Is God Limited By Our Past?
My purpose in this study is to exhort God’s children to a greater level of trust in the Lord Jesus Christ; but, first, to do that we need to seriously look at where we are now, or may have been. We must look to the Great Physician for His diagnosis, and then put into practice the truths that we find. The cure starts with being honest with ourselves and with the Lord. (See Psalm 51:6) As we peer intently into the mirror of God’s Word, we will clearly discern our reflection, and then be able to clean up any areas of our lives that need it.
The question this study seeks to answer is: Is God limited?
The immediate response of most Christians would be a resounding, “No!” But is that really true? If that answer was correct, why do so many professing Christians live like the Lord was limited in their own lives? Why do they say they believe in God’s omniscience and omnipotence, but then conduct themselves as if these very truths had no practical bearing on them?
From what I’ve observed over time, most of us tend to trust Jesus Christ in the little things – the minor matters – but somehow we falter in the major areas. When life hangs in the balance, so to speak, we give up. When everything is a mess, we fall apart. While this reaction is completely understandable from a worldly perspective, it is not from a spiritual perspective, from God’s perspective. This way of thinking and responding shows a distinct lack of trust in the Lord.
One passage found in the Gospels has always had an impact on me every time I’ve read it. Only two simple verses, but they say a lot!
Mark 6:5-6a And He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And He marvelled because of their unbelief. Just like many of the people that Jesus encountered during His years of public ministry, even so we’ve limited Jesus Christ by our unbelief!
Psalm 78:41 Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
The context of the above verse is Psalm 78, a Psalm about Israel’s past deliverances and their neglect of the Lord. It is called a Maschil Psalm. Maschil means “instructive”; in other words, we need to pay attention because there is something we definitely need to learn from this passage. There is much here that relates directly to our lives today. Please take a few minutes to carefully read through this Psalm, as I will be making some comments based on it in this study.
The theme that is repeated over and over in this Psalm is how Israel neglected to remind themselves and their children about how God had delivered them in the past; therefore they forgot how He could deliver them in their present lives and in their future. They should have passed on the knowledge of the Lord that they had gleaned from their fathers. Why? Verses 6-8 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God. They needed to testify to their children so the generations to come would know the power and goodness of God. This would be a prod to keep the children of God in the right way, serving the Lord, and not wandering after vanity and lustful desires.
There are several things that the Israelites forgot:
1) They forgot how the Lord had forgiven them in the past. See verse 38.
This is the nation that had been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, led forth out of Egypt, and eventually led into the promised land. The blood of the Passover lamb that was applied on the doors of their houses represented the blood that is applied to the believers’ hearts. They (generally speaking) were forgiven of their past sins, but got into trouble when they forgot about this.
Micah 7:18-19 Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
Isaiah 38:17 Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back.
Psalm 103:10-12 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.
Is God limited by our past sins? No! If we turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness (in true repentance), He will wipe the slate clean, and give us a new beginning. The Bible says His mercies are new every morning. When we are born again through faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, we become new creatures, and are washed clean by His shed blood.
Some people state that they accept His forgiveness, but have a hard time forgiving themselves for things that they have done in the past. This is just a subtle form of unbelief. If the Lord Himself has forgiven you and washed your sins away, accept His verdict by faith, not by feelings! Many times in the Bible, we are told to consider or reckon some truth, to apply it in our lives by faith. Forgiveness is one of those things we need to reckon. This is the reason why so many Christians try to remember the day they came to Jesus Christ for salvation (maybe even marking it in their Bibles), because somewhere down the road when doubts come, they can remind themselves that they are now a child of God and can dispel the fiery darts of discouragement and confusion because of that reminder.
1 John 1:9 is a powerful promise. Here are verses 8-10, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. The word “confess” in verse nine simply means “to agree, to be of the same mind about.” In this case, if we repent and agree with the Lord that we have done wrong (have the same viewpoint on our sin that He has, and don’t try to explain it away), then He will forgive our sins AND cleanse us from all unrighteousness! That’s a Bible promise and we need to accept it by faith!
2) They forgot how the Lord had delivered them and had provided for them in the past. See verses 11, 22, 41-42, 56.
Isaiah (51:1) says, Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. The Israelites (and God’s children) were told to remember where they came from, from what pit they had come out of. If that won’t humble you, not much else will!
Remember how the Lord had delivered you in the past, what He rescued you from – and what His grace has helped you stay away from! When you have made a mess of things, plead His mercy and grace, and He will enable you to start over.
Is the Lord limited by our past recklessness with finances and misused credit cards? No! (I am mentioning this particular subject as this is an area that hinders many Christians from faithfully serving the Lord and living in victory.) Financial bondage may seem like a big area to expect deliverance from, as you are facing the consequences of it in your lives on a daily basis. How can Jesus provide for your day to day needs when you can barely seem to make ends meet? Is He limited by your sins and mistakes?
I personally know people that the Lord has helped out of this pitfall (I am one of them), and He can do the same for you, BUT you need to apply His principles to sort out your situation. (Just a word of advice: you will never get out of financial bondage if you keep charging up the credit cards. You first need to stop using them, then you will be able to gain control of that part of your life.) The Lord has promised to meet all His childrens’ needs – including bills and credit card payments! – but there are conditions attached to every promise. Some of the main promises for daily provision require you to be faithful with tithes and offerings (especially missions giving), and to seek the Lord first in all things. There are also promises to His children who give to others and have compassion on others (including in the area of forgiveness). If you will not give to help meet the needs of others and forgive others debts, why should you expect your Heavenly Father to forgive all your debts? He has forgiven your spiritual debts, if you are saved, but if you expect Him to forgive your financial debts you need to show mercy to others. (See Matthew 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-33; Luke 6:38) These are promises and commands from God. He will fulfill His part of the promises if you first fulfill your part.
One passage that is very appropriate to consider on the subject of remembering the Lord’s past mercies and provisions (and reminding yourself that He is capable of meeting all your present and future needs) is:
Romans 5:3-5 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
The above verses state that tribulations (pressures, troubles, afflictions) work patience. (Worketh is present tense, which means continually works.) The word patience in the KJV means “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy; to stay under, remain, to bear trials, have fortitude, persevere.” As we go through trials, we learn to endure them and persevere through them.
Why? Because patience works experience. Experience here means “trial, proof, test; by implication, trustiness.” The more trials we experience, the more we learn to prove God, to put Him to the test and see Him work in our lives.
And lastly, experience works hope. Hope in the Bible does not mean “maybe it might happen, or I wish it would.” Hope, according to the Bible, is “to anticipate (usually with pleasure); expectation or confidence.” Basically, “confident expectation.” Because we have seen the Lord work through our previous trials, because we have seen Him fulfill His promises and provide our needs, because we have received His perfect peace and all the grace that we needed in the past (if we stayed focussed on Jesus), we can endure through the current trials, and confidently expect that He is providently working all things out in our lives, for our good and for His glory!
Is God limited? Only by our unbelief!
He is not limited by our past sins and our past bondages, but is more than able to wipe the slate clean and give us a new beginning right now. Lamentations 3:18-26 says, And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
If you want faith to trust the Lord more, then get into the Word of God! Read it! Study it! Search it! Romans 10:17 Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Bible knowledge becomes faith when you accept the truths (about the Lord) that you have read in the Word of God and place your confidence and dependence upon them.
Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is faithful and will do everything that He says He will do!
Let’s not be guilty of limiting God in our lives!
Study written May 20th, 2002
By Jerry Bouey