Challenged to Change
Communion: Jesus Destroyed Our Past
2 Corinthians 5:17
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
About 1956 years ago, a Jewish rabbi led his followers up to an upper room to observe the Passover feast. Then he took bread in his hands and broke the bread and absolutely astonished them by saying, “This is my body which is given for you”. He then began to explain that his death that was about to take place on a hill outside Jerusalem was only a physical expression of a death that he had died in eternity. Though the death appeared to be the death of a political martyr or the death of a religious victim, yet his death was something that had been planned from before the beginning of the world by the Creator of our universe. He outlined to them how in his death in eternity, he had actually taken all of the worst of them.
Even before that was expressed in the world here, he had taken the worst of them into himself and allowed his Father to destroy it in him. He talked about it as bearing our sins. But he explained to them, it was really taking all that they had ever been, taking all of that and destroying it in himself. He made it clear that this was something that had taken place even before the foundation of the world. He explained to them that God, his Father has known every word you would say, every action you have ever done, every thought you have ever had. And he was able to put all that and the personality that you have now become, into his Son Jesus and destroy it and wipe it out once and for all.
Well, they heard him but really, the proof of anything is in the actual events. So, he was arrested and he was executed. They waited, and on the third day, you remember some of them were losing all hope that there was anything remarkable in this Jewish rabbi at all. Then on the third day, he actually appeared to them. One of them thought he was just a ghost and said, “I will not believe until I am able to poke my finger into the hole in his side. Until then I think you have had a hallucination or you’ve seen a ghost”. You know how several days later, he appeared to that man Thomas and said, “Thomas, put your hand into my side and put your finger into the hole in my hands and see that it is I, myself and that I am not a ghost.” Then he explained to them how he had gone to his Father and had conversed with the Creator of the universe and had come back only temporarily to assure us that all that he had said was true.
That, loved ones, is what we observe today here at this altar. It’s known as the Lord’s Supper but it really is the solution to all the problems of our world. That is in fact what God did. He took all that you have become and he took all your sins and he put them into his Son Jesus and he ended it all there. I want to tell you something else that he ended. You remember the “Pilgrim’s Progress” that was written by John Bunyan. You remember how Bunyan tells that Pilgrim had a great burden on his back.
I think many of us in this room have a burden on our backs and we’ve carried it for years. It is like a burden and we carry it there and we carry it like this through life [picking up a black garbage bag with various things poking out of it, and carrying it over his back]. We struggle along with it and it actually is not our sins. It’s actually something different. There are nice things about it. There are things that belong to someone. We have nice memories. We have a memory of who wore this coat [pointing to a coat sticking out of the bag]. We have happy memories of our mothers
and things that she said to us. We have good memories of our dads. We have pleasant memories of school days. But there are other things that poke into us [pointing to a stick poking out of the bag] as we travel along and they are part of those memories. So, the past has good memories. But it’s interesting, connected with those good memories are always other things that poke in and that become what we call wounded spirits or bad memories, or things in the past that seem to dog our steps or weigh us down.
We keep on feeling that we should carry this [points to the full black garbage bag he’s still carrying over his back] and we ought to keep it with us and we ought to keep this past and we ought to refer back to it at times and get inspiration from some of the happy memories. So we all say to each other now, “The past isn’t bad. The past isn’t bad.” Yet it’s strange because though some of the past is good, it’s very hard to have the good bits of it, without the bad bits.
Loved ones there is a glorious liberty. There’s a verse in Second Corinthians if you look at it. Second Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”, and here are the words, “the old has passed away”. Loved ones, God took your past and put it into Jesus and destroyed it. In his eyes it no longer exists. If you say to me, “You mean the good memory?” Yes, yes, the lot, the lot, because it’s those subtle good memories that are connected with bad memories and hold you enslaved to the past. The past is over. The past is finished. The old has passed away. When Jesus died, your past, right up to this very moment, passed away for good and for all and forever.
Loved ones, this morning, look, do that, do that (walks to the side and throws the black garbage bag away from him onto the floor, and walks away from it), do it, do it. Put the past once and for all, where God has placed it — in his Son on Calvary, finished, dead, gone forever. Yes, the good — and the bad. We’re not meant to live either by the inspiration of the past. But thank God — nor by the fear of the past. We’re intended to live as new creations. You’re new. You’re new. You’re not the result of your past — you’re new today. That’s what this dear Bible says. The old has passed away, the new has come. I don’t know how you are in regard to the past. But brothers and sisters, there is a great liberty that you can enter into today as you heave that past into Christ and allow it to be destroyed once and for all.
