trying to hide from God your hostility and your anger toward him, not talking to him as if to say you can keep it from him as a secret?
You can't. Do you know what some of you have to do? You have to go into a room, you have to shut the door when you've got lots of time, an afternoon or at least a few hours, and you have to just allow all of the hurt and anger that you have towards God to spill out. You say well Pastor Luther I'd never do that. He'd zap me. No, he won't zap you.
He won't. Let me tell you that you can do it reverently and with respect. Remember to whom you are speaking, do not speak disrespectfully, but my dear friend when you read the Psalms you realize that one of the reasons that David was emotionally whole with all of his troubles is that he was so honest in the presence of God, he told God reverently precisely what he thought. You read Psalm 77, David is saying, God, how long am I going to live through this with you hiding your face? God, where have you been when I needed you? Lord, why is it that you are not coming to my need? God, how long are you going to put off justice? Lord, how long are you not going to answer my prayers? Lord, where are you when I need you? He spilled out his heart to God. And yet you get to the end of the Psalm and you find that God is pouring grace and the salve into his wound. There is nothing wrong with you sharing with God the depths of your hurt. In fact, if you want your past to be broken and its negative influence to be smashed, a good place to begin is to tell God all of your hurts in depth and with intensity.
That's a good place to start. And you know why it's a good place to start is he doesn't tell anybody. He doesn't stand up in prayer meeting and say, you know, I have a prayer request that I'd like to share because somebody shared a need with me that I would like to pass off onto you so that you can pray for it too. God keeps secrets.
The text says that God is faithful. May I speak to you plainly? If I didn't believe that God had the ability to put your past behind you and give you a new beginning, I wouldn't be in the ministry. Because I am not interested proclaiming a God who is able to deliver people from only small sins. Do you really think that to God your past with all of its ugliness, your past with abuse, your past with moral failure, do you really think that it is greater than the faithfulness and the ability of God? If you do, that's part of the reason why you're bound. The first link is secrecy, but I want to remind you that your experience is common to the human race.
The second link is hostility toward God. I want to remind you that God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tested beyond what you are able to bear, but makes a way of escape. And that's the third assurance I want to give you today. There is a way out. There is a way of escape.
Before I give you God's way, let me talk about the ways of the world for just a moment. They have their escapes too, because the hurt is too hard to bear. The raw pain of rejection is too hard. The wound is too deep. The poison is too strong.
It's too filled with acid and hurt. So there are ways that people try to escape. Let me name some. They're all false. First is denial.
Denial. Remember talking to a young man whose mother had done everything she possibly could to ruin his life. And you know, mothers can do that just like fathers can do it.
Mothers can do it too. And yet now as an adult, when he began to confront his mother with all that she had done, she stood there and she denied the whole thing, though he remembers it with clarity as to what life was really like when they were being brought up in that home. She denied it. Maybe she actually did forget it. The human mind can forget unpleasant things that we have done rather quickly.
Denial. There are some people who, when they are confronted with their past and their faults and their sins, absolutely cannot handle it because to look at themselves for one minute would be too awful. My friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. Do you want God to put your past behind you? As children bring their broken toys with tears for us to mend, I brought my broken dreams to God because he was my friend. But then instead of leaving him to work in peace alone, I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own. At last I snatched them back and cried, how can you be so slow? My child, he said, what could I do?
You never did let go. That's a poem I quote in my book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. I believe that God wants to do a deep work in our hearts, and he shows us how he can do this if we are but willing. I believe that this book is going to help people who struggle with addiction, who struggle with a painful past, to remember that God exists and Jesus came for the vilest of sinners. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I'm going to be giving you that contact info again, but I want to remind you, as I mentioned at the beginning of this program, call your friends. Invite them to listen. Tell them about the ministry of Running to Win and if there is any series that will touch their hearts and help them to understand God's grace, it's this series entitled Putting Your Past Behind You.
And I've written a book by that topic and as I mentioned, for a gift of any amount, we'll be glad to send it to you. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. Well, you've heard me say this before, but rtwoffer is all one word.
rtwoffer.com or you can pick up the phone even right now and call us at 1-888-218-9337. And I want to personally thank you in advance for supporting this ministry. We believe that the grace of God stretches to cover every situation for those who are willing to receive it. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. Next time join us as we hear the rest of today's message and learn how to move from secrecy and hostility toward embracing the forgiveness God has promised to give. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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