No Regrets? Follow Jesus!
Proper 17 • Sermon • Submitted
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Our message today closes our sermon series on Regrets, Reality, and Restoration. It has been a journey through the Scriptures as they apply to the daily struggles of our lives, especially when we make a royal mess of them. We've talked about the regrets of following the empty promises of fortune and fame, the regrets of pride and arrogance which destroyed hopes and dreams; we've even talked about regrets for things that overwhelm us, things out of our control, that still left us broken and hurting.
The unfortunate reality of regret in life is that, when all is said and done, there are regrets, so overwhelming; that human bravado can't cut it, won't overcome it. There are regrets that need a merciful love and restoration that is not only miraculous, but eternal in its justice and grace.
Today, Jesus closes our thoughts on regrets, in essence, He's saying, "If you trust in Me, if you follow Me, you will never regret it. Now that's bold, that's laying it on the line, isn't it?
Thinking about this sermon today reminded me of a song from one of my favorite performers, Frank Sinatra. You know the song I'm talking about, right? Yes, "I Did It My Way!" We love songs like this, songs that speak of personal autonomy, of bravado, of taking life by the horns and living it for all its worth. Do you remember some of the lyrics? I can hear Sinatra singing it boldly....
I've lived a life that's full. I've traveled each and ev'ry highway; But more, much more than this, I did it my way.
Regrets, I've had a few; But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do...And saw it through without exemption. I planned each charted course; Each careful step along the byway, But more, much more than this, I did it my way.
Wow, the song is courageous in some ways, isn't it? There's a part of me that gets very moved when I hear it, especially those times when you feel like people might be against you. Or, if you are suffering unjust criticism or punishment, it feels great to say, "Bring in on. I won't buckle. I won't shrink back." You can hear the bravado dripping in the words. But that bravado never lasts, does it? Life has a way of making us all eat our words!
Sadly, that was true for Sinatra too. Actually, he didn't really like the song. It wasn't his style. He had more than a few regrets, struggles, and pain. I found this out when I bought one of those "special interest" magazines at the checkout counter at the grocery store. You know the rack I'm talking about. Now, I generally resist the gossipy glossies, but this one called out my name. It was a picture expose' of the life and times of Frank Sinatra. Wow, what a great coffee table book, I thought. So, I bought it and I read it cover to cover that afternoon. Yes, in many ways, he did do things his way. But there was a lot of pain in his life too. And he caused a lot of pain in the lives of others as well. "My way" lives do that to people.
But, for me, the last verse in the song, I think is the key to the whole song. He says, "What is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught." Right question...but "My Way" is the wrong answer.
The right answer to that question changes everything. And that's Jesus' point today. He wants you to know the answer to that eternal question; not your way, but His way for you. He wants you to know "what you've got" when you've got faith in Him, your Lord and Savior. He came to give you an eternal life, one that even overcomes regrets for the sake of your eternal reconciliation and restoration. Yes, He's calling you to take to heart, the full responsibility for the reality of your life of sin and regret, and bring it in repentance and faith to the only place that can overcome that reality, the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What I've tried to do in this sermon series, is to not merely be honest with you about the reality of sin and the crushing weight of its guilt; I wanted to show you, even deliver to you the reality of a restoration that is here for you by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. He is a Savior who can deal with your sin. He is a Redeemer who can overcome the payment that your regret demands. He's a Counselor who can lead you back from the abyss of a life of eternal regrets to one of restoration and reclamation.
This whole series has been about people like you and me, finally seeing that power that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. So, Jesus calls the question. He says, "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world," (however you define your idea of that success), "and yet forfeit one's soul"?
There is such Good News in Jesus Christ for you and me today, even amidst heart-breaking regret and pain. Sinful bravado can miss the whole thing, but there's another temptation we need to repent of today as well. It is a despairing fearfulness that wallows in regret and pain as if God's Good News in Jesus is somehow for everyone else but for you. If Jesus rebuked Peter, what chance do I have of being His child? When Jesus says, "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"
"Well," some might say, "Jesus, I haven't gained the whole world. In fact, I've lost that too. Surely your message was meant for someone else than me."
I hear things like this all the time. People say, "All this stuff can't be me, Pastor, I'm too far gone." Have you ever felt that way? Do you feel that way today? Then listen up, let God's promise of grace and salvation put you on the mend in the way that only He can.
Just think about the True God I'm speaking about for a minute. The Bible, from cover to cover, speaks about God at work in the world to overcome our sin and guilt. That's the message not just for you, but for all people, all sinful people in need of His grace.
In the Old Testament, do you remember that God is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? That makes Him unique. That's one way of saying, "I'm the Living God and My promise of grace is for all." On top of that, it's a promise in history, in the flesh, so that all the world might be blessed.
But think of that phrase again; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, even add to it names like Peter, James, and John. Maybe you're thinking these people must be holy ones with a special in with God, right? Wrong, they are like us in so many ways. Abraham's life was filled with regrets; just read about it in Genesis. Even the name of his son, Isaac, which means "Laughter," was a reminder of how cynical he and his family were when offered God's blessings and grace. Or, what about Jacob; the name means "deceiver." Yet God was the God of them all and they were very much like we are; 100 percent sinners in need of God's grace!
Or how about Peter in the text. He was a person whose life was filled with regrets when it comes to the things of God. In our text, he even challenges Jesus when Jesus taught the disciples that His mission to save the world went through a cross. Now, that didn't jive with what Peter thought a Savior/Messiah should do. First bravado, later regret. Names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Mary, Martha, Peter, James, and John; all people like us, in need of a unique Savior who is Christ, the Lord!
