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Regretfully Yours: Dealing with Regret

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Sermon Title: Regretfully Yours: Dealing with Regret
Date: October 5, 2014
Several years ago, John Piper put this tweet on his twitter account, “So much deep, heart-wrenching sorrow of regret among 60 somethings. I plead with you under 40: Preempt this!” This led to a lot of discussion as people asked, “What does he mean?” How can we preempt regret? Regret is a huge part of life. It’s something we all have to deal with. Whether we’re 40 or 70, 13 or 93, regret is a part of our lives.
In a recent book called, “Top Five Regrets of the Dying”, those people in their final moments said these were the thing they regretted most:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not the life expected of me.” “I wish I hadn’t worked so heard.” “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” “I wish I’d stayed in touch with friends” “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
Preempting Regret

Lay Behind

As Christians one of the hardest things we have to deal with is past mistakes. Whether we’re 13 or 93 we have things we regret. It may be some past indiscretion, or a marriage gone bad. It may be how we treated our children, or how we ignored them all together. If anyone had a right to regret it was Paul. Before the man we now know as Paul became a Christian he was known as Saul. In vv. 5-6 he notes some of his Jewish qualifications.
Notice these two qualifications: “as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church.” Paul says that in the law he was a Pharisee. Aren’t those the guys that Jesus is always fighting with in the New Testament? Aren’t those the guys who clamor for and eventually, with the help of the Sadducees, call for the death of Christ? Yep. Though Paul was a young man and therefore wasn’t one who had anything to do with Jesus’ crucifixion his teacher Gamaliel did. In , we find Paul proclaiming that this member of the Sanhedrin and respected leader of the Jews was Paul’s rabbi. Not only that, but in we find out that Gamaliel was a member of the Sanhedrin, the very group that put Jesus to death. So at the very least, Paul was a pupil and obedient follower of one of Jesus’ accusers.
But then we come to the second part. “as to zeal, a persecutor of the church.” While we find Gamaliel taking a softer approach to the Christian sect in , Paul begins to ramp up his efforts to stamp out the church. In , we find Saul ravaging the church, capturing Christians and bringing them to trial in Jerusalem. He even goes so far as to consign to the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr in , holding their coats as they stone the saint.
If anyone had a right to say to God, “I’m too sinful, you can’t save me” Paul did. But in his life we don’t find this level of mourning and regret. Why? Because Paul realized that his sins, grave though they were, were removed by the life-giving and transforming blood of Jesus Christ.
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” ()
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” ()
“and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” ().
“whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” ()
The first key to living a life free of regrets is to lay our regrets, and fears, and sins at the feet of Jesus. It is Jesus who can forgive us of all our past deeds. It is only by richly and fully living out a life of joyful abandon in Christ Jesus, forgetting our past and not allowing it to weigh us down.
That’s why in we are reminded that we are to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Regret and sin are weights that keep us from running the race Christ has set before us well. Regret over past mistakes, fears over past failures, self-condemnation because of what we did or didn’t do. Paul’s prescription - Wash it in the blood of Christ, put it behind you, and

Press On

The second key to overcoming regret is to press on. Paul is using a racing term describing how an athlete will lunge forward at the last moment to break the tape at the end of the race. As Christians we are called to reach forward, to press on, to seek to attain to the goal - “the prize promised by God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.” This mirrors the instruction for running the race of life in as we are commanded to “run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.”
Paul understood that the way to overcome our past was to focus on our future. The way to break away from regret was to commit to living each day pressing on in the race of life. As Christians, we have not already obtained that perfect union with Christ. We fail, we make mistakes, we stumble. But Paul’s encouragement is for us not to dwell on past mistakes but focus on future glory.
We do this by looking to Christ, “the author and finisher of our faith.” We must be cross-eyed in our commitment, living our lives and our days focused on Christ and his kingdom. One way we can do this is by imitating people we see who are following Christ. Paul encourages the Philippians to “join in imitating me”. In he challenges the Corinthians to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. “ As Christians we should seek godly men and women of Christ, heroes of the faith that we can imitate. Notice though, a word of caution. Paul says, Imitate me as I imitate Christ. It is a wonderful thing to imitate men and women who are saints seeking to follow Christ, but we must realize that only those who are imitating Christ are worthy of imitation.
Church, I want you to know that there are in this church men and women who have dedicated their lives to Christ. Who love Jesus and love his church. They have and continue to seek to follow Christ. Find those people, seek them out and imitate them. Those of us who are older by age or years of faithful following, realize that we must be people worthy of imitating. We should ask ourselves, “Would I want someone to say that about me or my church?” “Would I want someone to imitate that action or attitude?” If not, then by God’s grace change! Not only have past generations needed and benefited from your love of Christ, the current and future generations continue to need YOU!
Praise God for godly saints who serve Christ faithfully!!!

Live Up

Finally, Paul encourages them to live up to the truth of Christ they had obtained. This means that its not good enough just to seek out information about Christ or to seek to know more about Christ. We must live out the truth about Christ we have obtained.
The end results of our lives is not to be knowledge, but action. Christ has called us to an active faith, a faith that makes a tangible influence on the lives of those around us. I think this goes back to what John Piper meant by his quote. “So much deep, heart-wrenching sorrow of regret among 60 somethings. I plead with you under 40: Preempt this!”
As Christians its not enough to just say what we know. The life worth living is not found in the lives of people who know about something, but by those who live something. My prayer to you is that none of us come to the end of our lives regretting what we should have done or what we could have done. My prayer is that all of us live our lives in such a way that if we were to breath our last we would not wake up in heaven and cry, “Wasted. My life is wasted.”
Randy Alcorn said, “Five minutes after we die we’ll know exactly how we should have lived. But then it will be too late to go back and change anything. God has given us his Word so we don’t have to wait until we die to know how we should have lived. There’s no second chance for the unbeliever—but also no second chance for the believer!”
You and I have one life on earth to invest in Heaven. Let’s not miss the opportunity.”
I want to share with you a poem by pastor C. T. Studd as we close today:
“Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way; Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done; Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgement seat; Only one life,’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears; Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score; When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn; Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne; Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say,”Thy will be done”; And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”; Only one life,’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
— extra stanza —
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.” C.T Studd
As we close today, let me challenge you to not hold on to regret, but to lay it behind, press on, and live up to who Christ has called you to be.
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