What’s Behind Me Doesn’t Define Me

[It’s been three years since this one posted, so I have three more years of past mistakes. So do you. Here’s why that’s not as important as you might think.]


Justifying Idol Worship

“To worship an idol involves calling something holy when it is not holy. Remember, only God can consecrate. … When a human being tries to consecrate what God has never consecrated, it is not a genuine act of consecration. It is an act of desecration. It is an act of idolatry.” (R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God.)

I remember vividly some of the justifications and rationalizing that my friends and I used to go through. No matter what we were talking about, if there was some doubt about it fitting in with God’s will it was common to hear something like, “It must be all right, because it feels so right. We’ll pray and ask God to let us know if we should stop, but until he does then it’s OK to keep going.” You can imagine how handy this became.

  • Getting a little physical with a boyfriend or girlfriend?

Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

  • Drinking a lot when out with friends?

Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

  • Planning on calling in sick at work because two tickets to a great concert just popped up?

Just pray for God to tell you to stop if he thinks you’ve crossed a line.

And until God tells you different, you can go right ahead with those plans, right? Yet I know these prayers are lame attempts to hide my plans from God, not bring them to him for guidance.

Sadly, this isn’t just confined to my past. I still find myself rationalizing away my decision-making processes. I am guilty of trying to consecrate my own desires, those ideas that I come up with of what I think is right, those priorities that I end up making into my own idols. Why call them idols? Because that’s what the Bible calls them:

“… your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5.)

These are the mistakes I make – I admit it – but I am glad to be able to say that my mistakes are not who I am. What’s behind me doesn’t define me.

What’s behind me doesn’t define me

What’s behind me doesn’t define me

Defined By Christ

You are more than the choices that you’ve made
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes
You are more than the problems you create
You’ve been remade
(Tenth Avenue North, You Are More.)

The Bible defines us like this:

“… you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:9-11.)

and, similarly, like this:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28.)

What does it mean, then, to be defined not by where we were born or our economic status or our sex? It means that we are defined by who Jesus is because “Christ is all, and is in all” and we “are all one in Christ Jesus.”

You Can’t Get Closer Than “In”

You can rest for eternity on the truth that God has given his people:

“… glorious riches … which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  (Colossians 1:27.)

Our hope of glory – which happens to be the present reality that we are right and righteous with God – is all because Christ is in us and we are in Christ. Seriously, how can it get better than that? Jesus is in you and you are in him and this relationship is God’s richness in your life.

And yet I still create idols, I still place things before God, I still try to consecrate what he has not consecrated. Why? It’s like Paul said:

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:18-21.)

If Paul hadn’t licked it by then, there’s no reason for me to think that I should be able to master sin. But that doesn’t mean that sin has mastered me. In fact, I take heart that it hasn’t:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2.)

Freedom from sin’s laws means freedom from sin’s mastery over our lives. That’s what life in Jesus does. God never condemns a single one his people, the people who have life in Jesus. God always loves his own.

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation … .”  (Colossians 1:21-22.)

From God’s point of view (and admit it, his is the only point of view that counts) you are holy, without blemish and eternally free from accusation. It’s as simple as that.

God's View of You

God’s View of You

Don’t you dare let anyone tell you different.


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1 Response to What’s Behind Me Doesn’t Define Me

  1. If we feel alienated from God, it is not because of anything He has done. We get to choose how much of our lives we are willing to give Him. Sure, He loves us even when we’re idiots, but do we really want to be idiots?

    I’ve done my share of foolish things, and I don’t want to look for ways to get my own way or try to live apart from Him ever again. If anything, I want to acknowledge my failings at the soonest possible opportunity, to keep that terrible wall of separation from going up and, even better, to avoid being selfish or stupid to begin with.

    One morning not too long ago, when I was just talking to my Lord about people I care about, it was as though I could feel Him smiling, as though the intimacy of our friendship was a precious secret between us. “Isn’t this fun?” it felt like He was saying to me. And I had to laugh out loud. “Yes, Lord. This is fun…”

    There is nothing like it. Why would I ever want to give that up?

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