The Past is the Past


There’s an old saying: “Stop cheating on your future with your past… it’s over.” Many of us struggle with our past. Whether it’s pride in past accomplishments, guilt over past choices, or bitterness over past events, we all have baggage. Scripture makes it clear that we are made righteous in Christ Jesus, but sometimes we struggle in our everyday lives to live righteously, often because we are fixating on the past. While we can certainly learn from the past, in this passage Paul makes it clear that we aren’t to be defined by it. 

  • What choices, events, or situations from your past are causing you pride, guilt, or bitterness? 


12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But 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 upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


(Today’s questions focus on verses 3:12-16. Verses 3:17–4:1 will be covered in our next study.)

  1. As you read verses 12-16 again, what was Paul’s attitude toward himself?  
  2. What motivated Paul to press on? What truth spurred him on (vs. 12)?
  3. What are some of the things from your past that you need to forget? How does forgetting the past help you move forward?
  4. There are also some things from our past that we are not supposed to forget. Paul called us to “hold true to what we have attained.” What are the truths about God and the changes God has worked in your life that you need to hold on to?


If anyone had reason to dwell on the past and have great pride, guilt, or bitterness, it was Paul. Whether in his list of accomplishments or his harsh treatment of Christians before his conversion, he had plenty of baggage. In spite of his past, Paul encouraged us to “press on.” He made it clear that he was not pressing on to gain God’s favor, but as a response to God’s great love for him. Christ had made Paul his, and thankfully, he does the same for us.

  • Pray for release from pride, guilt, or bitterness that may be part of your life as a result of your past.
  • Praise God for making you his own!