DOTING ON THE PAST

“I always get an uneasy feeling when I find myself with people who have nothing to discuss but the glories of the days that are past! Why are we not willing to believe what the Bible tells us? The Christian’s great future is before him. Therefore, the whole direction of the Christian’s look should be forward. It is a fact that we should ponder soberly that so many Christians seem to have their future already behind them! Their glory is behind them. The only future they have is their past. They are always bringing around the cold ashes of yesterday’s burned-out campfire! Even their testimony, if they give it, reveals their backward look. Their downcast look betrays that they are facing in the wrong direction. We should take Paul for an example here. I think he occasionally took a quick, happy backward look just to remind himself of the grace and goodness of God enjoyed by the maturing believers in their Savior, Jesus Christ!”

A.W. Tozer

Tozer is cautioning against a nostalgic perspective that idealizes the past at the expense of recognizing the potential for spiritual growth and progress in the future. Even though Tozer himself was not a postmillennialist, his message can still resonate with postmillennialist readers who look forward to a future of increasing Gospel influence in the world.

Tozer’s message serves as a poignant reminder that the Christian faith is not meant to be trapped in the past, nor resigned to a future that only spirals downward from a bygone golden age. His metaphor of “the cold ashes of yesterday’s burned-out campfire” cautions against becoming ensnared in a cycle of nostalgia that idealizes the past and views the future with a sense of inevitable decline.

Tozer’s call to look to Paul as an example underscores the need for Christians to maintain a forward-facing orientation, regardless of our eschatological leanings. Despite Paul’s tumultuous past, he looked towards the future with hope, eagerly anticipating the day when every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This ability to remember the past, yet strive towards a hopeful future, is a balance that all Christians could strive to emulate.

While we recognize that our faith is deeply rooted in historical events and traditions, we must not allow these roots to tether us so tightly to the past that we lose sight of the future. When we worship, we join a timeless communion of saints—those who came before us, those who stand with us now, and those who will come after us. Yet this worship is not merely an act of remembrance, but also one of anticipation, as we look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises.

In this spirit, let’s honor the grace and goodness of God enjoyed by believers in Jesus Christ throughout history. But equally importantly, let’s maintain a hopeful outlook, trusting in God’s continued work in the world and anticipating the glorious future He has promised.

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