“I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back”
This famous Christian hymn is based on John 12. Decades after this song was written, it continues to be a powerful declaration of the Christian’s refusal to go back to the lives that we used to lead.
In 1519, Spanish Conquistador, Hernan Cortes arrived in the “New World” with 600 men. While they assumed that this unchartered land was populated, they didn’t know that they were going to encounter the Aztec Empire, which had one of the most powerful armies in the world at that time.
Upon arriving on the shore, Cortes and his men quickly realized that they were outnumbered.
It would have been easy for them to jump back onto their boats and set sail for Spain. After all, no one would know what had taken place. Instead, Cortes gave the men under his charge a mind-blowing order. He told them to set their ships on fire. He was taking away their only method of escaping the battle before them, forcing them to fight.
A cursory study of world history teaches us that Cortes and his men were successful in their battle, and they claimed the land of Mexico in the name of Spain. His command to “burn the ships” has become a legendary tale of refusing to turn back.
Our spiritual journeys are filled with opportunities to turn back. When we face adversity, the easy thing to do is to wave the white flag and retreat. But that’s not God’s design for us. Today, make the declaration that you won’t turn back.
A Tendency to Retreat
Genesis 19:25-26 (NIV)
Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities-and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
In the Book of Exodus, the children of Israel shared their desire to return to Egypt multiple times. In fact, every time they faced adversity in the wilderness, they told Moses that they would be better off if they had just stayed in Egypt.
It’s amazing how quickly they had forgotten about the turmoil and abuse that they endured as slaves in a foreign land. God had supernaturally delivered them, but when they ran into trouble, they romanticized what was behind them.
While they are often criticized for their desire to go back, they aren’t the first example of looking back found in the Bible. Long before the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God had punished another area. Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked cities on multiple fronts.
Lot, the nephew and Abraham, his wife and their daughters were living in the area at the time. The cities became so sinful that God had no choice but to destroy them.
God allowed Lot and his family to evacuate the area before He rained down destruction on them. However, He gave them one strict order to follow on their way out. They weren’t allowed to look back at the city. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife was so enamored with what was behind that she looked back and was also destroyed.
Christ revisited the sadness of her story in Luke 17:32. Thousands of years after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Christ continued to point to Lots’ wife as a warning sign of what happens when we look back. Her story continues to serve as a powerful example today of why we shouldn’t look back, only ahead.
Forgetting What’s Behind
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
The story of Paul’s conversion in the Book of Acts is one of the most powerful examples of a “before-and-after experience.” Before his conversion, Paul was one of the most prominent religious leaders of the time. Unfortunately, Paul was a Pharisee, meaning he knew the Law of Moses, but he didn’t know its Author. He punished Christians through beatings, imprisonments, and even death.
After his conversion, Paul became the most prominent evangelist (other than Christ) in the New Testament. He planted churches and wrote approximately 2/3 of the New Testament.
But Paul continued to struggle with the desire to look at what was behind him instead of focusing on what was ahead. Who could blame him? After he accepted Christ as his Savior and committed his life to spreading the Gospel, Paul faced all the horrible things that he had inflicted on others.
While we view Paul as a hero of the Christian faith, a title he certainly earned, he didn’t “have it all together.” In fact, he told the Philippian Church that he didn’t consider himself to have figured everything out.
However, he was committed to forgetting the things that were behind him so he could focus on the purpose that God had for him and the good things that were waiting for him in his future. Even if you continue to struggle with looking back from time to time, you can still take the steps to forget the things behind just like Paul did.
Luke 9:61-62 (NIV)
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
These words of Christ may come across as harsh, but they provide sound advice. In this passage, Christ was approached by men who said they wanted to be disciples. However, they all wanted to follow Christ on their own terms. While the request of this third man may seem reasonable, Christ was testing his determination.
When you go on a road trip, you spend exponentially more time looking out your windshield than you do looking in your rearview mirror. While the rearview mirror is there to let you know what you need to avoid, it’s not designed to be your primary focus. Instead, getting to your desired destination requires you to look ahead, not behind.
Spiritually speaking, there is a difference between acknowledging what’s behind and focusing on it. When we recognize the mistakes that we’ve made and the lives that we used to lead, we know what to avoid doing in the future. That sinful version of you caused nothing but sorrow and pain.
That’s why God doesn’t want you to focus on the shame that you feel about your past. He also doesn’t want you to romanticize the things behind you like Lot’s wife and the Israelites did. Instead, our God focuses on the future and the purposes that He has for us.
A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to forget the things behind me so that I can fully embrace the things that You have set before me. Today, I resolve that there will be no turning back.
I am not interested in the things that used to interest me, and I will overcome the shame associated with my past through the Holy Spirit. You are committed to my future, and so am I. In Christ’s name, Amen.