I will tell you why. You and I are not fighting flesh and blood. We’re not fighting old photographs. We’re not. We’re not fighting our mother’s tendency to condemn us or our father’s alcoholism; we’re not fighting those things. We’re not fighting flesh and blood. We’re fighting principalities and powers. We’re fighting rulers of this present darkness — all kinds of spiritual powers and forces that gather around your mom, that gather around your dad, that gather around your home, that gather around things that your teacher said to you, that gather around things that other people have said to you. They gather around them like cancer and they grow around them. It’s those principalities and powers that use the past to dominate you, discourage you, paralyze you, preoccupy you.
One of the things that this dear Book says is that, “On the cross in his death, Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers.” So you know, if you sat there for years and thought, “Well, I need to have my memory healed.” Or, “I need gradually to work out the demon that has come into me from my parents or from my earlier experiences” — no, you don’t. You don’t. You need to believe what God has done in Jesus — that he has destroyed the past, he has wiped it out. He has destroyed all the principalities and powers that have dogged your steps. And today you can get up and live free from that past, and free from all its influences and free from all its chains. You can get up today, on the basis of God’s own Word and the most certain event in history –- Jesus’ death — and you can
say, “The past is finished.”
Loved ones, this is the first day of your new life. You can have done with the past today. One other thing. It means that you have to walk in that. It means you have to refuse to think about it again. That’s it. It’s the thinking about it. It’s the dwelling upon it. It’s the bringing up little nuggets that comfort you, that enable the principalities and powers to add to it the other barbs that cut and weigh you down. You need to walk in the reality of it today.
If you say to me, “You mean I am now a man or a woman without a past?” Yes. You say, “You mean all I am is what I am now at this moment?” Yes. That’s the glorious thing. Yes. Yes. You say to me, “But I had a dear dad that was a real inspiration to me — should I not think of him?” No, you shouldn’t. Why? Because he’s in heaven. He’s with the Father. He’s in a place of greater light in life. He has gone on. Our moms, they have gone on. They have passed. They don’t think of us. They don’t. They are gloriously preoccupied with what they are doing now. You don’t need to think of them. You need to realize that the past has gone. The old has gone and the new has come.
I would encourage any of you who have lived under the weight and under the fear and under the paralysis and the threat of the past — when you come up to the altar at communion to cast that past right in the place where God has put it — in his Son on Calvary. Because Christ has died for all of us here in this room, therefore all of us have died. Therefore, here is the interesting thing. Even if you don’t believe it, your past has actually been destroyed. And all the effect that it is able to have on you has actually been destroyed, and what you’re putting yourself under is a lie and a deception. Those spiritual powers no longer exist in the light of what Christ has done. What you are living under in these years, is lies and deception that that past has some power and influence over you. It has none. The burden that Pilgrim carried included not only his sin but his past and that fell away from him when he came to the Cross.
Loved ones, this morning I encourage you not only to be honest about your sins and to repent of them and put them from you and let Christ take them to himself on the Cross. But I encourage you to do the same with your past, with every bit of it, every little bit, every part. Let us pray.
Dear Lord, we hardly know how much there is. But we do know all kinds of memories. We remember all kinds of scenes that we call to our mind from time to time. We remember all kinds of words that were spoken. We remember all kinds of what we call bruising experiences that we passed through. We remember all kinds of regrets, all kinds of errors and mistakes, all kinds of remorse, all kinds of wishes that we had acted differently.
Then Lord, we remember those dark things, those hidden resentments of what parents or friends or relatives did to us. We remember all kinds of regrets about how jobs went or how education went. Lord, we are amazed at how much of our mental capacity is filled with these things from the past.
Lord, we know that there is no way in which we can filter out the good from the bad. We have so often tried to remember the good and we have dragged up with it some of the bad. So Lord, we see the wisdom of what you have done. You’ve committed the lot to destruction and death in Jesus. Lord God, you have destroyed the chain and the links that bind us to those spiritual powers that live like vermin of our past.
So Lord, we come to you this morning to commit the whole of our past forever into the tomb with Jesus — for it to be buried with him and destroyed forever in eternity. We commit ourselves Lord
to starting to live in the present; to beginning to give our whole attention to what we have now and to see that this is a new and a fresh day, and that the old has passed away and behold the new has come. We are new creations — not anyone’s child but your child, Lord. Born of you — your son and your daughter, coming new and fresh from our Father’s hand and with a new life to live. And with nothing but a good history behind us, the history of Jesus, because we are part of the generation of Jesus Christ.
We are part of the second Adam. We are part of your new race and your new creation. Lord, we thank you for that. We pray for each other that during this communion time, Holy Spirit, you will enable each one of us here to do a thorough job and to forever put away the past far from us. As far as the east is from the west, so you remove our transgressions from you and so we know you removed our past from us. So Lord, we thank you.
We commit ourselves now our Father, to accepting what you have done in Jesus with glad hearts and to walk in it in truth for the rest of our days, in Jesus’ name. Amen