I have many favorite hymns, but one of them is definitely “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” The hymn always touched me but recently, it became even more meaningful.
There is a stanza in this classic hymn that includes the words, “He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free.” I cannot begin to imagine how many times I sang these words throughout my life, but I remember the day they broke through my filters and I heard them with fresh ears.
In the midst of my own struggle with parts of my past, the idea that canceled sin could still have power gripped my heart. Certainly, God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ is complete, but we can allow those forgiven sins to affect the way that we live. If we choose to perpetuate those former sins, or if we choose to live under their guilt, we will not experience the fullness of life God intended for us.
Too often, we get lost in our past and we miss what God is doing in the present to prepare us for our future. We wallow in self-condemnation, self-pity, or some other burdensome understanding of our lives, while we neglect the freedom that comes from laying such burdens on the Lord. It is a tremendous tool of the enemy to keep us bound in false chains and away from living our destiny in God.
Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Clearly, there was forgiveness and a call to a better way, but there is also the promise that living beyond sins of the past is truly possible, especially in light of the power of God to make it so.
While at a pastor’s prayer retreat, the leader of one of our sessions offered the following insight:
Anytime the devil brings up your past it is because…
1) He hopes you are ignorant of the truth
2) He fears your future
3) He wants to rob you of God’s best
There is powerful truth in those words. Just like the truth found in the words of the hymn reveals the power of cancelled sin to imprison us, the revelation shared at that retreat reminds us that our past is in the hands of God and through his mighty acts of salvation, we are no longer a slave to that past. We need to know the truth that we are delivered from our past, that God has a future for us, and that evil is always working to steal God’s best from our lives, but we do not have to surrender it.
If we are walking with God, it is time to lay down the heavy weight of our past and its sins. It is time to embrace the freedom and newness of life given to us by God while we walk in its joy and wonder. It is time to allow the Holy Spirit to break the power of canceled sin and set us free from our self-made prisons. It is time to live the abundant life that is already ours.
Today is a great day to leave the weight of our past behind, choose life and walk in it toward the future divinely created for us. May it be so.