That's why this final message is about Jesus alone as the answer to all our regrets, our eternal need for restoration. His name is like no other. His name stands alone in its clarity of purpose in His life. He is named Jesus, God in the flesh, who will save His people from their sins.
That's the point. The Bible isn't a book about heroes, mythical leaders, or sainted sinners overcoming their regrets on their own terms, by their own power. No, it's a proclamation of real grace and mercy for real sin and regret that has power to overcome real heartache and grant real restoration and reconciliation to life.
Let me try to illustrate it again for you. One night in 1935, Mayor LaGuardia of New York, showed up at night court in the poorest ward of the city. The judge of that district had a reputation for being jaded and harsh in his sentences. If you went before him, you know you would get the maximum sentence the law allowed.
On this particular occasion, La Guardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. One case involved an elderly woman who was caught stealing bread to feed her grandchildren. After she pleaded guilty to the crime, LaGuardia said, "I have to punish you. Ten dollars or ten days in jail." It was obvious she couldn't pay.
So the judge, out of his own pocket, paid the fine for her. Then he fined everyone in the courtroom 50 cents for living in a city "where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat." The hat was passed around, and the woman left the courtroom with her fine paid and an additional $47.50 in her purse (that was a lot of money back in 1935).
If you are living a life of regret, there is a payment for your sin and pain and it's one that no mayor, president, or king can pay on your behalf. It is one that God, the eternal Judge must pay for all to be saved; and that's what the cross of Jesus is all about. That's what His Holy life, His sacrificial death is on your behalf. That's what His offer of eternal life is for you on His gracious terms; that's what it is all about!
Do you desperately need a no-regrets life right now and into eternity? Follow Jesus! Trust in Him! If you are struggling with regret, repent of prideful bravado today, repent of the temptation that this message of grace can't be for you or that the cross of Jesus Christ can overcome everyone else's sin and guilt but yours.
That's what Jesus is rebuking in our text. He's saying, "All human bravado, all fear aside. There's a debt to be paid, an eternal one, and I, as the Son of God," says Jesus, "am the only one that can pay it for every person on the planet. The cross is the way, nothing else will do." He is the One saying, put your faith in Me and let My healing grace change not only your status before God, but your stature in life as well.
Jesus even challenges His disciples to see regrets and restoration in His eternal context, from His eternal perspective. He says, "even if you have to suffer momentary trials this side of heaven, bear crosses today so that others might know Me through your lives," you won't regret that either.
What? That doesn't sound good, does it? But, listen to Jesus lay it all on the line to them and to us. To these disciples, He goes to the worst case scenario of their life in Christ for others. What if, as a follower of Christ, you still suffer in this world? What if, as a follower of Jesus, there is forgiveness, but then there's still struggles to deal with the fallout from the guilt and regret you might feel.
If all this happens, Jesus said to them and to us; even then, there will be no regrets for having followed Him. Yes, they would have a cross, but, in the end, they would also have a Savior, One who forgave them of all they had done wrong; One who would defend them when they were judged. They would have Jesus, and, in the end, that relationship they would never regret it. And neither will we!
Jesus is offering all of us, amidst our regrets and guilt; He's saying to us, 'Trust in Me...... live My way by faith in Me because I took all of your regrets and pain to the cross."
That's the ultimate message for us as we face our guilt and regrets in life.
In our lesson today, Peter surely was stinging from Jesus' initial rebuke. Later, he still tried to get Jesus to do it his way, defending Jesus with a sword, to try to prevent His arrest, His suffering, and His death. Later, though, amidst these regrets, he still became a powerful preacher of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus for all.
One of my favorite Bible verses is one written by Peter, in 1 Peter 1, where he says, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade."
Regret, reality, restoration; these Lenten messages have dealt with the reality of regret, yes, but our real purpose was to share with you the restoration that was possible for you by faith in Jesus Christ. For that, Jesus says, "take an eternal inventory of your life, how's your soul doing?" See I have come to deal with what ultimately matters.
In fact, there is one regret that Jesus never wants you to experience, ever! That's the regret of standing before God's throne on Judgment Day having done all things your way without Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
When Jesus asked, "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" He's telling you, "You don't want to know the answer to that question." If you think there is desperation now among people with regrets, you can't even imagine what it will be like when people without Jesus realize the Scriptures weren't joking and everlasting hell is waiting for them. What price do you think they would be willing to pay at that moment, for another chance right then?
What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? What would you give to avoid that day of ultimate regret? The answer is obvious: you would give everything; but eternal regret is finding out on that day that our sinful best is not even close to enough. Today, thankfully, is not that day. Today is the day to heed Christ's warning and receive His blessing.
Today, Jesus comes boldly to you and me in this final message to say, "I have done everything well for you." And Jesus says it even more clearly, "Follow Me." Everything is the price that Jesus paid to rescue you. He lived a perfect life on your behalf; He endured temptation in your place, suffered rejection not only by people, but by the Father in Heaven as He took your sins and regrets upon Himself on the cross. He gave everything for your soul. By His resurrection, He offers you everything by grace through faith. Follow Him!
Do you desperately need a no-regrets life now and into eternity? Follow Jesus! Look to Calvary and the empty tomb of Jesus and you will find your answer. Yes, look to His open tomb and know the risen Christ is God's guarantee that all who believe in Him will not perish, will not be overcome by regret but have everlasting life.
So, if you are like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Mary, Martha, Peter, or any of the people in our series on "Regret, Reality, Restoration," and if you're looking for an answer that not just holds true, but an answer that holds you, and restores you, then follow Jesus, trust in Him, entrust your life to Him. If you want to get to know Him better, just call us, email us about the sermon and Bible study, it's all for you and see how this life of faith in Jesus can overcome regrets today and forever. Amen.