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Past 1 God Chooses Losers

I love a good story, especially one where God chooses to use losers and idiots (like you and me).

A few years ago, I had coffee with a middle-aged man in our church. Mark was gifted and full of potential. However, I noticed that he’d stayed in the shadows and refused to get involved. When I asked him why, he replied, “Oh, I wish I could serve, but I’m divorced.”

I was flabbergasted. “Who told you divorced means disqualified?”

He took the next twenty or so minutes to tell me his story. He and his first wife married young. Neither one of them was a Christ-follower. They both came from broken and dysfunctional homes deeply bound by sexual sins. During the course of their ten-year marriage, both of them had multiple affairs. The fact that their marriage had survived as long as it did surprised everybody who knew them. Eventually, they “fell out of love” (I hate that phrase) and went their separate ways.

A few years later, after another failed marriage and two DUIs, Mark hit bottom and ended up in AA. His sponsor was the first person to ever tell Mark about Jesus. Eventually, he became a devout follower of Christ, and within another year or so he married a godly woman who loved Jesus with all her heart.

He was Lutheran. She was active in the Church of Christ. Neither one of them felt comfortable in the other’s denomination, so they decided to start fresh at a new church in their neighborhood. After just a few months, they were told, “You are welcome to attend our church, but you can’t serve here since you are living in sin.”

With tears in his eyes, Mark said to me, “We had no idea that God saw our new marriage as a mistake, but we couldn’t divorce each other. If that means we can’t serve God, so be it.”

I went from being flabbergasted to being pissed! How could anyone tell this man he was disqualified because of sin that had happened before he was even a Christ-follower? I grabbed my Bible and went pastoral on him. With a passion that surprised him, I assured this brother that he did not need to live as a second-class Christian.

Past 2 No 2nd Class Christians

Maybe you’ve read this verse: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”[2] Or perhaps you’re familiar with Paul’s words to Titus, “God saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”[3]

I looked Mark in the eye and said, “Buddy, everything that happened BC (before Christ) is gone! New birth and new life mean a new start, and we are never disqualified by what we did before we surrendered our lives to Jesus! In fact, the blood of Jesus covers all our sin, including the ones we committed after becoming a Christian. If we’ve confessed it and repented of it, no past sin can rob us of our destiny or disqualify us from service in God’s kingdom!”

It was his turn to be dumbstruck. It was as if the heavens parted and he heard the voice of God saying, “You are my beloved son, and I am well pleased with you.”

Is divorce a sin? Often it is, but it’s not the unpardonable sin. Why do we so easily doubt the goodness of God? Why do we listen to the gloomy voices of the self-righteous or the dark voice of the accuser? Why are we so quick to disqualify ourselves because of failure?

Here’s a crazy idea: Let’s stop making excuses, walk in forgiveness, and not let our regrets become a reason to opt out of living an epic life in Christ.

There’s something I need you to embrace and remember: Our past shapes us, but it doesn’t have to control us. Our history influences our future, but it shouldn’t imprison us. In Christ, we are more than the sum of our past mistakes.

Bottom line—God is bigger than your past and greater than your sins.

Past 3 God is Bigger


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[1] A paraphrase of the biblical book of Jeremiah, chapter one.

[2] 2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT

[3] Titus 3:5, NLT

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  1. Really great word. Thank you.

    I truly wish I could get certain people in my life to actually believe this. It’s devastating to watch people live in the defeat of their past mistakes or things they’ve done.

    I have said the exact words you shared “your past does not have to define you.” It shapes you, but does not have to define you.

    I live by this because I am very aware of what Jesus did for me and who I am in Him. But to others, choosing to live in this freedom is seen as Christian rhetoric. And when trying to share this truth, it’s referred to as Christian-ese.

    I’ll just keep my faith. And keep praying.

  2. Kurt,
    Isn’t the church grafted into the vine? And hasn’t Israel been cut off of the vine? So if that standard that a divorced person cannot be used by God were true, then how can one explain the continued love and promise God has for His chosen people. “His first love”. One day Israel will be grafted back into the vine, only to be used mightily by God.
    Why is it that so many limit the reach of God’s forgiveness and grace to what seems to be a “reasonable expectation”. God hates sin, all of it, from rolling through a stop sign, to (place your worst sin here) and all sin makes us unusable by Him. But His love, grace and mercy for us is what makes us all equally justified in His eyes through the blood of his only son. God used David, and not only that called him a Man after His own heart. I’m sure your words to Mark reached out much further than one man.

    Saved by grace, not by gross.

  3. A quote comes to mind, but I can’t remember where (Winston Churchill I think):”Those who choose to forget the past, are doomed to repeat it”. But, God does “forget the past” when He forgives us, and heals us; so remember, learn, and be healed. I was broken, but God put me back together, and is working to heal the scars. I am whole because of Him. I am so very glad you wrote this piece, Kurt, because so many people NEED to hear it. And HEED it!!! Love, Jim

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