Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
–The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
1989. A song was heard across radios and climbed to #1 on the charts. If I Could Turn Back Time performed by Cher became one of the most iconic songs of all time. The song reveals a longing to go back time and fix the mistakes between two lovers. The singer would go to the greatest lengths, including reaching for the stars, t0 turn back time in order to restore a “golden age.”
1979. Bob Segar and The Silver Bullet Band released a song that became a staple in the Rock and Roll genre: Old Time Rock and Roll. The lyrics sing:
Call me a relic, call me what you will
Say I’m old-fashioned, say I’m over the hill
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock n’ roll
Still like that old time rock n’ roll
That kind of music just soothes the soul
I reminisce about the days of old
With that old time rock n’ roll
Both songs reveal a desire to turn back time and return to a “golden age” of the singer. Many of the most iconic songs heard on the radio and on our playlists have a theme of going back in time to bask in the sunshine of yesteryear.
We think about the same. We hear exclamations of wanting to return to the “golden age” of our country, our church history, and even our personal selves. We hear the desire to reject the ways of today because it does not have the same “soul” as those nostalgic times.
As Christians, many of us have heard in churches about turning back the clocks. We desire to go back to another time either to a different national leader, or a time in church practice. I have not been to a church where this topic has not been brought up from the pulpit. Or, I have heard people desiring to go back to their life before Christ or at least have a small bit of it. But, is it biblical thinking to desire to turn back time?
Well, Back In…
When we look back at our lives, we often see the hardships we endure spiritually and physically. We think about how easy it must have been for us before salvation. We did not have to wrestle and struggle between serving God and the desires of the flesh. Sin was first nature. We could have gone on living like that. We could be our director. We could write the endings we wanted. Yet, we had to give everything up to follow this Jesus into a life of spiritual battles, loss of relationships, changes in our plans, and a constant responsibility to live a certain way. Like Cher, we sometimes want to turn back time and undo our decisions. We want to go back to those days that seem so peaceful and possibly had potential.
Exodus 16:1-3. The Israelites have been miraculously delivered by God out of slavery in Egypt. They were in the wilderness following God through Moses to the Promised Land. Excitement after the drowning of the Egyptian army soon turned to complaining. “Well, back in Egypt…” became their motto. Over and over again, a struggle comes up and the Israelites cry out, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!”
Does this sound familiar? We say the same. We look at where God is leading us, and we say, “It was better before I gave my life to Christ.” Our lives before Christ seem better and less “chaotic” than our lives with Christ. We would gladly join hands with the Israelites and return.
The Israelites wanted to turn back time and find a way. And, they did. Moses convinced them to stay, but they decided to make Egypt in their midst through a golden calf (Exodus 32). Holding on to just a little bit of Egypt was better than letting it all go for the unknown God was doing. Would we be doing the same? Would we throw our gold in to have some comfort of our old lives before being delivered from slavery? Do we hold on to something that stokes our inner thoughts and lusts of those nostalgic sinful days?
See, the Israelites forgot one thing: slavery. They could think all about the “good” they had. But, they were slaves! They had no freedom. It is the same with us. We were condemned to Hell. No escape. Why go back to the things that lead us back to the slavery of sin? We lusted, we went after it. No shame in our actions; not caring who got hurt in the process of our desires. Yet, in salvation, Christ bled so we could follow Him to a right relationship with our Creator that ends in the New Earth with no more tears or pain.
Do we really want to turn back time to where we were before Christ? Where would you be if Christ did not die and rise from the dead for you?
Remembering the Old Ways
“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls…” (Jeremiah 6:16).
How many of us have heard this verse? How many of us have heard the tales of the glory days of Christianity in America? Many churches will decry from their pulpits the practices of today and urge people to return to the old practices of yesteryear.
But, that is not what Jeremiah 6 is talking about. God wants His people to return to Him. He does not want them to return to some way of living of using one instrument over another or something along those lines. He wants a return to a relationship with Him first.
We decry the cultural sin of today and we hear, “Back in our day we did not see this evil in our country or in our churches. We need to get back to a simpler time.” We then sit and reminisce about those days of old. We think how much we want to be there, and so we make our churches feel that way.
Remembering and imitating the days of old does not get rid of the sin of today, nor of the sin of yesterday. Sin will find its way. We live in a fallen world. We cannot escape it inside our churches.
It is not the former days that will save us and defeat sin, it is the days to come when Christ reigns as King on the New Earth and wipes away ever tear.
God tells us it is not wise to go back to the former days and dream about them (Ecclesiastes 7:10). God wants us to look forward as He pushes all history, all time periods, all “golden ages” to the restoration of the Creator with His creation (Revelation 21-22). We were not made to look to the past. We were made the look to the future that is bright with the radiance of our Savior as He restores creation and puts all things under his feet (I Corinthians 15:20-28).
The Time That is Given to Us
The world is falling apart. Sometimes our lives are falling apart. Bad things happen. We don’t get the job. Promises from people fall through. Our lives are not the way we think they should be. Our baby is diagnosed with a disability. The Christian leader we respected leaves the faith and turns his back on God. Every day we hear sin becoming more and more normalized. And, deep inside we ache and hurt. We cry out, “God, stop it!” When we do not get an answer we tend to want to turn back time.
A young woman is kidnapped from her home that was burnt to the ground. She is forced to present her beauty before the ruler of that nation. She is then chosen to be his wife. She is forced to marry a king who was known for his parties that involved drunkenness and orgies. After her marriage, she hears of a conspiracy by an advisor to annihilate what is left of the people from her home. When the world and her life were about to crash down, her cousin said, “Perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
We, like Esther, may wish none of what we are going through would ever happen to us. We want to turn back time to reverse decisions. Yet, it is not for us to decide. The One who made us is the One who gave us our life. He saved us. He redeemed us for a purpose. We are placed purposefully in the times we live in. Do you not think we have been placed here for such a time as this? All you have to decide is what to do with the time God has given you.
Why are we holding on to the past? What good is it going to do unless it is in remembrance of what God has done? He brought us this far for such a time as this, and He will bring us to the end for a such a time as will be.
Look to the Throne for the sake of His name;
Think of the throng who will share in His reign.
Some for whose souls we pray
Will share our joy that day,
Joining our song for the sake of His name!
In Jesus’ power, preach Christ to the lost;
For Jesus’ glory, count all else but loss.
Gather from every place
Trophies of sovereign grace.
Lest life be wasted, exalt Jesus’ cross.
For the Sake of His Name by Chris Anderson