“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’ ” (Luke 9:62).
IT IS BY THE GRACE OF GOD THAT WE HAVE COME AS FAR AS WE HAVE IN THE JOURNEY OF LIFE. We are not apostles and we may not have been guilty of murdering Christians as Paul was, but we can still identify with his sentiment: “I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:9,10). Thanks to God’s patience with us, we’ve been given the time we needed to learn and grow and improve. Some things, we’re now glad to say, are in the past.
We need to exercise a degree of caution in the way we think about our past. We wouldn’t have done the things we used to do if they hadn’t been attractive to us, and we need not think they couldn’t become attractive again if we gave them the opportunity. We may have grown stronger, but we’re not yet invincible.
It would be impossible to forget completely the sins of our past. In fact, it wouldn’t be good to forget them — we need the memory of those things to keep us humble. But if we can’t keep certain memories from coming back, we can at least refuse to entertain them hospitably. We may have to look back for practical reasons now and then, but we dare not look back longingly.
When we break with our sins, God commands us to do so cleanly and decisively. It’s a strong thing that Jesus says when He teaches that if we look back after putting our hands to the plow, we are “not fit for the kingdom of God.” We do not properly honor Him as our Lord if our choice to follow Him is not wholehearted. The commitment to say “Yes” to Him must be accompanied by an emphatic “No” to the sins that have previously separated us from Him. That definite “No” is a necessary part of repentance.
It’s a dangerous thing to replay the still-enjoyable aspects of the memory of sin. Like Lot and his family who were told to leave Sodom and not look back, we need, in the case of some things, to leave them alone for the rest of our lives. We can’t afford to have any fine print in our contract with God. By His grace, we’ve been able to close certain doors. Reopening them is . . . well, unthinkable.
“To forsake sin is to leave it without any thought of returning to it” (William Gurnall).