With a new puppy in our family, my attention is often turned to dog training. It's not uncommon for me to hear the voice of the great Cesar Millan, the great contemporary "caninelogian" as he reminds me that humans are the only animals that live in the past, the present and the future. Dogs on the other hand, live only in the present. Wow, what a concept! Dogs do not allow the weight of the past or a dreamy future to impact the present. Everything is the present. How life would be different if we could do the same.
Humans have the wonderful capacity to remember. With that capacity comes the reality that we often times live in the past at least as much as we live in the present. Interesting that is what, according to Cesar, messes the dogs up. That is also what messes us up.
Have you ever considered the fact that we can recall the past as a detriment? It is not the memory of the past, but our regret that we did not do better, or as good as we would have liked that shapes our past and makes it a weight that strangely limits our present and future.
Dr. Charles Solomon developed what I call Exchange Theology. Exchange Theology is the fact that when we live under our own power and ability we are left with the results which is at best mixed bag of success and failures. It is that mixed past that impacts our present and limits our future. Solomon advocates exchange theology in his counseling ministry. He sees people paralyzed by their past and limited by what they can do because of the stuff in their past.
Solomon uses Romans 6:6-10 as the theological foundation for what is available to all believers through the work of Christ. When Christ died, we died with him, along with our sins and the penalty for our sin. This is much more than a theological concept; this is God’s plan! On the cross Christ paid and took the penalty we deserved. It’s like going into a car dealership and offering my 1984 Yugo for a brand new, fully loaded 2012 BMW 650i. Completely paid in full, mine free and clear! Fredrick Buechner calls this the “Gospel as fairy tale, it is too good to be true!” Yet, even though our stuff has been exchanged for God’s glory, we insist on allowing our past to form our present and limit our future.
Solomon, elaborates on another passage, this one the words of Christ as he applies this exchange concept to our everyday lives.
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
I preached this passage in my first sermon. I preached from the perspective that this was Christ's call to put aside my human desires and to focus on Christ. Solomon says it is much more than that; it is actually the call of Christ to exchange my stuff for his glory. In this passage, Jesus is reminding us that our salvation is forever accomplished through the cross and resurrection however, the living it out is a daily challenge. Denying ourselves is Christ’s call to lay aside the past, live the present unencumbered by the past. What a gift!
I recently heard an interview with worship leader, Darlene Zschech. She humbly admitted to having to battle for the thoughts of her mind. She is always hearing a script played over and over that tells her that she is no good, that she cannot accomplish this or that. Darlene says that is not the voice of Christ that is the voice of the enemy trying to hold me in check. Rather than listen to the voice that is all too willing to remind her of her failures, she needs to exchange that for the voice of God that says, “You can do ALL things through Christ who gives you strength.” I appreciate the new perspective that Dr. Solomon, Darlene Zschech and in some ways Cesar Millan brought to an age-old challenge. I need to fill my present with Christ and live like a dog in present, oblivious to the past and the future so that I can maximize the present for the glory of God!